Visitors to Clayton State University, as well as students, faculty and staff, have undoubtedly noticed the different types of recycling receptacles around campus or the newly installed hydration stations at the water fountains. These are two examples of sustainability projects going on around Clayton State. However, there is a new sustainability project that many students and faculty are unaware of that demonstrates the campus’ continual efforts in “going green”.
The Bio-Digestor is the newest treasure within ClaytonState, hidden in the kitchen of the Lakeside Dining Hall. This intriguing new device breaks down food waste that is collected from meals and food preparation throughout the day. After about 24 hours, the food waste is turned into an environmentally safe water effluent, referred to as grey water.
The Bio-Digestor is a stainless steel “mechanical stomach” that’s about four feet in length and more than three feet tall. The discarded food is introduced into the Bio-Digestor from a hatch at the top and is then evenly distributed in the machine. The Bio-Digestor usually process around 250 pounds of food waste a day. Once the food is distributed, tiny micro-organisms and enzymes react to the fats, starches, fibers, and proteins in the food waste and break them down into a liquid form. After about 24 hours in the Bio-Digestor, the food waste is completely broken down and all that remains is the eco-friendly grey water.
The Bio-Digestor is proving to be beneficial to the ClaytonState campus in several ways. First, it’s helping to alleviate the dining staffs’ work load through the amount of trash that’s collected from the kitchen and from the time-consuming trek of carrying the trash all the way up to the JamesM.BakerCenter’s second floor loading dock. Second, it’s decreasing the amount of food waste at the dumpster and keeping odors and pests at bay. In addition with the decreased amount of food waste, hopefully the frequency of trash pickups will be reduced, potentially saving the University money. Thirdly, the Bio-Digestor is decreasing the carbon footprint of the University.
Another potential benefit, although not in effect at Clayton State quite yet, is the idea of recycling the grey water collected from the Bio-Digestor and using it towards irrigating the landscape or filling the lakes on the campus.
So, whose idea was it to advocate for a greener alternative in food waste? It was Carolina Amero, assistant vice president of Auxiliary and Administrative Services and the organization advisor for the Clayton State Go Green Student Organization. Amero saw the Bio-Digestor at a trade show a few years back and learned from a few other Georgia colleges how the Bio-Digestor has benefited their campuses. She then proposed the idea at ClaytonState.
“It’s inexpensive, clean, safe, and easy to use and that it is just another step in sustainability,” she says.
The fall 2013 semester is the first semester that the Bio-Digestor has been active in helping to reduce food waste on campus and hopefully by the end of the semester Amero says the University will be able to eliminate close to 20,000 pounds of food waste.