How Do I Get My University to Start a Composting Program?

by Chelsea
(West Chester, Pennsylvania)

I am a student at West Chester University in PA. My classmates and I are trying to get the University to compost their food waste. West Chester University will not be convinced of composting unless a detailed successful plan is provided. Do you have any suggestions, or information, about how to compost on such a large scale?

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Oct 07, 2011
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Details, Details, Details!!!
by: Compost Junkie Dave

In order to help get West Chester University (WCU) composting, the first thing our composting tribe needs from you are more details. Let's treat this more as a discussion than a typical Q and A.

For starters, here are some questions you and your classmates can answer to get this discussion underway...

1. What is WCU currently doing with their food waste?

2. When you say you'd like WCU to start composting their food wastes, do you see the entire process, from food scrap to usable compost, taking place on the university property? Do they have the space for this? Or do you and your classments think WCU would be more likely to implement a program if the processing of the waste took place off-site?

I am leaning towards the latter. In which case, who will manage this processing? You need to think about man-power as well as equipment and transportation. When you move from small-scale composting to large-scale composting, one of the biggest expenses is equipment and trucking.

3. Have you determined how much food waste WCU produces in a given period of time?

4. What will happen with the end product? Where will the compost be used/sold?

Essentially, what we're going to have to produce for WCU will be similar to a business proposal. We're going to have to provide WCU with a plan that shows that we've thought through 95% of the obstacles that we may encounter while implementing such a program, as well as how we're going to troubleshoot each obstacle. Also, we're going to have to develop some concrete numbers to show that this program isn't going to cost the school a bunch of money; better yet, we should be able to show that this program will SAVE WCU money. Overall, we're going to have to remove a lot of the emotional attachment we all place on composting/greening our schools and provide concrete evidence that this is simply the RIGHT thing to do. This last point may seem a little harsh, but when push comes to shove, your University only cares about the facts.

Soooo....let's get this discussion started.

Looking forward to hearing back from you Chelsea.

CJD

Oct 15, 2011
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JCCC Compost Intitiatice
by: Anonymous

At Johnson County Community College (JCCC), just south of Kansas City, KS, we have been using "in-vessel" composting to take care of our food waste for the last year or so. This program has just started to ramp up in production over the first couple months of this semester, though. This compost is used on-sight as a soil amendment to our sustainable ag. program 2.5 acre farm.

The use of in-vessel, while initially expensive, has let us reduce the area we need to process compost. We have an area that we move the compost to cure after it has been off loaded, but that amounts to an area of around 20ft x 20ft.

I think the most difficult thing in bringing a compost program, or any other "sustainable" initiative, on campus is selling it to the powers at be. You will need to work with dining services to help them understand what can and can't go in the bins. You will also need to figure how you will collect the waste in a timely manner to reduce smell, pests, etc. When you try and bring change to campus, it's easy to ruffles some feathers, but you must be able to explain the financial benefits as well as the ecological benefits.

One mission that has not been fully realized here at JCCC is "post consumer" composting. Right now, we're only capturing the food sraps from production and leftover buffet and salad bar items. We are currently working on bringing a post consumer program to campus. Again, this will be a learning curve for those involved (students). We plan on plenty of signage by the waste bins and even staffing those bins for a while to let people know what can and can't be composted.

Hope this helps. I'll be happy to answer any questions as to what we have experienced here in our first year of on site composting.

Eric Nelson
Compost, JCCC

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