ATHENS — For several students at Ohio University, it was a dirty assignment: going through the trash from a university food court to make sure items with composting potential are being properly sorted out.
With help from a $250,000 state matching grant, the university plans to buy a device the size of a tractor-trailer that next year could start turning the right kind of trash into compost to be used for landscaping. The school would become the first Ohio college or university with a full-time composting project, said Sonia Marcus, the school’s resource conservation coordinator.
The food court already is using utensils made of potato starch, sugarcane fiber plates and other biodegradable disposables that could be composted. But first, the university needs to make sure that students know which materials should be set aside for processing and which should be tossed in the regular trash, Marcus said.
That’s where the results of last week’s “audit” will come in.
Students got up close with 355 smelly pounds of garbage produced during nine hours at the Baker University Center food court.
“I put my food waste in the right receptacle, knowing I’d be sorting my own garbage,” senior Katie Brunner said.
The university currently spends about $300,000 per year sending trash to a landfill. Composting could help to lower that cost by $37,500, by taking care of up to 3 tons of trash per day, Marcus said.
“It’s turning essentially the stinkiest of the trash into a resource,” she said.