Where does it all go? A look at composting on campus

Where does it all go? A look at composting on campus

November 1, 2017

While college approaches differ, efforts are strong across U of T

Where does it all go? A look at composting on campus

The majority of colleges at U of T, as well as the university as a whole, operate successful composting programs.

However, the extent of their operations differ and there is no unified approach. But as Ron Swail, Chief Operations Officer, Property Services & Sustainability — a role specific to UTSG ­— said, “We’re always looking to improve our program, we’re always looking to improve and expand composting.”

Innis College, New College, St. Michael’s College (SMC), Trinity College, and University College (UC) compost all organic waste from their dining establishments, and all colleges except for UC compost in some, if not all, residences.

Woodsworth College and Victoria College did not respond to The Varsity’s request for comment.

University policy

Swail said that the university has been composting for a “very long time.”

“Our recycling program in general is one of the most successful and comprehensive in North America for universities.” The university has a diversion rate — the amount of waste that does not go to landfill — of approximately 70 per cent.

The university began composting food around a decade ago. Swail said that the effort started from nothing and has led to hundreds of green bins across campus.

Most of the waste that the university composts actually comes from vegetation, with over 100 tonnes per year composted. Over 200 tonnes of grass alone were mulched back into the ground last year. “Last year was a particularly good year for grass,” said Swail.

The success of the composting effort at U of T can be attributed in part to “many individuals every day making the right choices as far as where to put materials into recycling,” according to Swail.

College approaches

Leah McCormack-Smith, Director of Residence and Student Life at New College, said that New College is “currently running an incentive program in residence that provides house funds each month to the residence house that does the best at properly sorting their garbage, recycling, and organics.”

New College also recycles all food waste in the areas run by Food Services. “The oil/grease is handled as a separate stream and picked up by an outside contractor,” said New College Chief Administrative Officer Ron Vander Kraats. “All organic waste from the kitchen and the dining halls is handled separately.”

Innis College utilizes a green technology called The Greenlid — bins that contain odours and are themselves compostable. The Greenlid was developed by Innis alumni, and bins are put in every suite in residence. Students empty the bins in a central compost area when needed.

Innis used plastic green bins provided by the city before Dean Tim Worgan reached out to the inventors of The Greenlid two years ago. Worgan offered to make the college “the pilot program as the first residence in the first university in Canada to use [it].”

“We went from two compost bins that were half full, getting picked up every two weeks. I have six bins out there now, full with a pick up every week,” said Worgan. “So we’ve tripled our compost and tripled our recycling efforts since the arrival of these.”

Trinity College Assistant Provost Jonathan Steels said that the college is working toward becoming zero-waste.

“All organic food waste basically is removed,” said Steels. “I believe it goes to farms for livestock feed and composting.”

Trinity is looking toward implementing compost bins in their residence common areas as well.

SMC started its compost program three years ago, according to Director of Communications Stefan Slovak.

“We have a number of bins located around campus, including in our dining establishments and all but two of our residences,” said Slovak.

UC composts organic waste from Howard Ferguson Dining Hall, the Commuter Student Centre, and the Junior Common Room.

“In previous years we have attempted pilot projects to introduce composting in the Residences, but we encountered challenges with odours, pests, and cross contamination that constrained our ability to expand composting across the three buildings,” said University College Dean of Students Melinda Scott.

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