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Projects Updates for Vermicompost

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  1. 12/4 Zero Waste SWATeam Meeting

    Attached are the meeting minutes and chat log of the Zero Waste SWATeam on 12/4/2020. 

    The following were discussed:

    • SSC Letter of Support for Illini Union Shadowbox Recycling project
    • Vermicomposting
    • Composting
    • NASEM Circular Economy Conference
    • Food Literacy Project
  2. 11/13 Zero Waste SWATeam Meeting

    Attached are the meeting minutes and chat from the Zero Waste SWATeam meeting on 11/13.

    Discussed were the following topics:

    • Update: Adopt-a-highway/Clean-up Program
    • Composting Partnership: Alex Poltorak of Urban Canopy
    • Student Project: Vermiculture Composting
    • Grind2Energy Additional Scope
    • Food Literacy Project
    • Update: Clean Plate Program
    • Purchasing Sustainability Update
  3. Food Handling info from SSF

    Associated Project(s): 

    Matt Turino at the Sustainable Student Farm provided this overview of the food waste handling / transportation related to the Vermicompost project.

    "So we only collected Pre-consumer waste from Busey-Evans so only the things that were cut off the usuable parts of vegetables and fruits.  We had special  30 gallon trash cans that only existed in the kitchen of the Busey-Evans so there was almost never other kinds of trash.  If we saw some while handling we would remove it but we did not need to sort it.

    We had no packaging or animal products in the compost.

    We used a pick up truck to transport the containers and we did not have a good way to load these.  We often had to lift 50-90 lb trash containers up into the truck bed, and us not having the correct equipment contributed to it not being a sustainable program for us.  The waste was extremely wet and so something that made it tricky to handle and and to transport.  We were using leaves from U of I landscaping for the Brown material.

    I did not track the cost of our transportation because we would often drop our produce off and pick up the waste on the same trip.  We were driving a pickup truck about 3 miles per trip 2-3 times a week.  We were picking up between 60-100 gallons of food waste per week during the semester. 

    Also we were using a vermi-compost unit which was not the most effective system for this, if you wanted to do a composting set up I would recommend a larger windrow set up."

  4. Award Letter - Biomass for Vermicomposting

    The SSC awarded the Sustainable Student Farm a grant in 2013 to build a transplant greenhouse that also housed a vermicomposting pilot porject with Dining Services. This was meant to test the feasability of collecting pre-consumer food waste from the Dining hall facilities and converting it into worm compost for use on the student farm. In its first year of operation the greenhouse has been heated soley from propane, which is the most common and simplest heating system for these types of greenhouses. The nature of the worms used in this type of composting require an ideal temperature range of 40-80F. In order to attain this, the greenhouse needs to be heated during the winter months.

    In 2014 the greenhouse consumed approximately 1600 gallons of propane for heating. At an average price of $2 this equals $3200/year in heating costs. By comparison if the biomass furnace is used and can replace 80% of the heating requirements that would only cost $1664/year in heating costs. The main reaplacement fuel would be #2 Shell Corn @ 15% moisture. This is readily available in the midwest and costs on average about $3.5/bushel. It would take about 366 bushels of corn to replace the BTU’s provided by the propane. The nature of managing the biomass furnace would allow us to replace only 80% of the heating requirements for the greenhouse. Future development of these furnaces could one day replace the requirement completely. However, the propane system will be kept as a back up.

  5. Vermicompost update from Matt Turino

    Associated Project(s): 

    Yes it is implemented and we are currently getting 3-6 40 gallon bins of food waste a week from Busy Evans and harvesting vermicompost out of the bottom.  We are still perfecting our technique for sure, for a while we were letting it get a little too hot for the worms which made them eat less than they would otherwise because they couldn't be in the zone where the food waste was due to the micro-organismal composting causing high temperatures.  Then we were making it too dry and now it's too wet, so we are still perfecting our vermicomposting skills but it is getting better for sure!

  6. Sustainable Student Farm Vermicomposting Project (I-Compost) Evaluation

    The Vermicomposting project (also known as I-Compost) in Sustainable Student Farm (SSF) began as part of the Transplant and Vermi-Composting Multiuse Greenhouse project. It is a pilot project to close the loop between the student farm and the university dining hall. The Transplant and Vermi-Composting Multiuse Greenhouse project received $65,222 grant from Student Sustainability Committee (SSC) on April 24, 2013. It also received $8,565 grant from the Office of Public Engagement on November 28, 2012 and $1,000 grant from Ernst & Young on March 21, 2012. The constructions of greenhouse and vermicomposting unit are completed on Fall 2013.

    Attached Files: 
  7. Update from Zack Grant

    Associated Project(s): 

    The greenhouse is built, the bin is constructed, bedding logistics are in place, and food waste collection should begin the week after spring break. Ramp up to about 150-200 lbs of food waste processing per week should be complete in about 4-5 months. For this bin and the way it fits into the SSF management plan, we’d never process more than 250-300# of actual food waste a week. This would make for a max range of 7,000-14,000 lbs of food waste processed per year (47 weeks, we wouldn’t collect waste during Christmas and Spring Break). 

    If there is any confusion about this PILOT vermicomposting project I’d like to clarify it here, because I have gotten a few requests from outside sources about taking in outside food waste (word spreads quickly). This particular unit is only meant as a pilot demonstration to prove this can be done on a larger (potential campus wide) scale. This 5x16 unit we have is an example of one part of what could be a much larger facility. However, if this is successful I would like to see that facility be something that the SSF does not manage, and ideally in another specifically built piece of infrastructure to house a larger scale process. The greenhouse also serves as our transplant production house. Between the existing unit and managing the transplant production system, the SSF has more than it can already incorporate into its existing management.

    That being said, once the system is up and running, we’d love to showcase this to any number of relevant parties and incorporate the data into any Zero Waste policy the campus has. As well as any other sustainability metrics the campus tracks.