Davis Center moves towards composting with greenware

Recycling plastic bottles and paper after dining in the Davis Center are no longer the only ways to be a conscious consumer. Starting this Monday at the Davis Center Marketplace, there will be designated compost bins set up near the trash and recycling area, according to Erica Spiegel of the UVM Recycling Program. Composting, as indicated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, diverts organic materials from landfills and can be used as fertilizer to restore poor soil. The only items accepted as compost in that Davis Center will be post-consumer products, such as food scraps, pa?per napkins and paper take-out boxes. Although these are not the only compostable items available for use. “Greenware,” the generic term referring to a biodegradable, renewable plastic made from polyactic acid (PLA) which derives from corn, is used in the Davis Center but will not be accepted in the compost bins. “The reason for this,” said Spiegel, “is because the dining staff runs out of the renewable products and must stock the tables with conventional, non-renewable plastic.” Spiegel said that it is difficult for the average user to distinguish between the two types of plastics, so no plastic utensils should be thrown into the compost bin. In addition, not all kiosks in the Davis Center use the same types of utensils. The greenware plastic is not functional for hot foods, like soup, because it melts easily. Although the greenware may not be making the cut into the compost pile, there are still benefits of using the plastic. “Instead of using petroleum oil to produce the plastic, the manufacturing of greenware uses renewable resources, which are better for the environment,” Spiegel said. A number of other products, such as paper coffee cups, are compostable items, but the plastic coffee lids are not, so the Recycling Program decided to consider all cups as trash, says Spiegel. “It’s going to be a challenge to get people to take their burrito out of the foil or dump their leftover chips out of the bag. “We will have to monitor what kinds of items are going into the compost bins,” she said. Two weeks ago, the Recycling Program sorted 680.4 pounds of trash and of the contents, found that 52 percent food waste, Spiegel said. “If we are able to divert most of this food waste to compost we can dramatically reduce waste in the building,” she said.