Earlier this year a story on this website announced the imminent arrival of The Rocket, a composter manufactured in the United Kingdom that uses simple “brown and green” technology. That means an inlet receives equal amounts of wood chips, the brown component, and food waste, the green component, both providing the necessary amounts of carbon and nitrogen. When the inlet is closed, composting happens automatically.
The reality for composting on campus has generated significant interest and raised numerous questions. In a recent interview, Adam Formica, CC ’13, a leader in the Composting Committee, responded to these questions.
(Names from left to right:Adam Formica, Eric Lee, Todd Nelson, Justin Birmingham (top), Mikayla Hoskins (bottom), Anne Steele, Marcela Johnson, Melissa von Mayrhauser, Aida Conroy, Raphaelle Debenedetti)
When did composting actually begin, and what are the plans for its usage this semester?
The Rocket, located at Ruggles Hall, started operating on March 29. It will shut down in May, at the end of the semester, and begin operating again in the fall semester. The Composting Committee is looking at the rest of this calendar year a pilot phase. Here’s how it’s working. Each day a member of the Committee picks up kitchen vegetable scraps put aside by the kitchen staff at John Jay Dining Hall. That person puts four gallons of scraps into the composter along with equal amounts of top soil and wood chips. An arm on The Rocket automatically rotates these contents every 90 minutes, maintaining moisture levels, oxygenation and correct temperatures.
What is the plan for fall semester? Will the composter be more widely available for student use?
The Composting Committee’s priority for now is to become more familiar itself with The Rocket’s operation and build up relationships with Dining Services, whose help we need for food scrap supply. We also want to work more closely with Gerardo Soto, who is mentoring our early efforts. Soto is Managing Director Nath Sustainable Solutions, U.S. distributor of The Rocket.
This will happen in the fall semester.
The Rocket won’t be open to the entire campus next semester. But our tentative plan is to reach out to select student groups such as the Food Sustainability Project, and invite them to join the composting. We’re looking to invite groups whose administrative structures will make for strong accountability.
How well has the process succeeded in its early weeks?
So far, everything from the composter’s operation to student reliability to administrative support has gone well.
We’ve purchased enough wood chips to get through the pilot phase. Nilda Mesa, Assistant Vice President, Office of Environmental Stewardship, is working with us to find a permanent source of chips – at no cost, we hope.
We’re especially grateful to Joyce Jackson, Executive Director, Residence Halls; Jose Rosa, Director, Residence Halls; and John Josten, Director, Residential Operations, and his staff who have continued to work very closely with us and “get stuff done.”