A greener operation
The Kenyon campus will owe much of its beauty this growing season to rotting eggs, wilting lettuce, and other dining-hall scraps collected and decomposed by a mechanized composting system installed as part of the $28 million Peirce Hall renovation opened in September.
More than half of all cafeteria waste-about 6,000 pounds per week-is being hauled from the servery to an Environmental Protection Agency-licensed composting site on a southeast corner of the campus. There, piles of the organic matter sit on storage bays waiting to be "cured" long enough-about seven months-for delivery as fertilizer to gardens, fields, and greens.
Testing so far indicates that the end product "has a high nitrogen content and is very rich in nutrients," said Everett E. Neal, superintendent of buildings and grounds. "You can grow anything with this stuff."
A donation from Joseph E. Lipscomb '87 and his wife, Laura E. Will, made the composting system possible. "My wife and I are home composters so we know first-hand the value of recycling food waste," said Lipscomb, co-founder and partner of Arborview Capital, a private investment firm in Chevy Chase, Maryland, dedicated to growth equity investment in clean energy. "It has a lot of financial benefits."
Composting complements the College's Food for Thought program to build a sustainable local market for foods produced in and around Knox County. "A reduction in food waste allows the College to spend its dollars on higher quality local food, instead of on mass quantities that are too often thrown away," said Professor of Sociology Howard Sacks, director of Kenyon's Rural Life Center.
The sophisticated system shreds, dehydrates, layers, turns, and mixes the waste to create the best possible compost in the shortest period of time. Samples from the piles, which reach an internal temperature of 140 degrees, are lab-tested for readiness.
A computer-controlled network of garbage disposal-like devices feeds the waste-including recyclable paper-through pipes into a pulper/extractor that decreases bulk and removes 80 percent of the water, which returns through the pipes to be reused. The refuse "looks like confetti when it leaves Peirce," said Damon Remillard, resident director of AVI Foodsystems, Kenyon's dining service. "Biodegradation begins when we cut it up."
Composting provides Kenyon with free fertilizer while reducing transportation, landfill, and supply expenses. "You wouldn't believe what we had to go through to make this happen, but it was worth it," said Neal, revealing a thick folder of project paperwork. "The EPA guided us through the whole process. There were a few glitches in the beginning, but we are really happy with it. We couldn't ask for a better product coming out of it."Back to Top