Luther's new cafeteria pulper expanding composting capabilities

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources Solid Waste Alternative Program recently awarded Luther College a $20,000 forgivable loan in order to install a pulper in the cafeteria dish room. The installation of the WasteXpress System over winter break in Luther College's cafeteria has greatly increased the amount of food waste being composted.

The pulper replaced the previous garbage disposal in the dish room and works to capture and process all food waste from consumer plates as well as food preparation. The food scraps are scraped directly into the pulper where the moisture is removed from them and the material is pulverized into bits that are capable of breaking down faster in a compost pile.

"Diverting food waste from the landfill is an important part of our sustainability efforts," says Maren Beard, assistant director of Luther's Center for Sustainable Communities. "When food waste breaks down in a landfill it produces methane gas which is 23 times more potent of a greenhouse gas than the carbon dioxide emitted through the composting process."

Data collected prior to the installation of the pulper indicates that over the decades that Luther has been composting the college has been diverting up to 130,000 pounds of pre- and post-consumer food waste to the compost pile each year. However, waste audits of the Union dock dumpster suggest the school is only capturing 50 percent of total materials that could be composted. The new pulper should be able to capture the vast majority of food waste coming out of campus dining locations, which could lead to as much as 75% reduction in total waste coming out of the Union.

The addition of a pulper is one step towards the goal of sending 90 percent of all food waste to the compost pile by May of 2018. Other efforts include waste education and comprehensive waste infrastructure changes across campus. The pulper project, a collaborative effort from the Center for Sustainable Communities and Luther College Dining Services staff, is the latest in many initiatives aimed at reducing waste on Luther's campus.

The Center for Sustainable Communities is a catalyst for change at Luther College and in the surrounding region as the coordinator for all sustainability initiatives on campus. The center's mission is to promote sustainability on campus and in the region. For more information about Luther’s Center for Sustainable Communities visit the college's website: http://www.luther.edu/sustainability/.