Investing in Compost at Oberlin

Submitted by Rick Panfil, General Manager

Sous Chef Christopher Brunst (left) and Director of Operations John Klancar, Bon Appétit at Stevenson Café’s building manager, grind some food scraps

Composting food scraps from kitchen prep is a no-brainer — an easy way to recycle soil fertility. But recycling the scrapings from diners’ plates is another story.

That’s why Bon Appétit at Oberlin College in Oberlin, OH, invested in a Somat Pulper, a system that grinds both pre and post-consumer food so it can be sent to a Class Two licensed municipal facility to become compost. In the future, they hope to also collect the bioplastic utensils that are often accidentally thrown into the compost bin. 

The Green Edge Fund, the Senior Class of 2011, and Oberlin College all supported the purchase. The system can take 100 pounds of waste and reduce it to 20 pounds. By pulping and composting both types of waste, Bon Appétit can drastically reduce the volume of landfill-bound waste from operations, saving money on disposal fees, conserving water, and reducing methane production.

Unfortunately, purchasing and using the composter turned out just to be the first step. The next is to find someone ready to put all that good compost to use. A local farm had been taking the pre-consumer waste and had thought it could take all the pulped waste, too, but it proved to be too much for its vermicomposting system. Bon Appétit is now talking to two local nurseries about composting the waste. Meanwhile, the Somat purchase and discussion around it has inspired the City of Oberlin, City of Lorain, and the solid waste district all to start talking about the future of waste.