This week's post comes from Environmental Intern Alysia Humm. Alysia shares how Residential Dining's food waste is disposed and made into compost.
Every day in the dining commons hundreds of students set their dishes onto the carousel where all cups, plates, disposable ware, and food scraps are whisked away into the kitchens. Not a second thought is given as to what happens after you lose sight of your dishes, but nevertheless, a very important process begins. 100% of pre and post-consumer food waste is composted. Such items include food waste, liquids, disposable ware like napkins, fry boats and more are collected and placed along with all pre-consumer food waste, such as banana peels and avocado pits, into green bins. These bins when full are then taken and placed into a food compactor which is picked up once a week and transported by Marborg about 50 miles north to Engel and Gray, an industrial composting company in Santa Maria, California. Engel and Gray will then industrially compost all the food waste on site, and that compost will be sold and used as a soil amendment with many beneficial qualities.
There are so many reasons to compost food waste. One reason is that otherwise, food waste goes into the trash and into a landfill where it will be buried and compacted under mounds of trash and dirt where it will decompose anaerobically (or without oxygen).This anaerobic decomposition produces methane gas, one of the most potent greenhouse gasses that are contributing to global warming. Another reason is that the Tajiguas Landfill (Santa Barbara County’s landfill) is almost at capacity with about ten years left before it will need to be retired. Last but not least compost used as a soil amendment will not only give the soil back the nutrients it used up to grow that food, it will decrease the need for fertilizers and pesticides. By composting 100% of pre and post-consumer food waste from the dining services UCSB is clearly doing it right.