Updated Feature Story: http://cafnrnews.com/2011/12/closing-the-loop/
COLUMBIA Mo. – Today’s linguini will start growing tomorrow’s tomatoes this Friday as the Bradford Research Center’s new compost facility receives its first truck load of food waste from the University of Missouri. The ribbon-cutting event is set for 2:30 p.m. and is open to the public.
The College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources project, known as the “Zero Carbon Footprint Vegetable and Compost Production System” is the first of its kind nationwide, and one that Bradford’s Superintendent Tim Reinbott has been turning over in his mind for the last several years.
Reinbott aspires to create a closed-loop system that doesn’t require a single ounce of fossil fuel—once all the components are operational. Reinbott hopes the system will become a model for other universities, school districts, prisons and even small communities. According to government reports, food waste makes up 18 percent of the total waste stream in the U.S., and Americans toss out nearly 40 percent of the food they purchase.
The first step in this project is to combine food waste from the dining halls with animal manure and bedding from MU’s local research centers to create the optimum balance of carbon and nitrogen for good compost. Bradford will use an Aerated Static Pile (ASP), which uses perforated pipes to aerate the organic matter. This excites the microorganisms in the material to break down the egg shells, napkins, animal bedding and other organic materials and should yield good compost in about a month.
The compost will be applied to vegetables at Bradford, providing most to all of their nutrient needs. The vegetables are then sold to Campus Dining Services, which spends 15 percent of their food budget on local foods. The pre- and post-consumer food waste, along with paper and compostable flatware then go back to Bradford to be composted.
“This closed-loop cycle can be further strengthened by converting waste vegetable oil collected from Campus Dining – about 3,000 gallons per year – and converting into biodiesel,” Reinbott said. “This fuel can be used to power the trucks required to transport the compostable materials to Bradford and then deliver the vegetables back to campus. This fuel can also power the tractors and equipment used in vegetable production and the diesel engines to run the ASP fans. In essence, the system will have a zero carbon footprint. Having an ASP composting facility in place is the first and essential step to getting the entire process started.”
Construction of the 2,400 sq. foot, five-stall ASP composting facility was just completed at Bradford. The project was funded by matching grants of $35,000 from MU’s Campus Dining Services and the Mid-Missouri Solid Waste Management District. “Anytime there’s an innovative way to repurpose things and keep them out of the landfill, we’re interested in making that happen,” said Deanna Trass, district coordinator for the Mid Missouri Solid Waste Management District.