In January 2013, University Auxiliary Services, the University’s dining services and the Office of Environmental Sustainability collaborated on a pilot composting program at one of our five resident dining rooms – Indian Quad.  In one semester this program successfully diverted 47 tons of food from our waste stream to a local composting facility.

Food scraps (including meat and dairy), paper products, biodegradable plastic bags and cardboard are successfully separated from the waste at Indian Quad, with a low contamination rate (under 5%).  Compostable waste is collected every day in 32 gallon totes by Empire Zero LLC and transported to the Schenectady County Composting Facility about 20 miles away.

During a recent field trip to the composting facility, we were shown three mounds of ‘cooking’ garbage from our dining room – the first was newly dumped and quite pungent, the second was approximately three months old and noticeably less odorous, and the third was a black, earthy smelling mass on its way to being pure gardener’s gold!

The pilot will continue through May 2014, at which time we plan to roll it out to the other dining rooms and eventually campus wide! We learned that staff training is essential to the program’s success.