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So, where does your uneaten food go?

Amy Peddie, guest writer

Here at WWC, we compost pre and post-consumer food waste. This means that the carrot ends, and the carrot scraps you didn’t eat, are (usually) composted. But it’s not that easy. For GOOD compost, we mix the food waste with adequate amounts of carbon (wood chips and sawdust); we must maintain high temps for 17 days (over 131 in the drum and over 114 in the curing piles); and the finished compost must be tested regularly. It must pass fecal coliform tests, and currently, there is too much fecal coliform in the piles. Fecal coliform is an indicator for other potential bacteria in our compost. We don’t know why our levels are so high, but we are working diligently to solve the problem. These requirements are actually laws set forth by the state of N.C., so until we can meet them adequately, we are not legally permitted to utilize any compost we produce.

As you may have noticed, that large white (cylindrical) monster near the Free Store is indeed the compost drum. Recycling and Solid Waste Crew (RSW) picks up the food scraps from Cowpie and Gladfelter, twice on weekdays, once on Sundays, and loads the food waste into the compost drum. We usually load 300-500 lbs of food waste each day. We have found that this is the maximum amount that our drum can handle. In fact, we occasionally have to throw away some of this food waste for various reasons.

We have had some mechanical issues with the drum. Some parts are old and worn out, parts of it are not set up in an optimal fashion etc. There is no other place that is using this set-up in the exact way that we are, so each time we try to make an improvement or change, there is some trial and error involved.

We are currently replacing the auger and rebuilding the gearbox. The auger was chewed up by forks, spoons and knives that somehow made it into the compost. Due to the current adjustments, we are throwing away all food scraps. We should be composting again by March.

Sometimes people ask me, “Why can’t I compost in my dorm/faculty housing?”

We are already operating at capacity, and would not be able to fit more compost into the drum. It is best to just cut back on your food waste in Glad & Cowpie, cut back on your food waste in the dorm and wait for us to expand our operation. We are already beginning to explore expansion options so that we can make this happen.
Please contact Recycling Crew with any additional questions you have at recycle@warren-wilson.edu

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