Colleges turn garbage into really good dirt
Wayne Koeckeritz was dumping a load of discarded food from local colleges at the Bees Ferry Landfill’s composting facility Friday morning, just as he does nearly every day.
He’s bringing in organic waste that will be mixed with yard clippings and made into rich compost. The food otherwise would have been buried in the landfill.
Four local colleges and universities — Medical University of South Carolina, College of Charleston, Trident Technical College and The Citadel — have contracted with Koeckeritz’s Food Waste Disposal to recycle their food waste, said Christine Cooley, MUSC’s sustainability manager.
Working together, she said, the colleges likely will save money and help support a program that is good for the environment and saves space in the landfill.
Food waste, Cooley said, is a valuable resource. “We’re taking a resource out of the trash and turning it into a product.”
She also said that so far, only MUSC and the College of Charleston have begun collecting the waste. And they’re doing it on a limited basis. The other two schools are expected to roll out their programs soon, she said. “We’re crawling before we walk.”
To participate, the schools receive 64-gallon containers, which Koeckeritz collects several times a week so that it doesn’t pose a health hazard.
The cost of collection is $9.25 per container. Cooley thinks the program eventually will save money because it will reduce the amount of garbage the schools send to the landfill. And the fees for picking up food waste will be less than the cost of hauling and disposing of garbage.
But the program is important for other reasons, she said.
“It’s another way an individual can participate in doing something good for the environment.”
Koeckeritz said he launched his business about a year ago after Charleston County put in place a small but progressive food waste composting program.
It’s the only commercial food waste composting program in South Carolina that is approved by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control.
This is the future of recycling, Koeckeritz said. About 20 years ago, recycling began to focus on collecting plastic, glass and aluminum, he said. But now the industry has moved on to food.
And he’s especially pleased with the College of Charleston’s City Bistro, which has installed a “pulper.” The machine shreds food waste as well as compostable plates, cups and plastic utensils.
All the material he collects becomes a resource, he said, because it’s made into compost.
“You’re making dirt,” he said. “But it’s really good dirt.”
Reach Diane Knich at 937-5491 or on Twitter @dianeknich.