Feb 18th, 2023
Wake Forest University in North Carolina has been expanding its waste-reduction initiatives since 2018, furthering its composting facilities around campus. The university’s Office of Sustainability has noted students’ support of these initiatives and plans to continue expanding composting options to other dorms in 2023.
While the Office of Sustainability has been providing composting facilities and bins to the campus since 2018, the department launched its first composting programs in 2019. The program gave residents of the North Campus Apartment (NCA) complex direct access to composting facilities, streamlining the complex’s waste disposal process.
Before the program’s implementation, NCA residents separated their trash into different recycling categories due to university waste regulations. Although some residents asserted that composting would be difficult, they quickly realized that separated waste made the composting process easier.
“At the beginning of the semester when my roommate brought up composting, I was like, ‘Composting? That’s too much work.’ But in reality, it’s super easy and simple.”
Brighid Biehl, NCA resident and university student
As the home state of Wake Forest University, North Carolina has implemented significant policies to reduce waste in the area, including the implementation of the three R’s — reduce, reuse, and recycle —- for solid waste disposal. The state carefully oversees composting facilities, including vermicomposting and anaerobic digestion.
Regulations encourage safe composting facilities as one of the first options for solid waste disposal. Many institutes in the area use composting to process their waste and deliver the final product to farmers in the state.
Wake Forest University has worked with Gallin’s Family Farms for years, delivering the campus’s compost to the agricultural service around 20 miles away in Mocksville.
Lack of understanding hinders composting at Wake Forest
Despite Wake Forest University’s rapidly-evolving composting initiatives, many of its students have yet to fully engage with on-campus composting facilities. Biehl pointed to a lack of understanding as the main reason for students’ apprehension.
“Every time we go out and compost, there’s almost nothing, which is really sad because it’s an easy thing to make sure you’re giving back to the environment,” Biehl said.
Composting is an essential part of any institution’s environmental protection plans. While campuses have traditionally taught the three R’s as core components of waste management, these methods may not reduce the amount of waste overwhelming landfills in the United States.
Americans throw over 200 million tons of waste in landfills every year, with waste generation significantly increasing from 268.7 million in 2017 to 292.4 million in 2018. In North America, a 2021 report claimed that the county’s landfills only had 29 years left before reaching maximum capacity.
These facts make composting all the more crucial, even in private institutions like Wake Forest University. Instead of delaying the lifespan of waste, composting directs it away from landfills and turns it into something incredibly beneficial for the soil.
Wake Forest student Aidan Norris, who is also an intern at the Athletics Waste Reduction and Diversion department, said that educating students should be the Office of Sustainability’s primary goal.
“I’m hopeful because I think that times are changing and people are becoming more and more interested in composting and being sustainable,” Norris said.
“But I think there needs to be more work done on creating a sustainable culture on campus.”
Norris has been working on waste-reduction programs for the upcoming academic year. He anticipates that these efforts, along with the work of the Office of Sustainability, will encourage students to adopt more sustainable practices and reconsider their current waste management strategies.
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