Research team looks into using disposable waste

By Kyle Diller

The University creates a huge amount of organic waste and has been looking for ways to handle the problem.

Leslie Cooperband, a member of the University’s Department of Human and Community Development, led a team in research finding that production of organic waste comes primarily from ACES, the College of Veterinary Medicine, campus grounds and residence hall cafeterias.

“There is an enormous amount of organic wastes produced on this campus,” Cooperband said at a Feb. 27 sustainability seminar. “If you look at just the Dairy Research Facility alone, it generates around 30,000 cubic yards of manure every year.”

ACES and the College of Veterinary Medicine use a lot near Winsdor Road for disposing of the waste but not composting it. However, the location has come under recent scrutiny by officials.

“A third-party consultant came in and told them that if they don’t either remove or take some remedial measures, they will be cited in terms of environmental violation and fined,” Cooperband said.

Cooperband also said students produce a large amount of organic waste. According to her statistics, Allen Dining Hall has more than 6,000 pounds of food waste a week, and one student can produce up to 1,280 pounds of food waste in a year.

“People can make a difference in how they use resources if they become educated on the importance of conserving resources, reusing them, working at home and in their business or school to be a concerned individual,” said Nancy Holm, an event coordinator at the Waste Management and Research Center.

Cooperband and her team have been working to create a new system for composting the organic waste on campus.

“The site that we have identified is just northwest of the Dairy Research Facility,” said Cooperband. “The benefits of that site are that it does stay relatively dry, it’s a good size, it’s very close to the major feedstocks that would be going into that facility.”

Six composting trial piles were built Dec. 7, 2007. There were two piles for each of three recipes. The initial results showed that the piles took several days to heat up and did not achieve the necessary temperatures, but the results were not surprising considering the weather.

ACES has also gone to an engineering firm for help developing a new compost plant near the Dairy Research Facility and is hoping to have a report from the consultant by early March.

“Waste management is possible,” said Candice Turnlund, graduate student. “It takes a little bit of time and brainstorming but most of all a teaming of willing individuals that want to make a difference,”

Once the composting plan has been decided and put in place, Cooperband has suggested putting the compost to use.

Cooperband said one of the students from her research team talked with golf courses, garden centers, landscape contractors, the grounds people at the University and some organic fruit and vegetable farmers about purchasing compost produced from the University.

“This is all good news in the sense that it’s a lot easier to justify the cost of building the facility if you know you have an outlet for the product,” said Cooperband.