Composting diverts five tons of waste in first month of composting program

Since September, VCU has directed 11,365 pounds of waste to a compost pile in Waverly, Va. VCU uses organic waste from Market 810 for the compost pile. Photo by Kyle Laferriere.

Jessica Dahlberg
Contributing Writer

Since September, VCU has directed 11,365 pounds of waste to a compost pile in Waverly, Va. VCU uses organic waste from Market 810 for the compost pile. Photo by Kyle Laferriere.

VCU’s Dining Services has introduced a new composting program to reduce waste output out of Market-810 as part of VCU’s larger green initiative.

At the end of September, VCU had diverted 11,365 pounds of waste from going to a landfill by sending its organic waste to a compost pile in Waverly, Va. through a company called Natural Organic Process Enterprises (NOPE).

“(Five tons is) the size of (a) construction dumpster,” said Tamara Highsmith, VCU’s Dining Sales and Services manager.

The composting idea is the work of the President’s Sustainability Council, which has a subcommittee called the Dining, Waste and Transportation Committee. The committee is made up of faculty, staff and students.

According to Highsmith, the President’s Sustainability Council was created because the university is looking to drive down their carbon footprint.

The compost pile project has been in the works for a year. The school began with a feasibility study to determine how practical a composting program would be on campus.

While the study was being conducted, NOPE was not in existence.

“The compost pile was the big initiative this semester,” said Highsmith.

When the Dining, Waste and Transportation subcommittee found out about NOPE plans were abandoned to have an in-house compost pile and NOPE was subcontracted through Aramark.

“The domino that started everything was NOPE coming onboard,” said Mark Smythe, the director of operations for dining services.

The compost processing starts with all of the composting material being sorted out by the pot-washing team at Market 810.

The organic waste is then sealed in a special bag and placed in a super can. NOPE picks up the waste twice a week, drives in to the compost pile, processes it and then packages it into a compost product.

The new composting procedure is not the only project in the works to reduce the university’s carbon footprint.

Market 810 and Jonah L. Larrick dining centers have been established as “green restaurants.”

“To become a green restaurant, there is a list of a hundred or more things a facility has to have or use,” Highsmith said.

“The transition (to becoming a green restaurant) is all about taking little steps along the way,” said Smythe.

Examples of some of those criteria are using reusable flatware, using green chemicals and having eco-friendly lighting.

“All of this is accomplished by the university’s partnership with Aramark. Dining couldn’t do any of this without that partnership,” said Highsmith.

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