The University of Pennsylvania and Composting
Updated: Feb 11, 2021
In an era of high carbon emissions, innovators and scientists are looking for ways to solve this climate crisis. One issue brought up is food waste. Food-related items are considered the third largest contributor to climate change and approximately ⅓ of food is wasted in the United States. Unfortunately this includes food waste in the University of Pennsylvania dining halls. With so much food built up, Penn's lack of composting trucks and collectors lead to the dining facilities to be unable to handle the food scraps, and the excess food ends up going directly to trash and landfills where the nutrients are unable to be recycled.
However, a cheap and efficient option for Penn and other peer institutions to consider is having an onsite composter. By creating a facility or location where food scraps could be brought to composting bins and groups of volunteers continually aerate and handle the food scraps, waste would not be as harmful. The compost could end up as organic fertilizer and nutrients within a few months. That organic fertilizer could go to Penn gardens or natural plants nearby thus creating a closed loop for food. Other peer universities already have onsite composting such as Cornell and Harvard. By creating composting sites, Penn could also engage with the local Philadelphia community hosting workshops on composting and giving opportunities to volunteer on the onsite composting area. By creating an onsite compost system, Penn could lead other nearby universities to also do so and engage with Philadelphians. Penn would be one step closer to a cleaner, more sustainable University.