The University of Virginia’s composting program is looking to expand its efforts on Grounds even further. The program, which started in 2008 by former UVa Engineering student Dan Micahelson, has shown significant improvements since its initial inception.
In an email to The Cavalier Daily, University Environmental Projects Manager Jess Wenger noted the great strides of the composting program.
“At the time, there were no composting operations within a reasonable drive from U.Va. that were composting food waste…The original program was very small, starting with only pulped food waste from O-Hill Dining Hall.”
Now, over 20 dining locations perform back-of house composting. In addition to O’Hill, the program has expanded to include dining areas such as Newcomb, Runk, and the Abbott Center.
The expansion in the program has been heavily influenced by student awareness and involvement. The success of student-run events, such as the Game Day Challenge from which 94 percent of the waste was composted, are a testament to the students’ support of the program.
UVa dining partners work with outsourced composting companies to divert the waste generated at UVA. Black Bear Composting is one of the main beneficiaries of the compostable-material created at UVa.
“We take the materials away on a set schedule to be composted, where after six months, the materials are a finished compost product ready to be used as a natural soil amendment…keeping organics out of landfills reduces greenhouse gases, since organics decomposing in landfills generate methane – a greenhouse gas 20 [times] more potent [than] CO2,” said Eric Walter, Chief Composting Officer at Black Bear Composting.
Since the birth of the composting program, over 1000 tons of organic matter has been diverted from landfills. In 2014, UVa recycled 3241 tons of municipal solid waste and recycled a total recovered materials amount of 8315 tons.