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Spring Fling won’t pursue zero waste this year due to Compost Cats changes

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Tom Price | The Daily Wildcat

Students for Sustainability members Sarah Bertram and Lia Ossanna collect trash and recycling from Spring Fling on April 10, 2016.

Since 2014, several UA sustainability groups have partnered together to reduce the waste generated by Spring Fling. For the past couple years, these groups have worked to make Spring Fling generate no waste products. This year, the goal of a zero-waste Spring Fling will not be on the carnival's agenda, due to restructuring of one of the most important groups of this collaboration, UA Compost Cats. 

Compost Cats is a student-operated program that collects food waste, manure and other organic materials and creates compost from these materials. They are the official composting business of the City of Tucson and the only organization in Tucson that accepts food waste for their compost, according to their website. 

Due to major restructuring within Compost Cats, including seeking new management, a new location for composting and shifting under the UA Office of Sustainability, the group had to temporarily stop accepting compost in March.

“A lot of changes have come from all of the different transitions,” said Madison Padgett, program assistant for Compost Cats. “We just can’t process the compost because of insufficient equipment and funding.”

The biggest change coming to Compost Cats is its plan to move from their composting location in the San Xavier Co-Op Farm to the Los Reales Landfill. Trevor Ledbetter, director of the Office of Sustainability and interim program manager of Compost Cats, said this move is to accommodate a larger intake of material Compost Cats wants to bring in for composting.

“Compost Cats has a very bright future,” Ledbetter said. “At times it can come off like we have all these problems. We’re managing everything, and we want to be involved in solving the many large-scale environmental issues.”  

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Despite Compost Cats being unable to assist sustainability efforts during this year’s Spring Fling, Students for Sustainability will still be at Spring Fling encouraging students to reduce their waste. 

“Students and attendees can reduce waste at Spring Fling by being aware of what is recyclable and what is trash,” said Catherine Riedel, co-director of Students for Sustainability. “Most of the recycling at the university is actually thrown away, because contamination rates are incredibly high.”

SFS will hang signs around Spring Fling to help guide attendees on what can and cannot be recycled. 

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Without Compost Cats, other UA zero-waste efforts like Greening the Game and the UA’s involvement in the Pac-12 Zero Waste Challenge could be in jeopardy. Compost Cats does not have a set time for when it will accept compost again.

“The timeline is very nebulous. There are a lot of variables that we are dealing with,” Ledbetter said. “The City of Tucson wants us to start back up as soon as possible. Ultimately, we need to get the funding that guarantees our operational stability in the long term.”

While Compost Cats wants to continue as soon as possible, Ledbetter said it needs to make sure it does not rush its return and put itself in a bad situation. 

Meanwhile, the UA’s sustainability groups like SFS have to find different ways to try to make UA sustainable.


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