Knox College is enhancing its sustainability efforts by launching a new program to convert food waste into compost -- with the help of thousands of "red wiggler" worms.
The project has been in the works for more than a year as students on the Composting Committee have investigated different composting options for the Knox campus. The new composting system is expected to be fully implemented when Knox students return for fall term.
Each year, the program will transform about 60,000 pounds of waste that otherwise would go into a landfill.
With this system, post-consumer food waste -- leftover food -- from the Hard Knox Café and other Knox dining facilities will be collected and deposited into a machine called the eCorect Somat. The machine dehydrates, compacts, sterilizes, and heats the food to 290 degrees, producing a soil-like biomass called "soil amendment" that can be used alone as mulch and weighs 80-90% less than it did at the beginning.
The soil amendment will be placed in the bin, along with pre-consumer waste such as vegetable peels and eggshells. The mixture serves as food for the worms, and it gradually turns into compost.
The worms recently began making themselves at home in a bin on the Seymour Union loading dock that contains moist soil and compost. They will need eight to 12 weeks to become acclimated to their surroundings.
The compost will be used on campus flower beds and the campus student garden. It will be available to Knox College faculty and staff for use in their gardens and any future on-campus farming project. Dining Services is also negotiating with local farmers to trade compost for lower-priced local produce.
Read more about Composting at Knox, and the student who is working on the system.