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Utilizing Student Engagement for a Startup Composting Program
Malte Weiland, Office of Sustainability, University of South Carolina
Over the course of the 2011-2012 academic year, the
University of South Carolina has engaged its students in a
campus-wide composting project which has become a
proven example of student engagement in sustainability
projects with successful results. Advised by the Office of
Sustainability, a dedicated group of students has developed
and managed a pre-consumer food waste route on campus,
collecting food scraps from all the major dining halls on
campus. The students collaborated with Sodexo, the dining
provider on campus, to set up collection bins in kitchens
across campus. They were also given access to equipment
from the Office of Sustainability to aid in their collection.
Resources included:
• 10 to 15 Student Volunteers/Interns
• University-provided transportation
• Compost bins
• Compost collection bins for kitchens
With these procedures, the students collectively
developed a pick up schedule which collects over 500
lbs of food waste every week during normal campus
operations. They have also taken on issues such as
training kitchen staff on how to compost correctly and
educating their peers in small post-consumer pilots.
Through leadership and a real understanding of the
issues, these students diverted more than 20 tons of
organic waste annually from the landfill and created
valuable compost that is reused in campus community
gardens. Their educational programs have trained staff
and students on composting procedures and benefits.
The USC Office of Sustainability provided an outlet for
interested student groups to help the university take a
step toward a greener outlook and move closer to its
proposed zero waste-to-landfill goals.
Useful preliminary steps:
• Cooperation with campus dining provider
• Access to yard waste from Landscaping crews
Kitchen staff collect food
scraps in provided bins
• Have bins near prep areas
• Train staff on composting procedure
Student volunteers arrive to
collect kitchen bins later in day
• Should take full bin and leave a different,
clean bin behind
Bins are taken back to compost
Fall 2011
Spring 2012
Fall 2012
Spring 2013
• Students empty and clean bins
• Cover food scraps with leaves/yard waste
provided by Grounds Staff
Students Trained (Cumlative)
Next Steps
• Expand campus program to include post-consumer
• Utilize more worm bins for vermicompost
• Distribute finished compost product at Farmer’s
Seth Guest, Sustainable Carolina
Intern; Christy Cole, Sustainable
Carolina Intern; University of South
Carolina Facilities, Sodexo

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