ITHACA, N.Y. -- A recycling plan devised by Cornell University students, with assistance from community members and waste-management experts, would save restaurant scraps from the garbage can and send them to the compost pile.
The resulting compost could boost community greenhouse-gardens.
"Our survey found many restaurant operators willing to separate food scraps for composting if the collection process is convenient and cost-effective," says Heather Clark, president of Cornell Students for Composting. "We have the technology to heat greenhouses with energy from the composting reaction, and the composted food waste will provide enriched soil for community garden plots in the greenhouses. We know this will work in Ithaca, and it should help any community with commercial food wastes and vacant lots."
Starting last fall, the 15-member student group conducted a mail survey of 120 Ithaca-area restaurants then followed up with telephone calls trying to gauge the businesses' interest in composting food scraps.
"Some said 'absolutely not' and some said 'maybe,'" Clark reports. "But we found seven restaurants willing to try composting, and that's enough for a pilot study."
For the 20-year-old College of Agriculture and Life Sciences junior from Canton, N.Y., who is studying ecology, environmental science and community design, the campaign to save Ithaca's food scraps began last summer. "I was eating in a downtown restaurant," she recalls, "and I saw food scraps going into a special bin, so I asked: 'Are you composting?' and they said, 'No, but we'd like to.'"
Reputedly one of the "greenest" small cities in America, Ithaca is filled with backyard composters, and food scraps from dining halls at Ithaca College and Cornell are composted, as are many leaves, grass clippings and other yard waste. But Ithaca has no comprehensive plan for composting restaurant or grocery store wastes.