Posted on May 10, 2011 by Tia Lalani

This summer, U of A Augustana Campus will take another step in sustainability with an in-vessel composting system.

By Christopher Thrall –

This summer, U of A Augustana Campus will take another step in sustainability with an in-vessel composting system. The 4’x30’ steel drum, rotated by a single one-horsepower motor, will divert 150 litres of organic waste per day – 50 to 70 tonnes per year – from the landfill.

“It’s a logical next step,” says Dean Roger Epp. “Through our recycling program, we’ve taken a huge jump in reducing waste that we generate in the past year – more than 50 per cent, which I think is an amazing number. The composter will take that down a whole lot more.”

Students sorted trash in Campus Waste Audit during Sustainability Week in fall 2010.

According to Candice Tremblay, Sustainability Coordinator for Augustana Campus, the goal for the composter initiative is to offset the organics on campus. “Of the waste produced on campus,” explains Tremblay, “65 per cent is organic – and 80 per cent of that comes from the cafeteria. In our first year, we will divert all of the cafeteria waste, and the second year we will aim for the rest of campus.”

The steel drum rotates all day, with its speed based on the quantity and humidity of material. The organic materials are oxygenated, the rotation accelerating the reactions, and produce their own heat as they decompose. Everything from vegetable peels to table scraps goes in one end. Two weeks later, fine compost pours out the other end. An annual estimate of almost 20 tonnes of compost will be put to use on campus to assist various landscaping projects, eliminating any reliance on chemical fertilizers, which have not been used on campus for nearly a decade.

There are educational opportunities with the composter as well. Chemistry students will experiment with ideal carbon-based bulking agents and management students will develop strategies to expand the program.

“This is an exciting development for us,” says Dean Epp, “consistent with the direction we’ve set on focused and deliberate sustainability measures.” The project is supported by the University’s Office of Sustainability as well as support from a donor, like the solar panel project.

“We are taking the call to achieve sustainability in our operations very seriously,” says Epp. “If others can learn from what we do, this is good. We are always willing to share our experiences and learning.”

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