Humphrey School Leads University as First to Adopt Building-Wide Composting Program
What began as a grass-roots effort by students wanting to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills is now policy at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.
Next month, the Humphrey School will implement a ‘centralized collection’ program that integrates organics composting with recycling and trash disposal. The Humphrey School leads the University of Minnesota in composting efforts as the first academic unit to adopt this new integrated system throughout its building.
“As a public policy school, it’s only natural that students have a vested interest in developing policies that benefit communities, and in this case, the environment,” said Audel Shokohzadeh, president of the Public Affairs Students Association (PASA). “The Humphrey School’s mission is to inspire leaders to advance the common good, and we think that this is a very meaningful way that students, staff, and faculty can contribute to the common good here on campus, and in a much broader context.”
According to this report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, in 2013 nearly 95% of food waste ended up in a landfill—about 35.22 million tons of unnecessary waste. When other organic materials such as coffee grounds, paper towels, and compostable utensils are brought into the picture, the impact is direr. Organic waste recycling, or composting, helps to properly dispose of food and other organic waste and has positive environmental and financial impacts.
The environmental benefits are clear. The report shows that when 1.84 million tons of food were properly recovered in 2013, that resulted in 1.7 million tons of greenhouse gas benefits—the equivalent of 308 thousand cars being taken off the road. Composting also saves money. The University’s Facilities Management indicates that it costs the University $72 per ton to dispose of solid waste and only $15 per ton to dispose of organic waste.
Last year, students recognized these benefits and advocated to PASA for the Humphrey School to transition to centralized collection waste recovery, a method designed to seize the benefits of composting. At that time, the School was already composting in various locations but not throughout the entire building. PASA unanimously supported the initiative and approached the executive council for guidance.
The executive council is a representative body of faculty, staff, students, and the administration that provides leadership direction for strategic initiatives. Upon hearing the request from students, the executive council created a small working group to evaluate the merits of centralized collection, which in turn proposed a plan to implement the centralized collection service and recommended its approval. The full council, which includes Dean Eric Schwartz, approved the plan this spring.
The new centralized system for waste collection begins next month with a soft rollout. Changes for students, staff, and faculty include:
- Waste will no longer be collected from individual desk-side locations
- Everyone is required to take all waste to a nearby ‘quad location’ that includes individual containers: organics (for composting), trash, paper recyclables, and bottles and cans recyclables
- All organic materials should be placed in the centralized organics container, which are emptied daily, and not placed in desk-side containers
In September, the Humphrey School will officially launch with a more detailed educational campaign for returning and incoming students and employees.