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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    ASUA has green hopes for composting program

    Since the ASUA Sustainability Committee was created last semester, there has been an increase in new green projects at the UA.

    Department Director Lesley Ash said one of those programs, “”Compost Go-Live,”” would allow the UA to keep recyclable materials out of landfills by breaking them down and putting them to alternative uses.

    If the UA had a composting site, it would divert 912 tons of horse manure, landscaping remnants and food waste from landfills each year, Ash said.

    She said that number could be higher depending on the number of restaurants in the Student Union Memorial Center willing to participate in the program.

    Ash said she hopes to purchase an in-vessel composting unit, which is a long, tubular machine that does the composting on its own.

    She said the machine is expensive, costing between $400,000 and $500,000, but once the unit is in place, it is very low maintenance and does all the work.

    The unit also includes a solar array, so it would be powered by solar energy and completely sustainable, Ash said.

    “”To me [the benefits are] obvious. We won’t continue to fill our landfills with materials that could be recycled,”” said Campus Agricultural Center Director Stephen Husman.

    Eight students and more than 20 faculty contacts have been working on getting the composting project going since the beginning of the year.

    “”We have the land,”” Ash said. The only thing holding up the project is funding.

    The compost would be located at the West Agricultural Center at Miracle Mile and the Interstate 101 and would be funded through the UA land grant program.

    Eventually, Ash said they would also like to put composting bins around campus for students to use.

    She said they would first have to educate students about the project because during past trial runs, a lot of regular trash wound up in ‘compost only’ trash bins.

    The team is currently in the process of applying for a grant from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. The grant is worth up to $200,000, but it is a matching grant, which means the UA would have to match at least half the amount received from the ADEQ, Ash said.

    Since this is currently unlikely, due to the financial plight of the university, they are also looking into private partnerships that can be mutually beneficial, Ash said. Interested people or companies who invest in the project would get compost for their own uses for a set amount of time.

    If the UA can get this project started, it would be the first site in Tucson to accept more than just green and landscaping waste. It would also be only the second in-vessel composting unit in Arizona, Ash said.

    She said in the future, the site could become a community drop-off where residents from all over Tucson could bring their waste.

    The UA had a composting site from 1999-2006 that was located at the Campus Agricultural Center, but it was smaller and was maintained manually, Husman said.

    The site had to be closed when the UA got rid of its dairy herd. The waste from the cows was the main source of compostable material, he said.

    Ash said she hopes the project will be completed within the next year.

    “”I would like to see it finished before I graduate,”” she said.

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