Approximately 20 percent of the trash Cal Poly sends to landfill is food waste. In an audit of trash from Poly Canyon Village, the heaviest weight came from half-eaten burritos and pasta jars half full of sauce.
A new composting program on campus is attempting to change that. When food is composted, it can be turned into energy and soil amendments.
According to California senate bill 1383, in two years, Cal Poly will need to have a composting bin next to every recycling bin on campus. Previous attempts to start composting on campus have failed.
Composting facilities can only handle minimal contamination from non-compostable products, and previous trial bins on campus had too many contaminants to be processed. For example, Starbucks cups are often thrown into compost bins on campus, but plastic lining inside the cup makes it non-compostable.
To prevent contamination from non-compostable paper products, the new composting program is collecting food waste only. Cal Poly dining services already composts back of house organics and collected 230 tons of compostable waste last year. Zero Waste coordinator Anastasia Nicole said she hopes the new program will double that number for total compost.
Since Winter quarter, food waste only bins have been popping up around campus, including in the University Union (UU), Poly Canyon Village, Cerro Vista, Food Processing Unit and Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) Children’s Center. So far, 10 departments have reached out to the zero waste office to request compost bins. Estimates on how much compost has been collected from the new program are not yet available.
The food waste only program is sending compost to a recently opened dry anaerobic composting facility in San Luis Obispo, which only accepts green and food waste. Compost from this facility goes toward local energy and fertilizer.
Nicole said she plans to expand the program to more locations around campus in Fall.