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CAS Enters New Post-Waste Composting Initiative at All Eateries on SUNY Plattsburgh Campus

girl scraping plate

College Auxiliary Services at SUNY Plattsburgh is launching a new initiative in collaboration with Chartwells and Casella Waste Systems whereby all pre- and post-waste composting will be offered in all dining facilities on campus.

catherine keleher casAccording to Catherine Keleher, CAS executive director, previously the facilities have been composting only pre-waste foodstuffs such as vegetable peelings.

“Cooked and served food were not being composted. It couldn’t be,” she said. “But through Casella’s new composting program, we will be able to greatly expand our program. It’s one more layer of sustainability.”

Keleher said that CAS has now entered into an agreement with Casella to include all composting, zero sort recycling, food composting and disposal of regular trash. Training and an education campaign began this semester to make it clear what can go into composting and what goes into zero sort.

“Even one dirty napkin can’t go into zero sort,” she said. “The best intentions — a simple mistake — could mess it up.”

dirty dish areaIn Clinton dining Hall is a bin in the dish line for food scraps, a bin for silver and the plates go on the conveyor belt, Keleher said. She said they hope to eventually be able to include take-out containers.

“It’s our vision — working with Chartwells and Casella — to be able to put everything into composting bins. But for now, just food and our biodegradable napkins can go in there,” she said. “All our facilities will have composting bins. Clinton is the easiest. There’s a conveyor belt. Students are used to separating their utensils and plates. The other facilities — the Sundowner, Kent Cafe, Tim Hortons, Einsteins, for instance — will have receptacles next to the trash.”

For now, wrappers from these locations will go in the garbage, “but your uneaten food would go into the composting,” Keleher said.

Plant or Animal: Compost It

poster for compostingAccording to Kristy Cymbrak, territory sales representative at Casella, the basic rules for the organics composting program is if it’s plant or animal, they can compost it.

“Because the end destination is a commercial composting facility, we are pleased to be accepting all types of food waste, including meat, bones, shell fish and BPI-certified compostable ware,” Cymbrak said.

Casella will sell the resulting “high-quality compost to the same communities from which the food, leaf and yard and other ingredients come from,” Cymbrak said. “We are excited to emphasize that this facility as a key component of a closed loop system whereby food is grown, consumed and what’s left is turned into soil to start the process over again.

“Many in the food system talk about farm to plate. We like to think about plate to farm,” she said.

‘Committed to Providing Services, Infrastructure’

John Casella, chair and CEO of Casella, said his family’s business has, for almost 50 years, “been committed to providing the services and infrastructure that give our natural resources new life, and the new composting facility in Clinton County is a great example of that commitment.

“Programs such as the one with College Auxiliary Services help provide the necessary volume into composting facilities to make the programs economically and environmentally sustainable for the entire community,” Casella said. “Without forward-thinking customers and partners like CAS, who are willing to implement these important programs, our ability to innovate and put waste material to a higher and better use would not be possible.”

Leading Way in Sustainability

Keleher said that CAS often leads the way for the community in sustainability.

“Hopefully we’ll inspire others to do the same thing,” she said. “We hope that when soil is generated from this composting effort, they’ll be able to use it at small-batch farms. It’s something we can all feel good about and because of these partnerships, it’s a low impact on our campus community in terms of what we’re asking them to do.

— Story, Photos by Associate Director of Communications Gerianne Downs

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