The Memorial University Botanical Garden, in partnership with the Sustainability Office (Facilities Management) and Aramark (Memorial's food services provider) implemented a composting program in the main dining hall on the St. John's campus. Prior to this project, there was no campus-wide composting program dedicated to composting food waste from areas which serve food on the St. John's campus. The main dining hall was targeted for this project due to its high amount of food waste, and the necessary support from Aramark management and staff was secured, this project focused on a simple, low cost method of composting requiring a low input of labour. It did not attempt to collect all types of food waste, but only those appropriate to this type of composting set-up. Food waste collected from the kitchen of the main dining hall was transported to the composting site at Botanical Garden on Mount Scio Road. It was hoped that the procedures used and evaluated during the pilot project would give insight into the best methods for composting large volumes of kitchen waste and that the amount of usable compost produced would be determined by measuring the amount of organic waste collected.
A three compartment concrete composting platform (10'x30') with a concrete floor, four foot concrete block walls and open front for easy access for delivery and mixing was constructed to accommodate the collected material at the MUN Botanical Garden. Three canvas tarps were purchased to cover each bin individually to protect the compost from the elements, specifically precipitation which can leach valuable nutrients from the finished product.
Raw fruit and vegetable waste was collected by dining hall kitchen staff and placed in six 40 L compost collection bins located near the kitchen area. These bins were collected twice weekly by Facilities Management staff and transported by truck to the compost site at the Botanical Garden.
At the compost site, Botanical Garden staff weighed the contents of the bins using a hand held luggage scale and placed the organic material into one of the chambers of the compost platform. The containers were rinsed out and left to dry in the nursery greenhouse in preparation for return to the dining hall on the next collection day.
A mixture of equal parts leaf mold/horse manure and sawdust was added (45 kg) and mixed with the collected compost using a tractor. This mixture was added to aid in the composting process by ensuring appropriate carbon content in the high nitrogen compost pile.
During the project over 2,300 kg of food waste was collected and thus diverted from the waste stream (February-May, 2015). Due to delays and the short timeline it was not possible to measure the amount of usable compost produced from the organic waste collected during the project as the composting process was not complete. The compost collected during the project will continue to be monitored on a regular basis and the time required for the 2,300 kg of compost to complete the cycle and the amount of usable material produced will be determined.
Despite the challenges and delays encountered at the start of the project, once underway the project ran smoothly with a large amount of compost being diverted from the waste stream and being recycled to be used as a soil amendment at the Botanical Garden and areas where required on the main Memorial campus (St. John's). The success of the project has encouraged partners to continue this project (collection resumed July, 2015) and hopefully lead to an expansion of the project in the future.
The information gathered and knowledge gained during this project will assist with determining the feasibility of a campus-wide (MUN, St. John's) organic collection and composting program.
A composting program such as this is an important step toward Memorial University of Newfoundland Sustainability Declaration's vision as a "sustainable and progressive university in all areas of operation, education, research and outreach in providing leadership for today and future generations".