Composting at UNC Charlotte began in 2014 at Crown Commons and has since expanded to 13 other dining kitchen locations and all the way to the athletic stadiums. In 2017, about 80 percent of the waste from the football stadium was either recycled or composted.
Composting has now expanded to the Orbis Grille, a dining location in PORTAL. This form of composting is different in that it is offered for customer use rather than taking place in the kitchen, out of reach for customers. The Orbis Grille has a “customer facing disposal” that displays either the composting or landfill option with specific descriptors to guide the customers in what they can or cannot dispose.
Orbis Grille was chosen as the pilot program location “because it is a smaller dining location and already had compostable items,” explained Inside UNC Charlotte.
Compostable items include food scraps, napkins, Orbis silverware and to-go containers. The items that are to be put in the landfill disposal are condiment packaging, chip bags and coffee-cup lids among other items.
Darcy Everett, the recycling project manager, stated that “through previous waste audits, we knew that 50 to 60 percent of Orbis Grille waste is compostable.” The potential of the waste diversion program is important for the sustainability of the dining facility and campus.
Composting at Crown Commons and South Village Dining is carried out through a food pulper system. The food pulper system processes solid food into compostable material.
Everett states that there are some challenges to composting its expansion on campus and most of the hurdles fall on the consumer end. When students and staff place their own waste into the composting or landfill bin, they often risk contamination. Contamination occurs when non-compostable items are mixed with compostable items. Non-compostable items include chip bags, plastic bottles and plastic film.
As soon as the waste is separated into compostable and non-compostable material, Earth Farms, a composting company in Gaston County, collects the material that is compostable on campus. Earth Farms uses the compost to create viable soil and sell it to landscapers.
In the future, compostable options may be available in other settings, such as residence halls. Everett believes that this pilot program is an important way to get students, faculty and staff to think about what type of waste they are producing, where the waste is going, and what it signifies for the sustainability of this campus and Charlotte community. Orbis Grille will be used as an indicator for whether this project can be implemented in other locations across campus.
Through recycling and composting efforts, waste that is discarded into the landfill could be reduced by 75 percent. This project provides continued hope that the Office of Waste Reduction and Recycling can find different ways to practice waste diversion from landfills.