An interdisciplinary living laboratory approach to investigate college food waste co-;composting with additional on-;site organic waste feedstocks

Research paper by Anne B. Alerding, Jennifer E. DeHart, David K. Kniffin, Nattachat Srikongyos, Michael J. DeBlasio, Jacob M. Kelliher, James A. Marsh, Heather L. Magill, Charles D. Newhouse, Samuel K. Allen, Paul J. Ackerman, Emily L. Lilly

Indexed on: 16 May '20Published on: 07 Jul '19Published in: International journal of environment and waste management


In an effort to curb monetary and environmental costs of food waste disposal, colleges and universities are developing composting programs. Incorporating additional on-;site wastes could improve composting efficiency and provide cost savings. A living laboratory team of faculty and students with expertise in biology, engineering, and economics investigated non-;food organic wastes as co-;compostable supplementary feedstocks with dining hall residues. The interdisciplinary learning environment inspired students to develop a specialised sampling method using nylon mesh bags embedded in large bins to monitor biotic and abiotic composting responses. Bark, leaves, and paper were equally effective as co-;compostable wastes. Economic analysis showed that incorporating non-;food organic feedstocks into food waste composting could save $17,500 USD per dining hall per year when balanced with waste disposal or recycling costs for these materials. This project shows how a living laboratory approach can address local waste management issues with sustainable economic practices by examining alternative disposal methods of common organic wastes.