The Office of Sustainability has moved towards implementing a new composting system for food waste from the caf and Gizmo.
Director of Sustainability Debbie Steinberg pitched the proposal to Student Senate at their meeting on Feb. 7 and asked for $6,741.56. The amount includes compost collection for three years and a new set of bins for the Gizmo.
Part of the plan is to reduce the cost of the collection by having the dumpster outside Seymour Union picked up less. Steinberg explained that since it holds food waste, it is currently picked up six times a week. The switch would reduce the pick-ups, cutting around $9,100 over three years from expenses, part of why collection for three years is less than $7,000.
“If we were pulling the food waste from there, then we would only need a three times a week, so that has some savings,” Steinberg said.
Steinberg learned about the provider, Better Earth Logistics, LLC (BELL), when she stumbled on an article on the Bradley University site while looking for something connected to Bioneers. BELL was listed as providing Bradley with compost collection.
Wondering if the company would come out to Galesburg from Peoria, Steinberg reached out. Vice President of Students for Sustainability and sophomore Isaac Hughes explained the company is not very old.
Steinberg had been looking for an in-vessel composting machine, to replace the dehydrator Knox previously used that broke in the winter of 2017. These machines can cost up to $150,000 and need workers to interact with them daily to keep them functioning properly.
“You would have to do something with them [daily] …,” Steinberg said. “You have to be frequently adding new material and at the same time harvesting the prepared material.”
Student Senate Sustainability Chair and sophomore Caitlin Edelmuth is excited by the prospect of the new system and glad that a cost-effective solution has been found.
“I’ve been aware of an issue with compost for over a year now, it’s been a concern, but there’s not a ton that I could do either in my capacity as a chairperson or by myself just because it does cost so much money,” Edelmuth said.
The money came from the Senate Sustainability Fund, which gets $10 from every student’s fees each term. Senate has the final say on the fund, but Edelmuth explained that first requests go through Steinberg, the President’s Council on Sustainability and the Senate sustainability committee. The Senate general assembly then votes on the proposal.
Edelmuth said that the proposal, alongside the around $6,000 that went to senior Rafael Cho for an air quality monitoring system earlier this term, brings the Fund’s balance to around $100,000.
“There weren’t a lot of proposals last term …,” Edelmuth said. “We will have another few proposals coming from [Steinberg] and then one from Students for Sustainability.”
A big part of making the new system work will be avoiding contamination, according to Steinberg. That is why she wanted money to buy new bins for compost, landfill and recycling as well.
“I wanted to get new bins that have more of a visual separation …,” Steinberg said. “So the openings are different and I also wanted to be able to have the compost like six inches away.”
Edelmuth and Hughes agreed that getting students to participate and be aware of where things went would be an important step for the success of the program. With changes to what plastics are used in the Gizmo, nearly all the Gizmo’s waste could be composted, according to Hughes. BELL can handle compostable plastics, something Knox’s dehydrator never could.
The people involved are excited for the change and optimistic about how students will interact with the system. They are also glad to have found a solution at such a comparatively low price. With the funds now approved, Steinberg will be working with BELL to set up a timeline but has not yet signed the contract.
“It’s about time,” Hughes said. “And this is definitely the right solution … it’s incredibly cheap compared to what we had before, it’s way more efficient than using a biodigester or the dehydrator machine. It’s just the best solution.”