Research Publication Title

Method Development for the GC In-Vessel Composting System Using Post-Consumer Food Waste from The MAX

Presenter Information

Evan T. HearnFollow

Major

Environmental Science

Faculty Mentor(s)

Dr. Allison VandeVoort Kristen Hitchcock Mutande Tembo

Keywords

compost, environmental, soil, analytical, quality, science, in-vessel, waste, recycling

Abstract

The Georgia College in-vessel compost system was installed in 2016, and provides the campus with both a sustainable means of food waste management, as well as great research and learning opportunities. Compared to the normal one year compost timeline from raw food waste to soil amendment, the Georgia College in-vessel composter has a faster turnover time of about four days to begin a curing phase[AV1] [EH2] of one to four months. Compost forms through the natural decomposition of food and yard waste by bacteria, fungi, and actinomycetes resulting in a nutrient-dense soil amendment for plants. Sustainable outcomes for the Georgia College in-vessel compost system are a reduction in fees for waste management, recycling of waste from campus kitchens, and ability to provide nutritious soil amendments to fertilize campus gardens and landscaping. Composting involves a steady input of nitrogen (N) rich “green” material (e.g., food waste) mixed with carbon (C) rich “brown” material (e.g., lawn clippings, dried leaves) to achieve an optimal soil quality. Through controlled decomposition, the C:N ratio of compost decreases through time. Compost quality is often assessed by its C:N ratio. The C:N ratio must also be tracked for the initial feedstocks being used, as this has direct implications for the efficiency of the decomposition process. The goal of this project is to gather valuable data on the quality of compost produced from the Georgia College in-vessel compost system to determine best practices for this facility. C:N ratio was approximated by measuring nitrate concentration via colorimetric analysis per mass of compost. Colorimetric analyses were also performed to assess the overall quality by determining the concentration of other plant nutrients including phosphate and sulfate. In-vessel compost quality will be further assessed for exchangeable acidity and texture, which may contribute to the C:N ratio for optimal soil amendment production.

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Method Development for the GC In-Vessel Composting System Using Post-Consumer Food Waste from The MAX

The Georgia College in-vessel compost system was installed in 2016, and provides the campus with both a sustainable means of food waste management, as well as great research and learning opportunities. Compared to the normal one year compost timeline from raw food waste to soil amendment, the Georgia College in-vessel composter has a faster turnover time of about four days to begin a curing phase[AV1] [EH2] of one to four months. Compost forms through the natural decomposition of food and yard waste by bacteria, fungi, and actinomycetes resulting in a nutrient-dense soil amendment for plants. Sustainable outcomes for the Georgia College in-vessel compost system are a reduction in fees for waste management, recycling of waste from campus kitchens, and ability to provide nutritious soil amendments to fertilize campus gardens and landscaping. Composting involves a steady input of nitrogen (N) rich “green” material (e.g., food waste) mixed with carbon (C) rich “brown” material (e.g., lawn clippings, dried leaves) to achieve an optimal soil quality. Through controlled decomposition, the C:N ratio of compost decreases through time. Compost quality is often assessed by its C:N ratio. The C:N ratio must also be tracked for the initial feedstocks being used, as this has direct implications for the efficiency of the decomposition process. The goal of this project is to gather valuable data on the quality of compost produced from the Georgia College in-vessel compost system to determine best practices for this facility. C:N ratio was approximated by measuring nitrate concentration via colorimetric analysis per mass of compost. Colorimetric analyses were also performed to assess the overall quality by determining the concentration of other plant nutrients including phosphate and sulfate. In-vessel compost quality will be further assessed for exchangeable acidity and texture, which may contribute to the C:N ratio for optimal soil amendment production.