New compostors cut organic waste

$100,000 compostors first of their kind in Canadian universities, Sodexo manager says

Phil Sparks, Sodexo resident district manager, says each new compostor can process up to 300 kilograms of organic waste in about 14 hours.
Phil Sparks, Sodexo resident district manager, says each new compostor can process up to 300 kilograms of organic waste in about 14 hours.
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When it comes to organic waste, Queen’s tops the list in looking for ways to deal with it sustainably.

Queen’s Housing and Hospitality Services installed a compostor in Ban Righ dining hall this week, with plans to put a second one in Leonard dining hall next week.

Sodexo Resident District Manager Phil Sparks said Queen’s is the first university in Canada to use the compostors, a new product manufactured by Somat, a United States company.

The compostors will process most of the four metric tonnes of organic waste the two cafeterias produce each week, he said.

There are no plans to put a compostor in Jean Royce dining hall yet.

A year ago, Housing and Hospitality Services launched a pilot project to test organic waste collection in Leonard cafeteria.

“The organic was separated from other waste in a compactor,” Sparks said, adding that the waste was sent to a composting site at Joyceville Institution.

In January, Leonard cafeteria started testing an on-site compostor that can process up to 100 kilograms of waste in 18 hours, Sparks said.

“We saw an 85 per cent reduction in weight and 80 per cent reduction in volume of organic waste,” he said, adding that Housing and Hospitality Services ordered two compostors for permanent use in the main campus cafeterias in March.

The compostors, which are bigger than the test compostor, can process up to 300 kilograms of waste in about 14 hours.

“I would say it’s one of the first of its type in Canada,” he said.

Sodexo paid for the compostors, which cost $100,000 each.

The company operates the three residence dining halls and most food outlets on campus.

Organic waste from Sodexo’s other food outlets are transferred weekly to a composting site owned by Norterra Organics.

Organic waste is put into a compostor and dehydrated so it’s compressed, Sparks said.

“That creates a powdery substance that’s like peat moss,” he said. “The material that comes out of the compostor is given to Queen’s grounds crew as a soil supplement.”

Sparks said a sustainability working group, part of Housing and Hospitality Services, is looking at the possibility of selling excess from the compressions. Some local businesses can turn the powder into pellets for energy fuel, he said.

Sparks said the new compostors will deal with most of the organic waste the two dining halls produce.

Housing and Hospitality Services is simultaneously running an education campaign on waste reduction, he said.

“Ideally it’s not about how you handle the waste but not to have as much in the first place.”

Hank Yang, Comm ’11, said he thinks the compost system is a step in the right direction for sustainability.

“The general trend in society is going towards more green and more sustainability,” he said. “One of the large criticisms of the green movement is that it reduces the standard of living and affects how we live, but this [program] is not being intrusive at all. This is just some compostors composting away foods that we would have thrown out and turning them into more useful stuff.”

Yang said he thinks students with meal plans can play a part in waste reduction. “I think every little thing counts,” he said. “When it comes to eating food in the cafeteria, eat as much as you need and don’t take a large amount just to throw it away.”

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