Composting in the Student Center and Johnson & Hardwick cafeterias has come to a standstill after Delaware officials ordered the closure of the composting facility which serviced Temple.
On Oct. 20, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control sent a notice to the Peninsula Compost Group to immediately cease accepting waste at its Wilmington facility and to begin the closure process.
That order said Peninsula breached requirements for keeping its permit, which include exceeding the allowed limit for compostable material stored at the facility and uncontrolled odors which have affected the quality of life of the residents near the area.
The closure left Temple and many other businesses along the east coast at a loss.
“[Temple’s] scrambling to find an alternative,” said Kathleen Grady, the director of sustainability.
Composting at the Student Center began on Aug. 23, after a campaign led by Students for Environmental Action.
Grady said Temple has already begun meeting with other composting companies, but finding a suitable alternative has been difficult. She said sending the waste to farther away facilities could negate the environmental benefit due to the energy used during transportation process.
“We’re struggling to find a location where [composting] would still be an environmental benefit,” Grady said.
Grady added that many of the nearby companies like Bennett, a Philadelphia composter, don’t process milk or dairy products, making it difficult to find a company which fits Temple’s needs.
Sodexo Unit Marketing Coordinator Nate Quinn said Waste Management, which processes the compostable materials, has still been picking up the compostable items from the Student Center.
An employee at WM, who prefered not to be named, said that until WM finds another location the compostable material picked up by WM is being dumped as trash. However, he could not say specifically if this included Temple’s waste.
“If Waste Management is still taking [the compostable material] instead of the university contract, it could very well be going to a landfill,” said Grady.
However, Grady said the general waste from Temple goes through a university contractor, ECOVanta, and is sent to a waste-to-energy facility, where the materials are burned and turned into fuel. She said if the contract had been switched over that’s where the compost items from the Student Center would be sent.
Peninsula, which began service in 2009, had served as a main composter on the east coast. Newsworks reported in 2011 that some of the company’s major customers are ShopRite and Whole Foods as well as the University of Pennsylvania.
While Temple searches for a new company, Grady said she hopes students will continue process of sorting compostable materials out of their trash.
“We don’t want to lose that momentum,” Grady said.
Signs were posted in the Student Center to notify people about the change, which Grady said is part of keeping the process transparent.
She said she hopes the transition to a new composter will be easy.
The small signs posted on waste baskets at the Student Center notifying students of the compost plant’s closure said Temple’s composting had already diverted 12.55 tons of material from going into landfills. The signs urged students to continue the process.
However, a few students eating at the Student Center were shocked to hear about the pause in composting.
Michelle Goldsborough, 20, a sophomore strategic communication major, said she wants finding a new composter to be a priority for Temple.
Thao Le, 23, a junior information and technology major, said she was happy to see the composting program, since her previous school, Community College of Philadelphia, did not have one like it. Le, who also didn’t know about the composting facility closure, questioned where the current waste is being sent.
Goldsborough and Le said they had sorted the compostable material out of their trash and hope to see the program continue.
“It’s all about Temple being green and helping the planet,” Goldsborough said.
Mariam Dembele can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MariamDembele.