30% of Wisconsins’ food waste in landfills in 2021 was compostable

UW-Stevens Point is working hard to limit food waste through composting efforts
Published: Oct. 20, 2021 at 7:07 PM CDT
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STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) - UW-Stevens Point is the only UW campus to have compost bins in every academic building on campus. Keeping up with composting is a group effort.

“We take our 73 hundred students and they all go back to their own communities and they can show their friends and their family and kind of expand this whole idea of food diversion and composting all around the country,” said Rob Michitsch, Professor of Soil and Waste Resources.

Some students choose to get even more involved by getting their hands dirty. They process the materials by hand and pull out any contamination to make sure it gets mixed well before it gets added to the campus compost pile. There’s even a compost class where students can learn about how the process works.

“We’re balancing our food stocks to create an ideal microbial environment that leads to break down and leads to compost creation,” said Alex Thomas, Graduate Research Assistant and Graduate Student.

Dining facilities are the largest contributor to the schools’ compost efforts.

“This past fiscal year we produced a little over 78 thousand pounds of compost that stayed here at Stevens Point,” said Suzette Conley, Director of Dining and Summer Conferences.

Since 2014 they produced over 700 thousand pounds of compost. The cafeteria uses a pulper to process all the food leftover on students’ plates. The machine mixes leftover food with water and spins it dry. It then gets transported to compost piles that are mixed daily.

“Every year we have approximately 160 cubic yards of material that we collect as a finished product,” said Chris Brindley, Building and Grounds Superintendent.

That’s about nine full 18-yard dump trucks. It then gets used across campus. While the process is a lot of work that requires a team effort, UWSP said it’s a priority. Unfortunately not everywhere in Wisconsin priorities composting.

“Over 30% of materials going into landfills was organic, so food waste, as well as yard waste and this is all material that doesn’t need to go into a landfill,” said Michitsch.

For those interested in helping limit food waste through compost like UWSP, here is a link to New York Times step-by-step process on how to create your own at-home compost.

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