Composting at Ernie Davis Dining Center promotes sustainability on campus

When students eat at Ernie Davis Dining Center on Monday, they’ll be participating in Earth Day without even realizing it.

For the past three years, Syracuse University has participated in a composting program in each of its dining halls. But it’s most noticeable at Ernie Davis Dining Center, where specific bins for different forms of waste occupy the space once used for a line of generic trash bins.

There are separate bins for newspaper, food, and napkins and plastic waste, according to the signage hanging at the Ernie Davis Dining Center disposal area. New signs for these bins were also recently added.

“We have been composting for years,” said Mark Tewksbury, assistant director of SU Food Services. “The new signage gets students to do it rather than us doing it behind the scenes.”

SU Food Services first began composting in 2010 when a few dining centers started the program for a trial period. The program was expanded to all on-campus dining centers after a few weeks of success.

SU Food Services has a partnership with the Onondaga County Resource Recovery Agency to compost tons of food waste to improve sustainability on campus, Tewksbury said.

The process of composting begins when students dispose of their waste into the separate bins in the dining hall, according to SU Food Services’ website.

The bins are then loaded onto an SU Food Services truck to be brought to the Physical Plant yard on South Campus and are put into a main dumpster, Tewksbury said. From there, the food waste is taken weekly to the Amboy Compost Site in Camillus, where OCRRA transforms the garbage into compost, according to the website.

Community members can go to the site to pick up compost to use for gardening or other needs, according to OCRRA website.

Though Ernie Davis Dining Center is the only dining hall that recently got new signage, all of the dining halls and many campus cafes participate in composting, Tewksbury said.

The benefits of the new signage are hard to determine because the bins are generally filled with the same amount of waste per day, Tewksbury said.

“Composting is already occurring all across campus,” he said. “The whole university really cares about sustainability.”

Students also agree that the signage and composting are important aspects of SU’s focus on sustainability.

A benefit of making the students more aware of their waste is that they will make separating food waste the norm, said Erin Miller, a freshman advertising major.

“It is important to get students more involved in sustainability,” Miller said. “It sets a rhythm, which I think most students follow now.”

People now understand the procedure and will call someone out for not following the protocol, she said.

“Most students I see dispose of their trash according to the signs now,” said Daisy Gan, an undeclared freshman in the College of Arts and Sciences. “I think getting the students to be a part of the process is a good thing.”

Said Gan: “It is 100 percent awesome.”


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