Composting system helps residence halls go green
Published: Thursday, January 10, 2013
Updated: Thursday, January 10, 2013 01:01
The average college student produces 640 pounds of solid waste each year, including 500 pounds of disposable cups and 320 pounds of paper according to a recent study conducted by the University of Richmond.
As Oregon State students greet the new year, they are also greeted by the grim reality of excessive waste, a reality the Student Sustainability Initiative and Campus Recycling is trying to tackle.
Composting organic waste produced by OSU dorm residents is one solution proposed by the SSI waste reduction center in an effort to minimize waste. Composting allows organic waste, like food, to decompose into a rich soil that can then be reused.
“We wanted to create a program that would reduce the waste generated by Oregon State University,” said Cauthorn Hall eco-representative Jan Ulrich Bartels.
The SSI has plans to begin to implement composting bins in four resident halls: Cauthorn, West, Wilson and Halsell.
“The goal is to create greener people and encourage sustainable behaviors in college and for life,” Bartels said.
After conducting a pilot composting program in Halsell Hall last year, the SSI plans to have the seemingly successful project continue into this year.
“We wanted to continue this program as a pilot in order to monitor the program and see if it is successful, and to be continued on a larger scale,” Bartels said. “It is my job to report the numbers back to SSI to see if we are making a great enough impact to continue the program.”
During the pilot composting program last spring term, coordinators wanted to determine utilization, logistics, cost and viability of a composting facility on the Oregon State campus. The pilot program started the beginning of spring term 2012; each suite in Halsell was given a composting bin, but the program was voluntary.
Approximately 50 pounds of organic material were collected every week with virtually no contamination, according to the SSI website. This indicated, if implemented on a larger scale, residents might use the composting bins more independently.
“After last year’s pilot program in Halsell, we decided to expand the program to three other residence halls in order to reduce the amount of waste landfill bound,” said outreach coordinator Andrea Norris.
Norris explains the basic concept of the program is to give residents who signed up a place to compost food waste and greasy pizza boxes. Students will fill their own buckets. Once the buckets are filled they will be emptied into a larger floor container. Then the eco-representative will dump those containers outside to be picked up by Pacific Regent Compost Facility. The company will then take the waste to their facility, and after a 90-day process the converted waste will then be used at local nurseries and businesses.
“The goal here is to create a closed-loop system to ensure as little of an impact on the earth as possible,” Norris said. “This program not only saves the planet, but saves yourself and your roommate from that smelly food rotting in your garbage can.”
The bins have been designed to eliminate the smell and risk of attracting fruit flies once shut properly. Directions, located in the bins themselves, state the bin should be rinsed out once a week. But Bartels explains this is a pilot program and they are learning as they go.
“We are basically testing out a model,” Norris said. “We want to see what works and what doesn’t, and the role students and this project are playing [in] figuring out an even bigger plan.”
As with many large projects in their infancy, the composting project has experienced some slight difficulties with public outreach and getting the word out about the program.
“I would say teaching people about the right things to put in [the bin], fine-tuning the program and spreading the word [are] the most challenging [parts],” Bartels said.
The program is expected to start in the upcoming weeks and coordinators have high hopes for it.
“It will be interesting to see the differences between each hall, and to see how everyone is progressing,” Norris said. “We really hope that the program is a success, and that lots of people are interested in saving the planet.”
Students who are interested in signing up for a compost bin should contact their eco-reps and attend an SSI sponsored event.
Callie Simmons, news reporter