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Two years ago, CU Dining Services began to compost post-consumer food product in a few of the dining halls. In its third year now, the program also includes pre-consumer food.
“This is a waste aversion method which turns waste food scraps into a positive resource,” Recycling Program Manager Dan Baril said.
Baril works with the Environmental Center (E-Center), which also works closely with dining services to implement the program.
Currently there are full compost programs in Farrand Hall and Libby Hall, which compost both pre- and post-consumed food, while Kittredge Commons and Darley Commons compost just pre-consumed food.
Pre-consumed food includes scraps left over from food preparation such as broccoli stems or eggshells. Libby and Farrand also have the equipment to compost post-consumer food, which includes food left on trays.
The process for composting post-consumed food is complex. Food that is left on the trays is put through a pulper in the dish area, which eliminates water and creates a food pulp ready for composting.
The food pulp is put in a polycart behind the respective dining halls and is collected by Eco-Cycle, a Boulder company that works to eliminate waste and promote recycling. Eco-Cycle transports the food product to A1 Organics, a Colorado-based company that has facilities to properly compost food.
The result of the composted food product is not necessarily being brought back to the CU campus. It is sold to A1 Organics customers for landscaping, farming and gardening.
“This eliminates material in the landfill and is also a good means for plants to grow,” Baril said.
According to Lauren Heising, the coordinator for sales and nutrition with dining services, the new program has been very positive.
“It takes constant training for our staff since we have a high turnover rate, but once they understand what they’re doing, it is very positive,” she said.
Heising, who played a large role in getting the program started, said it was done as a part of campus sustainability efforts.
“It was something (dining services) could do and get really involved with,” she said.
The program employs trained dining hall staff members.
“If students were doing this without a lot of education, I’m afraid there’d be a lot of contamination,” Heising said.
The polycarts at the different loading docks have already had some trouble with contamination from students.
The program hopes to expand throughout campus, possibly by setting up compost at the Cheyenne-Arapaho Hall grab-n-go Paizanos for food product and possible biodegradable containers.
In the beginning of the year, dining services held a Global Jam event in which they used biodegradable silverware, plates and cups.
“We would be willing to spend the money on (biodegradable products at Paizanos) to see it go in compost,” Heising said.
Shannon Hahn, sophomore international affairs major and Residential Advisor at Baker Hall, said that if Paizanos had a compost facility, she would make the effort to contribute to the program.
“It would be excellent. I would definitely try to be more conscious about what I throw away,” Hahn said.