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The Sustainability Office, in cooperation with Hardscape, Campus Dining, Auxiliary Services, the Agriculture Department, and a group of interested students helped to establish front of the house compost and recycling last year. As part of a summer 2011 renovation, the traditional Food Court trash bins were replaced by highly visible recycling centers that also included large sinks to help customers properly dispose of their drinks and ice. It’s estimated that liquid accounted for more than three tons of food service waste each week, and its removal saves the University over $500 per month in tipping fees.
Included in that renovation was the purchase and installation of more than 20 additional mobile bins to expand the back of the house organics collection started in 2010, the construction of a compost tipper, and the installation of a sealed collection dumpster. Back of the house food waste is collected by dining staff in the kitchens, dish rooms, and assorted food venues in the Student Union in 24 wheeled 44 gallon barrels. The collected food waste is collected in a specially designed dumpster equipped with a barrel tipper and emptied as needed throughout the week. The food is then mixed in a converted feed wagon with horse bedding from the University stable and yard waste from the Arboretum. The mix is then placed in windrows at the Northwest Research Orchard where it is monitored by the Agriculture Department and Hardscape and RecyclingLandscape personnel. The rows are turned as needed utilizing another piece of converted farm equipment. Depending on the time of year, the average windrow mix is reduced to a usable soil supplement in about 30 days. Currently our compost is used in expanded floriculture efforts at The University Greenhouse, as well as various Arboretum grounds maintenance operations. To date Northwest has diverted more than 200,000 lbs. of food service organics from the landfill, reducing both costs and its environmental impact.