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IU Bloomington, Local Growers Guild launch composting program

September 5, 2013

The Indiana University Office of Sustainability has established an innovative partnership between Indiana University Bloomington and the Local Growers Guild that will allow local farmers and community organizations to collect pre-consumer food waste from campus dining facilities for off-campus composting.

Working closely with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management, IU received approval for the program, which is the first of its kind in Indiana. The pilot program, set to roll out this fall, will allow IU to test a fresh solution to food waste management.

"The Local Growers Guild—a cooperative of farmers, retailers, and community members—is excited to partner with IU to support the transformation of kitchen scraps into nutrient-packed soil," said Megan Hutchison, manager of the guild. "Quality compost can be hard to find locally or is too expensive for some farming operations. The regular addition of compost in a sustainable farming system is an excellent way to increase organic matter to improve soil structure and hold water and nutrients."

Guild partners will pick up kitchen scraps collected in dining facilities on campus. This pre-consumer food waste will initially be collected at the Edmondson Dining Hall at Collins Living-Learning Center with hopes of expanding the program to more dining facilities and farmers. The Local Growers Guild partners include Smith Pike Farm, Sunny Branch Farm, and Bloomington Community Orchard.

The pilot will complement an existing program with the Hilltop Garden and Nature Center, which is currently composting pre-consumer food waste from two other campus dining facilities, Indiana Memorial Union and Union Street Market. The IU Physical Plant will take over transporting the food waste to Hilltop beginning this fall.

"We are looking forward to the pilot and gaining useful information that will help us to reduce our overall waste stream," said Hank Hewetson, assistant vice president for facility operations and co-chair of the IU Office of Sustainability Resource Use and Recycling Working Group.

Finished compost at Hilltop Garden and Nature Center is used in the Edible Campus Garden, where fresh produce is grown for IU dining facilities. Likewise, Local Growers Guild partners will use the composted material to produce fresh, local food for the Bloomington area, closing the loop in the community food system.

This pilot will set the stage for a larger conversation about innovative ways to continue diverting IU waste from the landfill.

Compost bins at Hilltop Garden and Nature Center

compost bins

The pilot program will complement an existing program with the Hilltop Garden and Nature Center, which is currently composting pre-consumer food waste from two campus dining facilities, Indiana Memorial Union and Union Street Market.