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W&M Dining Services to compost food waste

  • Composting food waste
    Composting food waste  Howard Mack, dishwashing supervisor oversees the many composting bins at The Commons. Here, cucumber peelings are ready to be composted.  Photo by Stephen Salpukas
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Sustainability at William & Mary took a major step forward this week, as W&M's Dining Services officially launched its program to compost much of the food waste from the dining facilities on campus, cutting its waste production by approximately one third.

The program is the result of collaboration between the Committee on Sustainability's (COS) Food Services Working group and Aramark, the College's dining vendor. In return for Aramark handling the daily management of the organic waste collection, COS purchased the compost bins using funds from the student green fees.

Partnering with Richmond, Virginia's Natural Organic Process Enterprises (NOPE), Dining Services will use new specifically-marked containers separate from those used for trash and recycling. Organic waste generated from food preparation will be separated from the waste stream at the Commons, Sadler Center RfoC, Miller Hall and the Marketplace dining locations, as well as the catering unit. Post-consumer food waste will be collected for composting at the Commons and Sadler Center RfoC locations.

NOPE will then collect the containers at each of the campus dining locations and haul them to an organic composting facility in Waverly, Virginia. The facility, run by McGill USA, features a natural microbe-enhanced process that, according to their website, "when provided with the right balance of moisture, temperature, and oxygen, [is] able to affect the rapid decay of organic material." The material is processed for six to eight weeks before being packaged and sold as organic fertilizer.

Integral in the successful creation of the program were the three sustainability student interns hired by Aramark in the fall of 2009. Ian Fuller '11, Christy Ottinger '10, and Sarah Will '10 coordinated with Larry Smith of Aramark and Dining Services and Phil Zapfel, the College's Sustainability Fellow, to choose a hauler, design a collection program, and submit a proposal for COS green fees funding.

In addition to eliminating up to forty percent of the dining halls' contribution to the College's waste production, the environmental benefits of composting are widely known, said Will. "Composting completes the circle of food production," she noted, adding that composting "will decrease our contribution to the waste stream, which limits the greenhouse gases produced as a side effect from decomposing organic material."

Dining Services and Aramark have both been vocal in their support for sustainability. The composting program is the latest in a number of food sustainability initiatives put in place over the past year on campus, including biodegradable and reusable take-out containers, limited tray use, and improved recycling.

Larry Smith, Director of the Commons, sees the benefit of composting "in learning about the ways and means to preserve and better our environment and our daily waste control."

"Composting at all of our units shows our commitment to the Earth, our students, and our employees," Smith added.

Questions about the College's compost program can be directed to Phil Zapfel at