Glopper: food waste, compost at UNH

By Brittany Schaefer
On November 5, 2013

Tray after tray of untouched food circles around the Holloway Commons tray return. 

A half eaten turkey sandwich, a bundle of broccoli and a few French fries twirl around the wall and vanish to the dish room. 

That is all the people see. But instead of adding to landfills the University of New Hampshire chose to participate in a more environmentally-safe practice: composting.

Senior Gregory Mulcahy and Brian Diezel traveled along the usual trail they work three times a week to unveil the secrets of the wasted food. 

A group of five students travel around to all three dining halls, the greenhouses, on-campus farms, some academic buildings, the Gables, Woodsides and the Dairy Bar. They work alongside UNH Dining Services.

The pair picks up large trashcan-size buckets and transports them into their University of New Hampshire truck until they have traveled to all the locations. But the real fun starts here.

Voyaging through farms with endless apple trees and cattail plants adds a rustic scene to campus life that most students have yet to see. 

Orange, yellow, red and green blur together as the truck bumps down the gravel road. 

Autumn's foliage rides along with them until they reach Kingman Farm. 

"It's a completely different pace than campus life," Diezel said. "It's much slower, which is relaxing in such a busy full-time student environment."

Another highlight the two seniors associate with their compost work is waving at random people walking around campus as they drive by. 

"It's the people that smile back that make it worth while," Mulcahy said.

Mulcahy and Diezel have agreed that the biggest challenge of their job is a predator that is not afraid to get close to them when they are simply trying to do their responsibility. 

Often times when they are trying to take care of their duties, seagulls will scavenge the area for food.

After the duo gathers up all of the food possible, the process of turning these discarded items into compost truly begins.

One thing Mulcahy likes to do is leave the waste from the greenhouses on top in order to give a more appealing look. 

But nothing about the process of discarding the waste into a hole is appealing. 

The "glopper" buckets have proven to have the most unappealing disposal experience. 

"A 'glopper' is a liquidity bucket," Mulcahy said. "There's really no pleasant way to describe the sound. Its resembles the sound of someone vomiting on a Saturday night."

The compost then turns into a soil-like mix that farmers use to fertilize their plants.

The process of the food and plants turning into compost takes about one to two months if the pile is turned often. 

The owner of Kingman Farm turns the compost piles weekly. 

This quick transition from wasted food to soil is helpful with the amount of waste UNH produces. 

With the University of New Hampshire's environmentally-friendly activities such as farming, recycling and composting, UNH has received an "A" rating from the College Sustainability Report Card website. 

On average each day at UNH there is 1,800 pounds of waste. Holloway Commons and the Philbrook dining halls gather 700 pounds average daily while Stillings collects 300 pounds daily. 

A typical day ranges from about 20-40 buckets of waste, with the compost workers making rounds six days out of the week. 

Although many students leave food on their plates, the common reaction was positive upon learning that the university composts. 

"It makes me feel uncomfortable leaving food on my plate, but it makes me happy knowing this school is eco-friendly and composts," sophomore Vanessa Perez said.

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