By Elizabeth Cichowski, Allyson Haefke, & Jaclyn DeMeuse
The University of Wisconsin- Green Bay started a composting program in the Fall of 2020; the compost comes from the food waste in the union. It is thriving and moving the University in a green direction.
According to Grant Winslow, Associate Director of Operations for University Union, “the Student Government Association (SGA) and the University Union started looking into composting machines about 6 years ago.” The composter was brought in to reduce waste from the student and bring a more sustainable approach to the university. “The idea to start the composting initiative was a joint effort through the SGA Sustainability Committee and the University Union,” Winslow shares.
Composting is a type of waste disposal that utilizes oxygen-rich conditions to speed up the decomposition of particular types of food and yard waste. “The only organics that are going into the composter now are just from dining waste,” explains Winslow when it comes to food waste. Matt Tushaus, Building Manager for the Student Union, explains that the dining hall employees separate the food waste like carrot ends and potato skins into specific buckets for the composter after preparing the food. In addition, Tushaus says, “Students place plates on a conveyer that will return to the kitchen, and the staff will sift through the leftovers for proper disposal into the composter buckets.” Tushaus adds, “buckets of food waste that go to the composter are weighed before they are brought out.”
Composting can be sped up by mixing the organic food waste with wood chips, grass clippings, or leaves, and the University has outsourced this material. “We have contacted three local tree trimming companies for their wood chips to mix with the compost. They have dumped in our compost since August 2020 through March 2021,” according to Winslow.
Composting can reduce the solid waste that UWGB makes. According to Winslow about the goal for the compost collection over the next five years, “It’s hard to tell, considering we started in the middle of the pandemic.” In addition, Grant Winslow explains that “We are currently processing 2,200 pounds of food waste a week, and that could double or triple once traffic in the Cloud returns to normal.”
One goal that was considered during the conception of the composting initiative was to use some of the composted material in the UWGB garden collection. According to Winslow, it has not been confirmed and will be shared with the community once it is confirmed. Another goal for the compost is to allow availability on a first-come, first-served basis, Winslow shared, that will be held several times a year, the first pick-up starting May 1st, 2021. The community has the opportunity to pick up free compost from UWGB while supplies last.
Currently, the only waste that is put into the composter is a mix of “both pre-consumer and post-consumer food waste from the dining hall,” according to Grant Winslow. He says, “students do not have access to the composter at the moment.” When asked whether students and staff could potentially have their composter, Winslow responds, “At this point, no, as the unit cost is $70,000. Unless we surpass the capacity, there will not be another one added.” Perhaps one day, there will be more added, and UWGB can become an even more environmentally sustainable university.