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Waste not, want not

8 March 2012

A partnership approach to tackling food waste has been key to the success of three very different composting schemes at the University over the past few months.

The latest scheme began in August 2011 and involves a partnership approach between Sustainability and Site Services. This new food waste collection system offers all University staff the opportunity to participate in food waste composting collections at work. Over 200 collection points have now been established across the University. Each point has a food waste caddy that is collected by a member of Site Services. To date this has diverted almost 20 tonnes of food waste from landfill, the equivalent of a quarter of a million banana skins.

However, there are other, less obvious, benefits to the scheme, as Site Services Manager Liz Lynch explains: ‘The use of caddies means that fears about composting causing smelly bins have been unfounded. Prompt collection of the caddies makes it easier to control pests and rodents, as there is no longer rotting food waste hanging around in bins – in the past fruit flies and midges attracted to wet tea bags have caused us a problem.’

In early 2011, Sustainability installed a ‘Rocket’ compost machine at The Hawthorns in partnership with Hospitality Services to compost food waste from The Hawthorns kitchens. Food waste is collected in the kitchens and transferred to the Rocket by Hawthorns staff. The Rocket works by speeding up the natural composting process. Food waste is fed into the machine along with wood chip from Fenswood Farm where it is slowly turned and heated naturally through biological activity. After 7-10 days immature compost is collected and stored where it is matured for a further six weeks before being used.

This compost has been used by Gardens and Grounds staff for the recent Royal Fort Lodge landscaping. External Estates Manager Alan Stealey said: ‘The compost has proved to be an excellent product, being both clean and odourless. Incorporated into the soil, it will play a vital role in enhancing both nutrient content and the moisture-holding capacity of the soil and will help new plants get established more quickly. In the future, the intention is to apply it directly as mulch to the surface of our planting beds; it will then act as a weed suppressant and aid soil water conservation.’

Sustainability Manager Rose Rooney said: ‘This is an excellent example of closed-loop recycling and partnership working recognising “waste” as a valuable resource to the University.’

These newer schemes build on the successes of food waste collections at halls of residences and student accommodation sites, which began as a trial in 2008 and were rolled out to all University accommodation sites in September 2011.

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