What is that smell? It is not the paper mill and it is not the football team practicing on the fields. If students have caught a strong odor walking over on the north side of campus by the Reserve, odds are it is the campus compost pile.
The compost pile equates to about 15 cubic yards of material. About 15 dump truck loads, explained Chris Brindley, director of the facility services.
“There are three piles of compost that facility services maintain,” said Brindley. “An active pile, which has material added daily, the second which is left alone as it breaks down to its final product, the third is the finished pile that is ready to be used whenever.”
“It takes 12 months and then we start a new pile,” said Brindley. “Then the first and second piles become the second and third piles and a new active pile is started.”
Brindley explained that all the compost is put back on campus, it is also used to amend the athletic fields and flower beds.
Campus top-dresses the fields when they need to seed them as well, said Brindley. They put a thin coat of the soil over the field which provides the seed with soil contact for germination and is a great source of nutrients for the newly germinated seed. The soil allows facility services to use one less application of a synthetic fertilizer on our fields.
“We use this soil that we create with the compost in all our landscaping projects as well,” said Brindley. “Usually two parts sands to one part compost and it makes the most beautiful topsoil one could ask for.”
All the food scraps and compost collected from campus help make the best compost possible.
“We need the food source to help create a well-balanced product,” said Brindley. “Residential living has always been active in this program and it ties into student involvement.”
Items such as fruits, vegetables, grains and dairy products are acceptable to add to compost according to the Facility Services website.
According to the website, “If it can be eaten, grown on a farm or field garden, then it can be composted.”
From July 2014 to July 2015, around 125,870 pounds of compost were collected from Debot, the Dreyfus University Center, the Trainer Natural Resources building and the College of Professional Studies building. All of that waste equates to 62.9 tons according to Facility Services.
Professor Rob Michitsch teaches soil science and waste management. In one of his classes, Michitsch has students do numerous experiments and research on the food waste from campus, Brindley explained They take the food waste that residential living provides for them and do different experiments on it to find ways to break the products down more efficiently.
The composting process makes a complete circle on campus. Students can breathe easy knowing that the scent near Schmeeckle means campus is working hard on composting materials and reducing waste.