Agricultural Composting

A large fraction of the waste stream can be turned from a waste into a useful soil amendment through composting...

 

Composting of discarded food scraps at the Cornell Composting Facility (University Photography/Robert Barker).
Composting of discarded food scraps at the Cornell Composting Facility (University Photography/Robert Barker).
Cornell's composting facility received a 2009 Environmental Quality Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Agricultural Composting is overseen by Cornell University’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Farm Services Department. The goal of the Agricultural Composting program is to manage animal waste and reduce the amount of waste Cornell sends to landfills, all while producing a high-quality soil amendment product. With the combined activities of agricultural and veterinary projects, teaching, and research, Cornell generates approximately 6,000 tons of animal bedding, crop leftovers, and greenhouse waste each year – roughly 20 tons per day. Agricultural Composting reduces campus’ total waste stream by half, making Cornell’s 8-acre composting facility Tompkins County’s second largest recycler. Farm Services trucks organic garbage from 57 separate campus waste streams to its composting site currently located one mile off-campus. In the past waste had to travel as far as 65 miles to a landfill, incurring more than 50,000 in fees annually. Because Farm Services is an enterprise department (meaning it needs to earn the funds it requires to remain in operation) customers are charged a small fee (less than the cost of landfilling) to cover labor and equipment costs. The price is low enough to provide incentive to other university departments to engage Farm Services to compost their agricultural waste. No off-campus waste is accepted, and all compost is utilized on campus property. On April 24, 2009, Cornell Farm Services Staff accepted a Quality Award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

Environmental and Public Impact

The Cornell compost site is a model for other composting facilities. To make the compost facility even greener and cleaner, all of Cornell Farm Services’ fleet of trucks, tractors, and other farm equipment has been running on B20 biodiesel (20% biodegradable fuel made from soybean or canola oil) exclusively since 2006. Tours and demonstrations help other programs make decisions to meet their needs