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Leo’s should bring composting on campus
At Leo J. O’Donovan Dining Hall, signs advertising the cafeteria composting program have been hanging next to the trashcans for years. Although students’ eyes are at times bigger than their stomachs, the environmentally conscientious can take comfort from the idea that, as far as they know, their half-eaten chicken fingers are going to eventually wind up as compost. In reality, though, the Leo’s composting process is far less efficient or comprehensive than the advertising suggests. Students should pressure Aramark to compost a greater portion of Leo’s waste—and bring the process on campus so students can benefit from the final product.
According to the GU Dining Services website, “approximately 90 percent of all waste from Leo’s Dining Hall is composted.” However, Georgetown’s Recycling and Waste Disposal Manager Bill Del Vecchio attests that this figure is grossly inflated. Leo’s diverts 90 percent of its overall waste to a facility that incinerates the trash and converts it to energy. “Composting, on the other hand…is something different,” Del Vecchio said.
According to Del Vecchio, Georgetown used to work with a Maryland-based composting company Recycled Green, but now the food waste is sent to the Waste Management Annapolis Junction, which ships it to be composted in Delaware. Sending our waste so far afield, rather than composting locally or on campus, expends unnecessary amounts of fossil fuel.
Composting scraps keeps food waste out of landfills, where the mixture of organic and inorganic material can produce huge amounts of greenhouse gases. But with our food waste travelling all the way to Delaware for processing, the benefits of composting are somewhat negated by pollution from the fossil fuels that are burned in transit.
D.C. has services to distribute any compost not used on campus. Compost Cab, a D.C.-based service that provides compost to local urban farms, already offers compost pick-up for commercial customers as well as schools. They also offer waste audits so that customers understand the greenest way to do away with their trash. Keeping composting local is the best way to reduce our carbon footprint while giving a boost to farming initiatives on campus and in the D.C. area.
In farming circles, compost is often referred to as black gold. The potting soil and potting mix used in indoor and outdoor gardens is usually made up of a mixture of composts. Studies show that compost application in farming can greatly increase the amount of carbon sequestered in the soil. The Leo’s compost should be put to use in the community garden, as well as student gardens in off-campus backyards.