After successfully implementing composting bins in Easton and Chestertown Halls last year, Facilities Management, the Department of Resident Life and Residential Facilities added nine new dorms to the composting pilot program for the 2016-17 academic year.
The bins were placed in Dorchester, Anne Arundel, Worcester, Prince Frederick, Elkton, Oakland, Ellicott, Bel Air and Cambridge Halls in mid-August before the dorms were open to students for the fall semester, Adrienne Small, a Facilities Management recycling specialist, said.
“Often there is no thought given — you just put stuff in the waste bin and it goes away, but by asking students to participate in composting we want to create a mindfulness to waste in general,” Small said.
The bins are located in every public floor bathroom in each of the dorms and in some public spaces including trash rooms, lounges, kitchens and lobbies, said Erin Schlegel, Denton Community director. The average high-rise that’s part of the pilot program has about 40 total bins.
“Ultimately the compost is made into soil or mulch that can be reused and repurposed,” said Cindy Felice, Residential Facilities associate director. “All of that goes to the Terp Farm; It’s a nice circle.”
In the 2015 Waste Audit Report, in which this pilot program was proposed, the costs for this composting program range between $27,000 and $61,000 per semester and are paid for by Facilities Management, the Department of Resident Life and Residential Facilities.
Together, the 11 halls house about 3,754 students who are now able to compost their waste, Felice said.
However, not all students are correctly sorting the material. Small did a waste audit on Sept. 20 in Easton Hall by taking eight randomly selected bags each of compost, recycling and trash and examining them for contamination. The results were that only 2 percent of material in the compost bins shouldn’t have been in there. However, about 63 percent of trash could have gone in the compost bins, Small said.
“What I see the most is someone will have leftover food in a bag and people will put the entire bag in the compost or trash bin, but you have to empty the food out into the compost and put the plastic into the trash bin,” Small said. “We have found there is a learning curve for composting.”
Resident Life is trying to educate students on how to compost waste correctly, Schlegel said. Resident assistants in each building have gone through training and discussed the bins with residents during their beginning-of-the-year floor meeting. There are also signs above each recycling and compost bin to help students figure out what material goes where.
All food scraps, soiled paper, paper food containers, paper plates and any other organic materials such as wood popsicle sticks can be composted, Small said.
As for expanding to even more dorms across the University of Maryland campus, a challenge Resident Life identified is having enough space inside the dorm for bins and outside of each dorm for containers.
“What we really need to tackle next is South Hill, but it’s a unique challenge to figure out composting there since the rooms are so private and there isn’t always enough space for the bins outside of the dorms,” Schlegel said.
A main goal of this program, Schlegel said, is for students to learn about composting and incorporate the practice in their daily lives.
“There are very few housing programs across the country that are composting as we are doing it in our residence halls,” Felice said. “We are proud that we are able to come out on front and embark on this.”