NAPERVILLE, Ill. (AP) — On an ordinary afternoon at Kaufman Dining Hall at North Central College in Naperville, hundreds of students will do something quietly extraordinary: They’ll scrape uneaten food into a separate container before placing their plates on a conveyor belt to be washed.
That’s an essential step in composting -- and it’s a ritual all incoming freshmen learned last fall.
“I think it’s a really good idea. People eat and don’t finish it,” said Mustapha Olaoye, a junior from South Holland who said he’d “absolutely” compost after college if he moved to an area that provided it.
He won’t have to wait too long.
Across the suburbs, food scrap composting is taking hold at institutions and households that want to go beyond recycling. Composting diverts more material from landfills and lengthens their life spans. It also helps reduce greenhouse gases and cuts waste hauling costs. Further, the process recovers more nutrients than sending scraps down the garbage disposal, experts say.
Karen Rozmus, who oversees a pilot residential food scrap composting program in Oak Park, said about composting, “It’s like where recycling was 20 years ago.”
We all help compost
Suburbanites already compost when they put out yard waste, lawn clippings and branches in those large paper bags with the rest of their weekly trash pickup, said Marta Keane, president of the Illinois Recycling Association.
“Composting has always been part of recycling,” Keane said, noting the yard waste is composted at a separate facility.
Another form of composting is done in backyards with such items as fruit peels, coffee grounds, egg shells and other organic matter mixed into an earth stew that eventually becomes fertilizer for garden beds. In fact, that’s the final result of the food scrap saving at North Central: Fertilizer is returned to the campus for flower beds.