Campus / Compost System / News / May 3, 2012

Mayer: long-anticipated compost, coming right up

Soon students, faculty and staff will be able to get free compost from the scraps from the Dining Services.

Director of Dining Services Helmut Mayer believes he can start removing around 80 lbs a day by the second week of May.

The compost program, which started a year ago, has seen some problems with the worms being overheated and unknowingly poisoned with cleaning solutions. Dining Services spent $600 to replace the 60,000 worms and has spent very little, besides this worm-replacement cost and the initial cost, to run the system.

“If there is a need to restart, the only cost is worms, nothing else,” Mayer said.

Students are glad that the program will bring less trash and more compost to the community.

“I can see it being beneficial for the campus and the general community,” junior David Gentry said. “I feel like it wouldn’t do a lot of good for us Knox students, but in the Galesburg area there would be people wanting to take advantage of that.”

So far Mayer has not found enough work to hire a student to help with the compost work. He currently completes the 25 minutes of work each day himself.

“Once I see how long it takes to bag I might add one person, but I have to find out what that entails first,” Mayer said.

Mayer will be giving away 40-pound sacks of compost but is open to giving smaller amounts.

“If you bring me a little pot I can give you a little for your windowsill tomatoes if you want,” Mayer said.

Currently Mayer has no plans to sell any of it because of the need for a permit but he has begun talking with local farmers about a trade agreement for the local food that is regularly purchased.

“All the local growers have expressed interest in the trade,” Mayer said.

To increase the amount of post-consumer waste that can be used in the compost, all food in the Gizmo will begin to be served on compostable dishes and will begin to charge for compostable water cups.

“In the Gizmo it is about ten cents for every order placed a day,” Mayer said. The cost will be absorbed by the profit margin of Dining Services and there will likely be little change to the prices in the Gizmo.

The program has been a great learning experience for Mayer, who has seen a few challenges over the past year. Keeping the worms at a proper temperature and controlling the unexpected flies have been the largest struggles so far.

“In hindsight I would have done a bigger system, but hindsight is always 20-20,” Mayer said. “If it were twice as big I would never have that problem [of overheated worms], I would just spread the daily waste over a bigger surface area.”

Mayer will be sending out an email to campus as soon as the compost is ready to be collected and it will be available on a first come, first served basis.

John Williams

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