New program sorts through College trash

by Charlotte Bednar | 10/21/98 5:00am

After years of planning and some initial delays, the College has initiated an effort to separate its garbage into usable compost and actual trash.

As part of the plan, College students and officials have color-coded dining hall garbage cans and added extra garbage cans to residence hall bathrooms.

Dartmouth Recycles Intern Nicholas Dankers '01 said the composting project is the result of years of lobbying that brought a new composting facility to the old Hanover dump site.

Director of Dartmouth Recycles Bill Hochstin said the facility received its first load of compostable garbage on August 3, after a series of trial runs over the course of the Summer Term.

"I couldn't be more pleased with how it's working," Hochstin said.

Dankers said the program will "profoundly alter the amount of trash we leave behind us every day and will keep nutrients local."

He said the compostable garbage will be converted into a nutrient-rich dirt for use at the Dartmouth Organic farm, local soccer fields and private landscapers.

Dankers said the College could potentially reduce 50 percent of its waste by recycling and composting.

Hochstin said students have reacted positively to the program so far, and that the first load of garbage from Thayer Dining Hall was extremely well-sorted.

Nonetheless, Dankers said it is very important that students sort their trash correctly.

"The program is very susceptible to contamination," he said. "All it takes is two or three students not to separate and a whole batch [of compost] is considered trash."

Dankers said students may be confused at first because the composting system is a new way of thinking.

"We're used to dumping trash and running. Now it's thinking, dumping and running," he said.

Hochstin said the biggest problem with the program is educating people to put trash in the right containers.

But Dankers said it is difficult to mobilize a good education plan. He said awareness programs in UGA groups or through other programs would help students to appreciate the composting program and understand how it works.

The people involved have also encountered other flaws in the program. Project workers and students in Engineering 21 are currently looking at ways to avoid using too many plastic bags in the transfer and processing of the compost, Dankers said.

Hochstin said the composting program's progress, like that of most new programs, has been "three steps forward and a half step back."

"When you first get started, everyone has to get organized on their team, and you're trying new things," he said.

Hochstin said there is a good team working on the program, however, and that all the necessary equipment is in place.

Problems aside, Dankers said he believes the composting program is a "slice of the future," and that the world will have to reduce its waste and move toward widespread composting and recycling.

"There are only 344 composting facilities in the whole country, and the College is lucky to have a facility so close," Dankers said. "It's pretty amazing that we have this opportunity."