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Smith Composting Program Expands

A Cutter-Ziskind resident scrapes leftovers into a composting container.

Student interest in composting the leftover food in their dining rooms led to a successful program in two campus kitchens last year that recently expanded to a third.

Now, uneaten food from the Cutter-Ziskind, Chase-Duckett and Tyler houses is taken regularly to a Westhampton farm where it is used to fertilize crops. The farm grows hay and corn and raises beef cattle on 200 acres.

Each month, about a ton of compost is produced per kitchen, said Roger Guzowski,
Five College recycling manager, adding, “that is material that does not go into the landfill.”

Compost is organic material that can be used as a soil amendment or as a medium to grow plants. Mature compost is a stable material with a content called humus that is dark brown or black.

In the natural world, composting is what happens as leaves pile up on the forest floor and begin to decay. Eventually, the rotting leaves are returned to the soil, where living roots can finish the recycling process by reclaiming the nutrients from the decomposed leaves.

“There has been so much interest in composting on campus,” said Guzowski. “Our plan is to expand the program at a slow and steady pace to ensure that the compost is able to be used.”

Food waste is difficult to manage. The dense, heavy and sloppy material needs to be hauled away frequently to mitigate any odor or pest concerns.

The cost for a contract vendor to come to campus just to pick up compost initially limited the program to two kitchens, according to Guzowski. However, by lessening the garbage pickup from houses where composting takes place, Smith’s Facilities Management staff was able to schedule collections of the food waste and transport it to the local farm.

“The kitchen staff in the composting locations are very enthusiastic about having this program,” said Ann Finley, area manager in Dining Services. “The basic reaction I have gotten is, this is the right thing to be doing.”



9/29/08   Kristen Cole
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