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IU Composting Dining Hall Food At Campus Garden

Indiana University is taking food waste from its dining halls and composting it for fertilizer.

Composting efforts across the community are growing, and at Indiana University, they have expanded into a new campus garden area this fall. Each week, 30 to 50 gallons of waste is collected from Union Street and Collins Dining Center on IU’s campus.

“There’s coffee grounds, tomatoes, onions, probably more stuff deep down if I keep digging. A pepper,” Garden Coordinator Sara Swan says as she looks through the compost pile.

She says composting reduces the amount of greenhouse gases emitted and also breaks down waste faster than other processes.

“I think a lot of people have the idea that when they send food scraps to the landfill it will just break back down to land, but because there’s so much waste generated and they’re so tightly packed there’s no air, they don’t break down for hundreds of years,” Swan says.

The compost soil is used to fertilize garden plants that grow produce used in dining halls across IU’s campus. It is a process that affects students daily, but Swan says there is still more to be done to make students aware.

“We’d like to see more of these spaces across campus especially closer to where students are walking every day, because there’s a lot of open space and if we had more little gardens everywhere, I think that would increase student exposure to gardening and where their food comes from.”

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