Pizza box composting debuts on campus

What do you get when you combine sustainably-minded students, forward-thinking departments and several thousand pizza boxes? Literal thinking “outside the box.”

University Housing and  NC State Waste Reduction and Recycling have implemented a new program to turn pizza boxes into nutrient-rich soil through composting. The program, which begins March 1, allows students to actively create and implement sustainable living practices on campus.

“During the fall semester, 95 students participated in a series of focus groups,” said Lauren McKinnis of Waste Reduction and Recycling. “We picked their brains about recycling on campus and one of the topics that was consistently brought up was composting. Students want to be able to compost on campus.”

Why pizza boxes? In 2013, University Housing purchased 2,588 pizzas for hall programming events. Add in students’ individual pizza eating habits and that’s a lot of empty pizza boxes. Plus, pizza boxes aren’t recyclable. The grease and oil left on the cardboard makes it impossible to turn the boxes into clean paper. Instead of filling landfills with thousands of greasy, cheese-stained boxes, NC State students are going to be part of turning them into soil.

“Not so long ago, we tackled the issue of battery recycling and found great success,” said Dr. Barry Olson, Director of Business Administration for Campus Life. “As we reached the limits of our traditional recycling offerings, University Housing was approached and asked to consider composting pizza boxes. For us, it seemed to be time to address the issue, and try to impact change.”

And many students agree.

“I think it’s a great idea!” said Mel Coleman, a senior Animal Science major. “Considering how many pizzas students order and how many we use for RA programs, there are tons of pizza boxes just thrown away each year.”

Specially decorate composting dumpsters behind Bragaw, Bowen and Metcalf Halls collect pizza boxes, which will be taken to Brooks Contractor, an off-site composting facility that currently handles composting for University Dining waste.

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