November 25, 1998

Middlebury College Joins Addison County Solid Waste District as Partner in Composting Pilot Project

College to Compost Food Waste from Local Schools and Businesses

Middlebury College and the Addison County Solid Waste Management District (ACSWMD) have become partners in a pilot project to convert food waste, which was previously deposited in landfills, into composted material. Under the partnership agreement, ACSWMD officials expect to begin in early 1999 to collect food waste an estimated two to three times a week from restaurants, grocery stores, and public schools. ACSWMD will then deliver the material to the existing Middlebury College compost facility for processing. The pilot project will contribute significant additional food waste to the 300 tons that the College currently diverts from landfills through its own food waste composting program.

The partnership's benefits are economic as well as environmental. While the pilot project enables the ACSWMD to explore new methods of converting large volumes of waste to compost, participating businesses and schools will experience a reduction in their refuse removal costs as a result of separating food waste from other garbage. During the pilot project, the College will continue to pay for its existing equipment, labor, and site preparation. The ACSWMD will not have to pay these expenses, with the exception of a modest fee for the use of the College's composting facility. The College, which has converted food waste to usable compost for several years, will have an increased supply of the material to add to soil on campus and to planters, which the dining services department uses to grow herbs.

According to David Ginevan, the College's executive vice president and treasurer, "The College is involved in the pilot project in an ongoing effort to be a responsible environmental citizen and to provide a service to the greater Addison County community.

"The food waste contributed by the ACSWMD will be well within the amount that the College's composting facility is capable of processing, and the pilot project coincides with the College's effort to improve and expand its composting operation," added Ginevan.

The partnership will benefit from recent improvements the College has made to its composting program. A new specially designed collection vehicle provides for the daily collection of food waste from all College dining service operations. When full, it is emptied into an enclosed container that in turn is emptied onto a new concrete compost pad. Compost ingredients are mixed on the pad and there the composting begins. The site is located west of the campus on College-owned land.

The College's composting method combines food waste with both horse manure from the University of Vermont Morgan Horse Farm in Weybridge and wood chips. Called a windrow composting process, food waste is arranged on top of drainage pipes placed perpendicularly to the entire pile of compost. A six-inch layer of horse manure then covers the pile and enables the materials to break down within a few months. Once the food waste has completed composting, it is readied for use on the College landscape.

Middlebury College began separating and collecting food waste from its waste stream in 1993, initially trucking it once a month to AgriCycle, a chicken farm and composting operation in Buskirk, N.Y. At AgriCycle the food waste was mixed with chicken manure, grocery store waste, and paper mill sludge to create a landfill cover product certified by the New York Department of Environmental Conservation. Wishing to save diesel fuel and retain the compost for its own use, the College began to compost food waste locally in 1996, first through the Intervale Composting Project in Burlington and then at its own facility.

The ACSWMD is a public body that oversees solid waste management and recycling on behalf of its 19 member towns. The composting agreement with Middlebury College is one of several the ACSWMD hopes to set up as part of a composting network in Addison County.

For more information, contact Norm Cushman, assistant director for maintenance and operations, at Middlebury College at 802-443-5003; or Steve Maier, district manager, at ACSWMD at 802-388-2333.