Andrew Little '21 with collected food scraps from Babbitt.

Hamilton sustainability coordinators have found a way to reintroduce Food2Energy (a.k.a. suite composting) in Babbitt and Milbank residence halls despite the pandemic.

Hamilton produces about 150 tons (300,000 lbs.) of food waste each year, according to Brian Hansen, director of environmental protection safety and sustainability, but where does it go? Last year, sustainability coordinators rolled out “suite composting,” which provided students in Babbitt and Milbank suites a bucket for collecting food scraps. Weekly, the coordinators would collect and deposit the food waste in bins on campus.

This year due to COVID-19 protocols, sustainability coordinators are asking suite residents to bring food scraps to a central drop-off location. Asha Grossberndt ’21 explained  that since students can’t enter other other’s rooms, suite residents are responsible for taking their compost to a drop-off location between Milbank and Babbitt. Currently, 22 suites are signed up for the program, and sustainability coordinators hope to expand across campus soon.

Hansen said the Food2Energy program is through the Solid Waste Authority in Utica where a large anaerobic digester “allows the capture of methane produced through the decomposition of the compostable materials.” He added that the methane captured from the anaerobic digestion provides alternative/renewable energy, which is used to power the waste water treatment plant.

Hansen called it a “win-win for all community partners – consumers spend less money, the Mohawk River water quality improves, and we avoid powering the WWTP [Waste Water Treatment Plant] with non-renewable resources.” He also stressed the leadership Hamilton has shown through the program The New York State “Food Donation & Food Scraps Recycling Law” that will take effect on Jan 1, 2022.

“Hamilton takes great pride in complying with the spirit of this law years before it took effect, which relatedly is a testament to our 30-year close relationship with the Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority,” he said.

Sustainability coordinator Lilia Harlan ’22 reiterated the importance of the Food 2Energy program this semester. “The pandemic can leave us feeling rather helpless, especially seeing the waste piled up in the bins, and I think this [suite composting] is a really significant way to combat that.” Students seem to agree. Corey Rundquist ’22 likes composting “because it allows me to dispose of food properly, and it makes me aware of how much food waste I’m actually producing.” 

Learn more about HSC initiatives on Instagram @hamiltonsustainability.

*Drop offs are still happening, but are being managed by Hansen and Sara Soika, environmental health and safety specialist, while students pause in-person activities due to the yellow COVID-19 alert level on campus.


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