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St. Paul, MN 55105
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Macalester College Composting Started January 2013
Macalester College set a goal of achieving zero waste by 2020. Currently food waste from Café Mac is taken to a pig farmer for feed, but the rest of the food scraps, as well as other compostable materials on campus, are disposed in regular trash cans. According to a 2010 waste sort, 45% of the college's trash is compostable.
What is Composting?
At the most basic level, composting transforms organic material through decomposition into a material that resembles soil, called compost. Sometimes, organisms and microorganisms (such as insects and earthworms, bacteria and fungi) help speed up the process by breaking down the compostable material faster, and more efficiently. It is the most natural form of recycling.
Plastic does not go away in a landfill. Depending on the type of plastic and where it is, it could take hundreds to thousands of years to degrade. At a compost site, the same compostable silverware or cup takes 45 to 100 days to turn into compost. At Macalester, most of our waste is incinerated, so the plastic dishware is burned.
Where Will our Compostable Material Go?
Composting can be done in the backyard, but backyard composting is not practical for Macalester due to our confined space and urban location. At Macalester, we will contract with a hauler to take our compostable material to the Mulch Store in Empire Township (www.mulchstoremn.com/organics.html). There, our compostable material will be mixed with food waste and other compostable material from locations around the Twin Cities. The material will be put in rows, screened, and aerated, until it becomes compost and is sold for landscaping projects. See a video from an ACTC City Labs trip to the MULCH store
How Can I Compost at Macalester?
Starting January 1, 2013, compost bins are available in Olin Rice, Carnegie and the Campus Center. Composting is also available for events. To get composting bins, makes sure to request compost pick up when you reserve your space (at least 2 weeks in advance). For non-reservable spaces, please submit a work-order and request compost bins. Work-orders need to be in at least 48 hours in advance (dorm events will need additional time). At your event, you will be responsible for sorting and putting the compostables in the correct bin.
What is Compostable at Macalester?
- All FOOD scraps
- All non-recyclable PAPER products
- Napkins, paper towels, tissues
- Paper plates, cups & food containers
- Paper milk & juice cartons
- Paper bags & waxed paper (fast food wraps, etc.)
- Coffee grounds, filters & tea bags
- Pizza boxes
- COMPOSTABLE silverware and cups with the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) logo
- All compostable products as certified by BPI
DO NOT include PLASTICS of any kind, styrofoam, foil, condiment packets, chip bags & candy wrappers.
Where Do I Get Compostable Dishes?
Regular paper cups, plates, and napkins are already compostable. Silverware, however, needs to have a BPI logo, and is not as widely available.
Bon Appétit is committed to using compostable dishware and will be phasing in compostable dishware during spring 2013. If you are catering with Bon Appétit, make sure to request compostable dishware for your event. If you are not using Bon Appétit, then you need to find BPI certified compostable products.
Macalester College departments can get state contract pricing through Liton Paper for compostable products by the case. Contact Simon Hefty at 612-607-5704, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.litin.com.
Economic Impacts of Composting
Composting can save the college money! The state contract pricing is much cheaper than other options for departmental purchases. We checked and the state contract compostables are cheaper than retail plastic items from Sam’s Club, Costco and Target. Bon Appetit's catering charges a little bit more for compostables (5%) as their marginal cost is higher as they are not purchasing plastic at retail prices.
In addition, there is a 70% tax on waste. In 2011-2012, the college paid $19,991 on solid waste taxes. Compost is not considered waste so it is not taxed.