Composting at UConn

Composting The agricultural composting facility has been operating since late-August 2010 and, according to Farm Services, is composting more manure, leaves and landscaping waste than was originally projected – at the rate of about 800 tons of agricultural waste per year. This will greatly help UConn comply with solid waste and nutrient management laws applicable to Farm Services' and Facility Operations' activities.

There has not yet been a single complaint from any resident about the operation of the facility. Because the facility is state-of-the-art, especially for preventing stormwater runoff to surface water and leaching of nutrients into groundwater, we have already hosted a number of well-received tours for the university community and outside groups. These tours and other related publicity help position UConn as a leader in sustainable agricultural practices and environmental stewardship. And despite the bumps in the road early on in the siting process, our eventual involvement of an advisory committee consisting of internal and external stakeholders, along with the public informational meetings we held, and the tour of a similar facility in northwestern CT, really diffused any opposition to the facility and converted most of it to outright support.

"We’d like to thank those who have purchased compost in past seasons for their support of the UConn Compost Facility. We have received inquiries about sales for fall 2017. At this time, our ongoing land mitigation project is well underway, and we plan to use the compost that’s ready now as amendments to our newly cleared farmland." - Message from the Compost Facility 

Although the sale of compost was initially limited to private companies, it was sold to the public in the spring and fall up until spring 2017. At this time, all UConn Compost is going to be used for the ongoing land mitigation project on campus and will not be sold to the public. Typically, the compost facility would sell out of marketable material in less than one week! Additionally, the facility has also supplied Landscaping Services with about 100 yards of compost that they would have spent about $4800.00 for elsewhere. The revenue generated from the compost sales would go towards offsetting labor costs, the fuel cost of the compost turner, which is very efficient for a machine that large, as well as fuel costs of the pay loader.

Video of UConn's Agricultural Composting Facility

Friday/Saturday Compost Sales

Currently not being sold (all compost has sold out for 2017).

 

Composting in the Dining Halls

Food waste has become a recent concern in the environmental realm because many have realized that is one of the largest contributors to their waste stream. In response, the Department of Dining Services has been taking actions to stem the growth of food waste in the campus's dining halls.

South Campus Marketplace has recently installed new appliances so that it could begin food composting. The dining hall-sourced compost will be used to feed beneficial bacteria at the University's wastewater treatment plant. Dining Services has in the past provided compostable material from Whitney Dining Hall and Buckley Dining Hall to the EcoGarden Club, which is a student organization that practices organic agriculture on campus. UConn is also looking into expanding composting into two additional dining halls on campus including McMahon Dining Hall and Gelfenbien Commons (Towers Dining Hall).

Project History

Initiatives - Recycling - Composting 2Agricultural composting has been a long-time vision of the College of Agriculture & Natural Resources with 10 proposals being submitted since 1992. 

  • 2001: Ohio State University study of UConn's nutrient composition and possible facility design.
  • 2005: 400+ petition President Austin to construct a compost facility.  A Task Force is appointed for further investigation.
  • 2006:  Compost Facility Task Force issues a comprehensive report and recommends the first site.
  • August 2007:  Board of Trustees approves $600,000 capital budget for construction of the facility.
  • Fall 2007: Public informational meetings are planned and the design process begins.
  • December 2007: Informational meeting with neighbors is canceled and alternative site analysis begins.
  • Fall 2008: New proposed sites are selected and a public informational open house was held in November.
  • Spring 2010: Facility constructed.

Benefits of Composting Compared with Spreading Raw Manure

  • Reduction in Odor
    • There is little to no odor when applying compost to agricultural land. We will be able to eliminate most applications of manure to agricultural land when our compost facility is fully operational.
  • Reduction in Volume
    • Semi-solid manure, which is a mix of manure and sawdust, is reduced in volume by 40-50% after composting. Our horse manure is an example of semi-solid manure. Liquid manure, like the manure from our dairy cows, is typically reduced in volume by about 80% after composting.
  • Suppression of plant pathogens in the soil
    • Application of compost to soils has been shown to suppress plant pathogens in the soil. There is noe vidence that application of manure to soils suppresses plant pathogens.
  • Reduction of weed seeds in manure
    • Composting substantially reduces the number of weed seeds in semi-solid manure. We will compost semi-solid manure from our beef, horse, and chicken barns. Fewer weeds in our corn fields should increase yields.
  • Reduction in soluble nutrients
    • Environmental benefits: Composting manure reduces the soluble nutrient content of the manure to almost zero. Soluble nitrogen in manure is easily leached to ground water and soluble phosphorus in manure easily runs off the soil surface to pollute streams, lakes, and ponds. Application of compost to our agricultural fields will substantially reduce the amount of nitrogen and phosphorus in leachate and runoff from the fields.
    • Economic benefits: Conservation of soluble nutrients by composting will increase the fertilizer value of our manure and reduce the amount of fertilizer purchased by UConn.
  • Elimination of satellite stacking of manure and leaves
    • Semi-solid manure from our livestock barns and leaves from campus are stacked in remote satellite stacking locations. This practice will be eliminated when our composting facility is completely operational. Elimination of satellite stacking of manure and leaves will eliminate the potential for pollution from nitrogen and phosphorus loss from the stacks.
  • Other benefits include:
    • Reducing emissions of greenhouse gases
    • Watershed protection due to cleaner agricultural run-off
    • Excellent research opportunity with 200+ grants funded in the USDA Sustainable Agriculture program in the past 15 years for compost-related research
    • Valuable teaching tool for graduate and undergraduate education
    • Opportunities for use by extension offices for demonstrations and training of farmers, municipal employees, etc.
    • Demonstration of leadership in best agricultural practices and environmental responsibility
    • Cost savings from decreased purchase of mulch and fertilizer