Machine at Fresh Food Co. turns waste into compost

Quiche Matchen

WKU has some new sustainable projects this semester, and it’s saving the university some cash.

One of those new ways is a machine that makes compost out of left over food at the renovated Fresh Food Company.

Sustainability Coordinator Christian Ryan-Downing said she’s excited about the new compost machine.


“The pulper pulps it up and squeezes the liquid out of it, and then it’ll go to a sealed dumpster,” Ryan Downing said. “Then it’ll go out to the Baker Arboretum and they’ll actually turn it into compost where they’ll use it to enrich their soil.

“If it works well with Fresh Food we’ll expand and do more food waste at other places,” she said.

Ryan-Downing said acquiring the equipment necessary for creating the compost and process for getting the partnership took some time.

“It was a great opportunity with the remodeling of Fresh Food to install the equipment that we needed like that pulper,” she said.

Changes have also come to cardboard recycling on campus.

Sara Hutchison, Recycling and Surplus coordinator, said in an email that it was easy to impact the new changes.

“We used dumpsters that were just for cardboard this year,” Hutchinson said. “The goal was to try and place as many cardboard dumpsters beside each trash dumpster that we could.”

Hutchison said they had over a dozen facilities management grounds crew employees helping divert cardboard.

“Having so many people strategically placed helped us to divert more cardboard than ever,” she said. “We diverted a little over eight tons of cardboard during MASTER Plan move-in weekend. That’s over 16,000 pounds! In dollar amounts, that equates to about $1,000 that WKU did not have to pay to haul off the cardboard to the landfill.”

Hutchison said her department makes revenue on the cardboard they recycle, about $100 per ton currently.

“Another main goal of that weekend is to let students know that we recycle here at WKU,” she said.

Rachel Hoge, recycling student surplus associate, said she’s worked with the cardboard drive for three years.

“It’s good to have a job that is making a change,” she said. “This is a job that changes your outlook on things.”

Hoge said she encourages all her friends and family to recycle.

“It’s a small change, but it has to start with us,” ryan said.

Downing said there are tons of opportunities to recycle on campus and they’ve been working on it since 2007.

“Our strategy was that if we can put all of our recyclables in just one common bin, then let’s take half of our campus trash cans and turn them into recycling bins, and so that’s what we did,” she said.

Hutchison said it’s all about raising awareness for sustainability on campus.

“Our main goals are to get students aware that there is a mechanism in place that ensures your stuff is getting recycled on campus, diversion of recyclable materials from landfill-bound dumpsters, and outreach,” she said.