College begins composting efforts

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February 2, 2010

2:15 AM

Last week Dining Services at the College of William and Mary initiated a new program to compost food waste from the dining halls in an effort to increase sustainability efforts on campus.

The program is a result of the combined efforts of the College’s Committee on Sustainability and Aramark, the College’s dining vendor. The program will reduce waste by nearly one-third, alleviate the College’s contribution to landfills and decrease waste costs.

“Composting had always been seriously considered, but only now did the right infrastructure and regional connections appear to make the program a reality,” College Sustainability Fellow Phil Zapfel ’09 said.
For years the Student Environmental Action Coalition has advocated, with limited success, for the collection of biodegradable waste to send to a composting facility.

It was not until Aramark hired three sustainability student interns last fall that the program became a reality. Ian Fuller ’11, Christy Ottinger ’10 and Sarah Will ’11 worked with Commons Director Larry Smith and Zapfel to prioritize creating a campus-wide composting program, develop standardized procedures, and secure funding.

“Dining Services has made a real commitment this year by hiring us interns,” Ottinger said. “It’s our paid job to make sure this type of thing is happening, and we’re really devoting a lot of time and effort to making it happen.”

The students submitted a project proposal for funding from the student green fee in the fall of 2008 which helped COS purchase necessary food waste.

Under the new program, employees at the Commons, Sadler Center RFoC, the Marketplace and Miller Hall dining facilities will place organic waste created from food preparation into specially marked bins that are lined with biodegradable bags instead of regular trash bins. The Commons and Sadler Center will also collect post-consumer waste to compost.

Virginia’s Natural Organic Process Enterprises will haul the food waste to a composting facility in Waverly, Va. twice weekly from campus. The waste is sold to companies and farmers around the area as bags of compost for fertilizer.

“If we are able to divert all organic matter and recyclable matter, we will probably end up with 20 percent of what we were formerly sending to landfills,” Ottinger said. “This organic matter can be recycled back into the earth by being composted, keeping it out of landfills.”

Other environmental benefits include eliminating greenhouse gases, particularly methane. According to Zapfel, the program helps to complete a resource use cycle, as the compost will be used to make organic fertilizer.

This is not the first campus initiative to improve the College’s sustainability. Previous efforts included making several on-campus facilities trayless, including the Sadler Center and the Commons, and providing biodegradable take-out containers.

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