Wake Forest University

Compost in Action - Sustainability at Wake Forest

Sustainability at Wake Forest

Compost in Action

In May 2011, agriculturalist-entrepreneurs Pete Gallins and cousin Rucker Sewell began an innovative program in Winston-Salem. The pair began collecting food waste from local businesses and restaurants to compost at the nearby Gallins Family Farm. In the fall of 2011, the university got on board by diverting the Pit’s pre-consumer food waste (food scraps that never leave the kitchen, like potato peels) from local landfills and redirecting them into the Gallins composting facility.

According to Megan Anderson, the manager of Waste Reduction, Recycling, & Surplus at the university, “We have reduced our waste pick-ups by one-third at the Reynolda trash compactor that services the Pit.” This reduction in pick-ups equates to economic savings by way of lowered waste-handling costs and reduced “tipping fees,” levied on trash processed at the landfill.

The reduction in landfill pick-ups has also lessened social and environmental costs associated with waste management. Ms. Anderson told us that rerouting the, “wet, heavy, smelly, messy food waste,” from the Reynolda trash compactor helped eliminate the all-too-familiar odor that attracted pests while repelling passersby.

The program also reduces landfill impacts, including the generation of methane emissions, a potent greenhouse gas. Reduced hauls to the landfill also equate to fuel savings and reduced vehicle exhaust. Through the composting process, Gallins is able to accelerate the conversion of the food scraps to a valuable nutrient-rich soil amendment, the final product of the composting process.

The university’s nascent composting program came full circle this summer when we returned several bags of the compost, marketed as “Carolina Dynamite,” to our Wake Forest campus garden. The compost is produced with the area’s iron-rich soil in mind.

The current boundaries of the composting program are under evaluation for expansion by Ms. Anderson and the countless others involved with the project. She shared plans to begin, collecting from Starbucks and other dining venues on campus. “We would also like to eventually [incorporate] post-consumer food waste collection.” Although we hope that those who eat on campus take only what they intend to eat, there are bound to be scraps and peels that are not consumed. A post-consumer collection program would even allow us to compost paper napkins, creating possibilities for zero-landfill meals at the Fresh Food Company.

By Joey DeRosa, Communications and Outreach Intern