Making the Compost of It

Pre-consumer composting has been initiated in the Student Union (SU) as part of SUNY New Paltz’s efforts to become more environmentally friendly, said General Manager of Campus Dining Services Ralph Perez-Rogers.

Composting was brought to Hasbrouck Dining  Hall about two years ago, and since then, SUNY New Paltz as a campus has composted nearly 142 tons of wet waste that would otherwise have been sent to a landfill. Every ton of waste composted saves about two tons of carbon from being released into the atmosphere.

Lauren Brois, president of the Recycling Club, wants students to know the difference between recycling and composting.

“Recycling and composting are two different ways of managing waste. Recycling deals with plastics, metals and the like. And the process actually changes the state of something,” said Brois. “Composting has to do with turning organic material back into soil.”

The composting on campus is facilitated through Greenway Environmental Services, a contracting and consulting firm run out of Vassar College. It specializes in large scale zero-waste and bio-filtration services. Royal Carting is contracted to come to SUNY New Paltz six days a week to pick up the compostable food waste and take it to Greenway, where the waste is converted into soil. The nutrient-rich soil can then be used to grow local produce that only further helps the New Paltz community.

To Perez-Rogers, the largest obstacle the composting program has to overcome in order to be implemented everywhere on campus is the support of the student body. If composting were opened up to all areas on campus, the success of the project would rely on students and faculty sorting their trash in the correct containers. Composting post-consumer waste in any place other than Hasbrouck becomes difficult, largely because the retail goods sold aren’t packaged in compostable containers.

“The challenge at the [Student Union] is that a lot of the stuff you see in retail is disposable … that kind of packaging can’t go in the compost, because it won’t break down,” said Perez-Rogers.

The composting program is not without support, however. SUNY New Paltz’s Recycling Club turns the piles three times a week, and on Fridays they add their own scraps to the bunch.

A compost system can also be utilized by students living off campus. While classes are in session, the Recycling Club offers its help to anyone who wants to try and make an impact.

“If you live off campus you can compost in your own backyard or house,” said Brois. “Once the Recycling Club spring composting starts again you can also drop off your food waste and we can compost it for you.”