WKU addresses food waste in beneficial methods

Carly Matthews

In January 2014, the WKU sustainability office began its plan to divert the food waste from the Fresh Food Company from the landfill it was normally sent to, to a more environmentally conscious approach. The plan was implemented in order to make Fresh a more sustainable area.

The new approach to handling food waste is an engineering system, one that was built into Downing Student Union during the renovation. It allows the food waste from the kitchen, as well as the waste from students’ plates, to be moved out of DSU and be broken down into compost for soil enrichment.

The system extracts the moisture from the food and breaks it down into small pieces, and is then transferred to the Baker Arboretum to be used for soil enrichment.

This new mechanized system of dealing with food waste is good not only for the environment, but also for the employees of the Fresh Food Company, said Christian Ryan, the sustainability coordinator.

“This new system, while being more environmentally friendly, also helps the employees,” Ryan said.  “No longer do they have to carry the waste to the dumpster, it is all automatically done for them.”

This system has, so far, diverted about a ton of food waste from the landfill into the soil at the Baker Arboretum, Ryan said.

Due to the success of this system, there are talks of similar systems being put into the Garrett Conference Center and the remaining restaurants in DSU, though there could be engineering difficulties when it comes to Garrett. Ryan said the new pub going in Garrett will have the same system in place, however.

The efforts in sustainability at WKU have been recognized nationally. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Guide to Campus Composting is using the system in place at Fresh as one of their case studies, which Ryan said means big things in regard to the success of the system.

“The composting system that we have in place here is pretty outstanding,” says Ryan.

The Office of Sustainability hopes to further the mechanical compost system to the other dining options here on campus, as well as working on decreasing non-recyclable packing to an almost nonexistent level.