UVA to Compost Food Waste

O-Hill is going to start composting their food waste, Aaron Lee wrote in the Daily Progress yesterday. They account for half of the food served at the university, sending 5,000 pounds of food to be composted into soil, rather than to sit in the anaerobic environment of a dump, where food generally can’t biodegrade. Steve Murray’s Earlysville-based Panorama Pay-Dirt will be hauling it off beginning Tuesday.

6 thoughts on “UVA to Compost Food Waste”

  1. “rather than to sit in the anaerobic environment of a dump, where food generally can’t biodegrade”

    Uhhhh… no.


    I’m not saying this is a bad idea. It saves the university money and profits a local business. I’m just saying that you totally pulled that statement out of your ass. Then again, I suppose that’s what the internets are for.

  2. Not hardly:

    The anaerobic condition (very low to no oxygen) and low moisture level in the garbage stops or greatly slows decomposition. The garbage is essentially “mummified” in this stable environment. Newspapers that have been buried in landfills can still be read 20 years later. Only one-third to one-half of even easily decomposed materials such as lawn, garden and food waste is decomposed after 20 years.

    This is a topic that I’m pretty familiar with.

  3. Lars,
    What is the relevant information from the link you provided? I read through it but I don’t see how it addresses the fact of food waste not biodegrading effectively in a dump.

    This is a terrific move for the University and I hope it helps begin a significant move to compost food waste in Charlottesville generally.

  4. Waldo: Fun facts about fungi? Are you kidding me? Completely unsourced information? Does this mean I can start quoting timecube?

    Credibility aside, how about relevance? Do UVA students eat newspaper?

    Newspaper is made from raw pulp which contains high concentrations of lignin polymers which degrade more slowly than the more cellulose based high-grade paper. Synthetic inks also act to preserve the paper and obviously improve readability.

    The (unsupported) statement that up to one half of “other” organic materials is decomposed after 20 years clearly states that food CAN AND DOES biodegrade. You said it GENERALLY CANT. Not that it generally takes longer than you’d like.

    These figures mean nothing anyway as it depends on the landfill conditions. You cant compare a 100 year old landfill with zero technology to a modern high-tech landfill. Modern landfills generate enormous amounts of electricity. SOMETHING is decomposing in there and producing copious amounts of methane which can ONLY be produced by anaerobic decomposition.

    You can be familiar with it and still be wrong. Its reverse ad-hominem. Patrick Michaels, state climatologist at UVA, is a global warming skeptic… so I guess that makes him right? He is quite familiar with the subject.

    Chris: The relevant information from the link is stages II III and IV of the four phases of decomposition. All of these phases are anaerobic.

  5. Lars, there are oodles of resources that say the same thing, from the DOE

    Most organic wastes are biodegradable under normal environmental conditions. Given enough time, the waste will disintegrate into harmless substances, enriching the soil with nutrients.

    A landfill is not a normal environmental condition, though, nor is it intended to be. Instead, a landfill is more like a tightly sealed storage container. A landfill is designed to inhibit degradation to protect the environment from harmful contamination. Deprived of air and water, even organic wastes—like paper and grass clippings—degrade very slowly in a landfill.

    to Environmental Magazine:

    Most landfills are fundamentally anaerobic because they are compacted so tightly, and thus do not let much air in. As such, any biodegradation that does take place does so very slowly.

    “Typically in landfills, there’s not much dirt, very little oxygen, and few if any microorganisms,” says green consumer advocate and author Debra Lynn Dadd. She cites a landfill study conducted by University of Arizona researchers that uncovered still-recognizable 25-year-old hot dogs, corncobs and grapes in landfills, as well as 50-year-old newspapers that were still readable.

    Now, yes, there are circumstances under which biodegradation can occur in an anaerobic environment, and it’s true that there are newer landfills are being designed to promote the flow of oxygen to facilitate biodegradation, and it’s also true that, eventually, everything in that dump will biodegrade, in the sense that aluminum cans, battleships, and oil drums will disappear if you let them sit long enough. But I think it’s fair to say that, in fact, the organic material being generated by O-Hill will biodegrade far more quickly if composted rather than left in a dump.

  6. Warning: Rant alert…
    Congratulations to the University for making this small step to turn waste into a resource. Surely turning the 5000 lbs of uneaten food per day to compost is an improvement.(I wonder how much waste per student per day , and if there is any way to reduce this figure? Yes we can!)I’d like to see the U do much more to become a leader in the quest for sustainability/carbon neutrality – maybe use the food as animal feed ,then generate methane with the animal waste , then use the manure for compost. Promote the local food movement. More research , development, and usage of alternative vehicles and technologies..

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