Composting should be expanded throughout campus
The UA prides itself on sustainability, but it’s not exploring all the avenues it could. Arizona State University is rolling out a new sustainability initiative called Zero Waste, but the UA seems stuck. Our problem? Our composting program isn’t in full swing.
Compost Cats, a Students for Sustainability internship program created in 2011, actively works to educate students, faculty and the surrounding Tucson community about the importance of composting waste. Currently, composting is available in Cactus Grill, Sabor, Cellar Bistro and Pangea with signs that tell visitors which materials are compostable and which are not.
Composting is “turning garbage into gardens,” according to Compost Cat James Garlant. The process is entirely due to microbial breakdown of organic material.
The costs incurred are only the costs of receptacles and collection, as opposed to mainstream recycling and landfill disposal of waste.
This kind of initiative should be expanded to highly trafficked areas of campus that produce large amounts of waste — namely, residence halls.
Currently, the only residence hall that has composting as an option is La Aldea Graduate Residence Hall.
With their current locations, Compost Cats estimate 11 tons of compostable waste are collected each week to be treated and converted into nutrient-rich compost that will be used in the UA’s Community Garden and donated to local nonprofits like Native Seeds SEARCH.
This number may seem large, but it’s actually quite small in comparison to the 15 tons of waste at one football game in Sun Devil Stadium.
The UA has already taken steps in terms of utilizing mostly biodegradable containers at the Arizona Student Unions and having recycling widely available on campus, but composting can greatly reduce overall waste in addition to these other programs.
With landfill waste disposal being one of the most costly yet prominent forms of waste disposal used worldwide — according to the Environmental Protection Agency, a municipal landfill in Kentucky runs at about $75,000 an acre — it is important to look to the future to avoid unnecessary creation of landfills. Valuable space is being used to create these landfills that could otherwise be used for land conservancy or nature preserves.
By adding composting as an option campus-wide, especially within the residence halls, the massive quantity of waste that the university produces could be reduced and repurposed into something that is beneficial to the community and the university.
Stephanie Choi, a freshman Eco-rep for the Arbol de la Vida Residence Hall, is an avid composter. “I save my tea bags and whatever else I can compost from my room and take them to the composting stations,” she said. “It may be a hassle, but I think it’s a really important way to reduce waste and do my part.”
Choi also said she’d like to see composting expand into the residence halls, something that is already being done by smaller universities like Reed, Wesleyan and Oberlin.
Composting is a relatively inexpensive method to vastly reduce waste and is something the Environmental Protection Agency recommends any large institution do to reduce their waste and carbon footprint. With a population of just fewer than 7,000, residence halls are definitely producing enough compostable waste to make it a viable option.
Nick Havey is a sophomore studying pre-physiology and Spanish. Follow him @nihavey.