2015-11-13 / Community

SMCC uses composter for teaching tool

Maine Community College has acquired a high-capacity composter that gives students hands-on experience with sustainability while creating compost out of food waste.

The composter, called The Rocket, went into operation this semester and is part of the school’s commitment to sustainability. Culinary arts students each day pour food waste from their cooking classes into the composter. Horticulture students empty the finished product, which will be used for landscaping and gardening needs at SMCC’s horticulture building, in the college’s community gardens and elsewhere on the South Portland campus.

“This is a student-driven project that is incorporated into the curriculums of the culinary arts and horticulture programs,” said Dave Palm, a horticulture professor who oversees the composter. “Students are learning about recycling, sustainability and the environment as part of their daily education.”

The composter was paid for through a grant and is located under a protective shelter behind SMCC’s culinary arts building. The 13-foot-long machine is capable of continuously composting up to 460 gallons of food waste each week.

It’s important for the college to be self-sustaining and to teach students about the value of conservation and recycling, culinary arts student Tony Leslie said while pouring food waste into the composter.

“It’s good this is incorporated into our training so we can continue this practice throughout our careers,” he said.

SMCC also began another initiative this fall that reduces the college’s carbon footprint and promotes sustainability. Sodexo dining services contracted with a Portland-based composting company, We Compost It!, to pick up food waste that students dump into recycling bins in the SMCC dining hall. More than 28,000 pounds of food waste has been collected since the start of the school year.

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