But think about it again. Is having food waste sit in a highly manicured flower bed really better than tossing it in the garbage? At SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF), food waste can be disposed of in green bins which are part of our campus compost system thanks to Green Campus Initiative (GCI).
Those compostable products that students throw in the bushes don’t have the proper conditions to degrade sitting in the shade of petunias and geraniums. Even for small scale systems, like the one on our campus, it takes time and the right materials.
At ESF, we collect compost and turn it over in an aeration system. The oxygen supplied from the system, combined with carbon sources like leaf litter, increases the turnover rate. That way we get useable compost in a timely manner. According to the Garden Chair of GCI Noah Pasqua-Godkin, a semester’s time produces one large box of compost. When someone chucks an apple into the bushes, the apple takes much more time to degrade, attracting flies and a horrendous smell. That’s why most food waste disappears magically due to grounds maintenance staff. It essentially rots, not forming the organic material truly useable for those flower beds.
Even at large-scale composting sites, like the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency (OCRRA)’s Amboy Compost Site in Camillus, food waste is mixed with yard waste to create a ratio of carbon and nitrogen sources. There it takes 70 to 90 days to form the finished product, according to Greg Gelewski, the Recycling Operations Manager at OCRRA. With a highly structured large scale system, the efficiency is remarkable.
While our campus is not up to such a size, it is imperative to use what we have in place. Throwing banana peels in the bushes may seem like a better alternative to throwing them in the trash, but you lose the chance of knowing where your food waste is going. With more use, the compost system can grow and affect the amount of food in the waste stream.