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Campus News

Innovation and Compost

By Leo Proechel, Staff Writer 

Composting at Warren Wilson is about to metamorphose.  With the dawn of a new system, the school will be able to process exponentially more compost than it is currently able to.

Here’s the way it works now:  at the Recycling Center, there are two motorized spinning concrete compost drums.  They are ancient, rusty, and constantly require maintenance.  Twice or more a day, students load compost into them via a tiny conveyer belt, at a rate of approximately ten pounds per minute.  The compost sits in these drums for several days and then must be removed with shovels and wheel barrels and transported to piles, where it then sits some more.  Excess waste is sent to a facility off campus.

“For over a year, the Recycling crew has been researching a new compost system,” said Jessica Foster, Recycling and Solid Waste supervisor.  However, she had trouble finding the $40,000 that it would require.

In an exciting turn of events last spring, Farm manager Chase Hubbard came to Foster with an idea for a new system.  The NCDA/WNC Farmer’s Market needed a place to put their food waste, and they had money to build a new facility–and they wanted to build it at Warren Wilson.  Hubbard and Foster proceeded to collaborate with the farmer’s market to develop a system that everyone could share.  They decided to install an elite industrial Advanced Composting Technologies (ACT) Forced Aeration Composting system–the only composting system that excels in every aspect of its existence (except initial cost).  In the new system, there will be only one stop for all compost–enormous concrete air-conditioned boxes.  The new system will also include a roof and washing station for buckets and tractors, plus a 1,000 gallon leachate tank.  It will be so efficient that it will be able to compost in a month what the current system composts in a year (about 65 tons). It will also be capable of composting the remains of large farm animals.  Unfortunately for the Farm crew, which was looking for a way to dispose of deceased cows and pigs, permits to compost dead bodies are difficult to come by, and it seems unlikely that this will be an option.

50% of the system’s capacity will be used to compost fruits and vegetable waste from the WNC Farmers Market.  The system will also compost all animal poop, animal bedding, Sodexo waste, dirty paper products, dorm food scraps, and compostable materials found in the trash at Warren Wilson.  If there is still room, it may also be able to take waste from other local organizations or businesses.

The Recycling Center will oversee the system, but Landscaping crew will continue to provide necessary materials and help move finished compost.  FMTS crews will build the system, with the guidance and help of ACT.  Installation is scheduled to commence in one month.

Everyone involved seems excited about this new project. Said Recycling manager Foster, “[It will] be less labor intensive, easier to maintain, and the actual system would have less parts prone to failure.”

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