Evaluation of Composting Programs on Campus.

by: Rhonda Fetterly, Shari Fox, Heidi Gjertsen, Ramsey Hart, Jill Thompson

Course: ERS 285, 1994
Supervisor: Sally Lerner


The purpose of the 1994 ERS 285 Evaluation of Composting Programs on Campus was to evaluate the composting activities at Minota Hagey, WPIRG and the Environmental Studies (ES) Coffee Shop. Questionnaires and interviews were conducted with users and key actors in each composting system. Temperature, moisture, and pH readings were taken over a period of three weeks to determine if the composters were functioning effectively. Using the data gathered, several problem areas were identified. Cold winter temperatures resulted in the freezing of compost piles, which caused the waste to accumulate and fill the composters. Once the composters were full, the collection of compost material was terminated. Poor technical management of the compost piles may have played a role in the low efficiency of the compost system.

More frequent turning, addition of soil or peat, changing the location, and increasing the number of composters from 2 to 4 are recommended for the ES Coffee Shop. The Minota Hagey composters should be moved as well. An increase in the capacity of Minota Hagey's composters will also be required if the system is to function over the winter. At present, the WPIRG vermicomposting program is operating well, but there is concern that this may not continue given that no structured management system is in place. A lower maintenance vermicomposting system has been suggested for use at WPIRG.

The association of rats with the composters was of great concern for many people involved with the programs. Although there is no conclusive evidence that composters contribute to rat populations, it is recommended that efforts be taken to rat-proof all outdoor composters.

Due to the difficulties experienced in the operation of the present composting programs, there is an apparent need for better management of the systems. It is recommended that domestic sized composters not be used at locations with greater amounts of food waste than at Minota Hagey Residence. The University should investigate options for a centralized form of food waste diversion for the larger residences and food services outlets. Vermicomposting, or other small scale systems, such as those presently in use, are recommended for areas where a large quantity of food waste is not created, as in administrative offices.

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Last updated: June 1, 1995 jjk