Be a cool kid: Landfills are out, compost is in

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By Robert Meeson

Maybe you saw me. I was that guy standing next to the waste station in Upper last week telling you to throw your napkins in the bins labeled napkins. By Friday night, some students still hadn’t caught on that straws could be thrown in the bins labeled straws, so it might be a good idea to explain what is going on with those trash cans in the dining hall and why things have changed.

Union has just made a deal with a company called Empire Zero that comes and takes all of our biodegradable waste to turn into compost. This is kind of awesome because first of all, less waste goes into a landfill to sit underground for ages throwing methane into the air without the ability to decompose properly with all the other crap we throw out. Secondly, our biodegradable waste is being used productively by relatively local food producers and lastly, Union’s environmental impact is ultimately reduced.

Empire Zero has a sophisticated industrial composting system, so they can pretty much compost anything that isn’t made from oil. It isn’t like a backyard garden where you can’t throw in meat and dairy, so all food items can be thrown in the composting bins, including bones and cheese. The brown napkins and the green straws used in the dining hall are made of plant products so they can be composted too, along with the green Aspretto cups. But there’s also a lot you can’t compost.

If you can’t eat it, throw it in the single bin labeled “trash.” Potato chip bags, peanut butter cups, coffee lids, white paper cups, sugar packets, stirrers, and those little plastic cups people put ketchup in all need to be put in this trash bin. If there’s too much trash in the compost, Empire Zero will charge Union fees and the like, which will most likely be transferred to our tuition bills. So if you don’t want to see that already obnoxiously large number grow, don’t be lazy and take the two minutes to separate your waste. The bins are all labeled, so if you ever find yourself paralyzed with confusion in front of those holes, just read. We all know you can do it, unless you’re really great at getting by being an illiterate college student.

For the most part, students have been receptive to the program and some have expressed excitement about the college’s efforts to compost. Standing around spewing rules about the new system wasn’t even that terribly painful for me because most people understood and cooperated, and that was kind of awesome.

Thanks Union. Ideally, students who care will break the mentality of the students who don’t care, and the composting system will run efficiently and successfully, spreading into the other dining halls and other parts of campus.

There’s a large population of students that would rather upload pictures to Facebook while reading about everyone’s incredibly underwhelming problems on their iPhones than talk about the benefits of composting on campus, but, that’s their thing, and I can’t judge people for doing what makes them happy.

Still, it would be splendid if everyone took a minute to put their cracker wrappers in the trash and their food in the bins labeled food scraps so that we can continue making environmentally beneficial changes at Union.

By the way, send all liquids on a tray to the kitchen because they make the compost heavier and Empire Zero charges by the ton.

In summary, we’re composting in Upper and it’s great and easy if you read the signs. If you were to ask me for advice, I’d simply say “Don’t be stupid.” Oh, and don’t be a jerk to the dishwashers by leaving your silverware on your tray. They leave a bucket out for a reason.

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