Chartwells, University implement new composting process to reduce waste

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Chartwells Dining Services and the University have begun a new composting collection procedure that will reduce waste going forward. Now, all pulped food will be composted.

Behind closed doors on the loading dock of the Student Union is the workhorse that will reduce liquid and solid waste. The state-of-the-art machine will reduce food scraps and paper products by up to 85 percent of their original volume through the use of an advanced water-extraction system.

Food scraps and paper waste from the kitchens and dining areas are processed without special materials, while reducing disposal quantities, landfill debris and material costs. Since the break, more than 1,000 pounds of pre- and post-consumer food waste are processed each week from Student Union dining areas.

Charlotte-area Earth Farms will compost the extracted, pulped material. The company is partnering with UNC Charlotte to turn the previously wasted material into nutrient-rich, soil-enhancing compost. 

“Composting of food waste not only achieves the University waste minimization goals but also contributes to the campus Climate Action Plan goals by avoiding greenhouse gasses associated with disposing this waste in a landfill,” said David Jones, UNC Charlotte sustainability director. 

Earth Farms picks up a load of material for composting for the same cost as sending it to the landfill.  By composting food scraps through Earth Farms, dining services was able to cancel a day of trash pick-up, which means less waste for the University.

“UNC Charlotte has made a commitment to diverting or recycling as much material as possible in order to minimize our environmental footprint.  The combined partnership with Chartwells and Earth Farms to compost food scraps is a big step toward creating a more sustainable campus,” said Devin Hatley, environmental educator for the Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling.   

Cindy Torrenece, director of Student Union dining, believes the new composting method benefits her staff.  “They were already trained on the use of the pulp machine and the process of separating materials. Now, the staff can implement the training and observe a sustainable product instead of more waste. Also, the new process has created lighter loads of trash to be taken to the dumpster, which is a great benefit to the employee who was hauling oversized carts multiple times a day.”