In late August, Ohio University added to its sustainability efforts with the installation of a composting unit set to enable the Athens, OH school to divert up to a quarter of its solid waste from the landfill. Capable of processing up to two tons of compostable materials per day, the unit is among the largest in-vessel composting systems at a U.S. university. (Montclair State University in New Jersey is the only other college or university with an in-vessel unit that composts on this scale.)
In-vessel composters process waste within enclosed reactors, using controlled temperature, moisture and aeration to accelerate the natural pace of decomposition. Ohio University is using its unit, which converts waste to nutrient-rich soil in 14 days, to compost biodegradable waste from multiple campus locations
Ohio University staff worked to install the 10-ton stainless steel composter at 137 Dairy Lane, west of The Dairy Barn Arts Center. A crane lifted and placed the main composting unit onto a concrete pad within the frame of a pole building. Individual pieces, which arrived on a separate truck were then secured to the main unit.
A solar array will provide 50% of the composter’s energy usage.
The system, from Wright Environmental Management Inc., is designed to process food waste, biodegradable packaging materials, landscaping waste, and other organic materials. The grounds department will operate the system, which will provide compost for campus landscaping projects.
“The whole idea is that everything that comes off a consumer’s plate will go into a bin that will ultimately end up in the composter,” said director of maintenance and operations Mick Harris, who is coordinating construction of the composting site. “It’s kind of a neat and unique project. It’s an exciting thing to be a part of.”
Maintenance staff is not the only university group to express enthusiasm for the project. Several faculty members wrote letters of support for the endeavor, and some have voiced an interest in using the composting unit to enhance their classroom instruction.
Among them are Associate Professor of Civil Engineering Ben Stuart, who wants to involve his environmental engineering and waste management classes in field trips and analysis using the composter, and Assistant Professor of Geography Harold Perkins, who plans to utilize the composter to supplement his introductory and urban sustainability courses.
The cost of the composter was covered by two grants totaling $300,000 from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Recycling and Litter Prevention. An additional $35,105 from the Ohio Department of Development’s Energy Loan Fund Grant Program helped fund the 10.03-kilowatt solar array intended. The system also features a built-in bio-filter, which filters gases and reduces odors.