Compost Research Site at the Horticulture Farm
In 2012 collection of pre-consumer food waste (fruit and vegetable cuttings) began as a pilot program from several dining facilities on campus. The material is used in compost research, including vermicomposting. Vermicomposting is the process of using worms and micro-organisms to turn organic waste into nutrient-rich fertilizer. Excess compost is sold to the public through the Surplus Store with proceeds going to support the research. The site processes approximately 80-100 tons of food waste per year.
The composting facility was developed as a tool within the south campus nutrient management plan. It works to reduce nutrients applied to agricultural land, improve manure handling and provide Landscape Management with a soil amendment to improve the soil quality and reduce the burden of fertilizer costs. The facility takes in 12,000 cubic yards (7,700 tons) of solid manure or 80% of the total produced on campus each year. It also incorporates leaf material from north campus. Over 6 million pounds of excess finished compost were sold to the public through the Surplus Store in 2012 with proceeds going to support the composting program.
Another portion of pre-consumer food waste and some post-consumer food waste is collected from dining halls on campus and delivered to the South Campus Anaerobic Digester. These materials are combined with manure in the digester. An anaerobic digester is a sealed tank, deprived of oxygen, in which organic waste is degraded at an elevated temperature. This allows the waste material to decompose quickly and produce methane that can be captured and used as fuel.