News Date: 
Friday, December 12, 2014

Source: Athens Banner Herald

Most of us think of composting as a nice little thing we can do for the environment in our backyards, but when an entire major college campus gets involved in converting food waste into soil amendments, composting takes on a very different meaning, with surprisingly big numbers.

UGA workers have been composting yard waste such as leaves and tree trimmings since 1983. That’s a lot considering the campus covers 759 acres, not counting the new campuses in Athens’ Normaltown neighborhood and on College Station Road.

But since April, all food waste from UGA’s dining halls has been added to the compost stream, pumping up the numbers even more.

Here’s a breakdown of that composting effort:

• UGA’s dining halls serve about 28,000 meals each day when school is in session, and not everyone cleans their plate. That uneaten food adds up to a lot. Workers are now taking about 10,000 pounds of food waste a week to the bioconversion facility instead of sending it to the Clarke County landfill, which also has a big composting operation.

• Including that 5 tons per week coming from UGA’s dining halls, UGA is now composting about 78 tons of material per month.

• The food waste composting will help UGA meet its overall waste reduction goals. Workers in UGA’s facilities division also recycle cardboard, paper, plastic metals and other recyclable materials.

• UGA trucks hauled 4,779 tons of trash to landfills in the 2014 fiscal year, which ended June 30. That’s down 6 percent from 2010, when UGA landfilled 5,094 tons, said UGA Sustainability Coordinator Kevin Kirsche. UGA now recycles nearly 50 percent of its waste, including plastics, metals and other streams in addition to food waste, according to the sustainability office. The university’s goal is to divert 65 percent of the waste stream by 2020.

• Students, including interns in the sustainability office, are expanding the composting effort this year, setting up small food waste collection bins in break rooms in a number of UGA buildings and a UGA residence hall. That food waste goes to the UGArden on South Milledge Avenue to improve the soil in the student-run garden. Since August of 2013, those coffee grounds and pizza crusts have added up to about 3,000 pounds, according to students at the UGA Office of Sustainability.

• The sustainability office hopes to expand composting efforts to other UGA buildings, such as the Georgia Center for Continuing Education and additional residence halls.