Salukis get down and dirty

By Gus Bode

It’s harvest time at the university’s vermicomposting facility.

However, with RecycleMania and a vermicomposting facility remodel just around the corner, Physical Plant employees won’t have much time to enjoy their first harvest of worm excrement.

Food waste from the university’s dining halls is hauled to the vermicomposting facility where it is broken down by red wiggler worms. Recycling Coordinator Andilee Warner said she plans to disassemble two of the four current composting containers to make room for an 80-by-12 foot bunker system. The new system will be next to two elevated 40-by-5 foot bins.


Harvested worm castings will be used as soil by the agriculture department.

The bunker system is part of a transition to a second technique of vermicomposting the university is trying because the current method doesn’t adequately decompose the food waste.

In fiscal year 2007, the cost of collecting, hauling and dumping trash generated on campus was $179,474. That figure does not include waste from University Housing or the Student Center. Warner said Housing’s waste disposal costs could be as much as or more than the campus figure.

The university spends about $150,000 a year on its recycling program – a figure Physical Plant Director Phil Gatton said has not been updated to include the cost of recycling Morris Library’s demolition and construction waste.

Gatton said most contractors do not recycle when left to their own means, but recycling was included in River City Construction Company’s library renovation contract with the university.

Recycled metal brings in some revenue, but paper, cardboard and plastic cost money to recycle. There are currently no nearby facilities for recycling Styrofoam or certain grades of plastic.

Warner said she is preparing for RecycleMania, a nationwide contest among colleges and universities.


Throughout the competition, schools measure and report waste and recycling data.

According to the RecycleMania Web site, the competition’s primary goal is to “increase student awareness of campus recycling and waste minimization.”

Warner said overall waste reduction, not just recycling, has the potential to reduce waste going into the landfill.

The Illinois Solid Waste Management Act required the university to create a plan in 1995 to meet a 40 percent waste reduction compared to 1987 by 2000. In the last report, the university was almost at 35 percent waste reduction, Warner said.

Kate Fuller, a sophomore from Chicago studying special education, said she doesn’t like littering, but she knows she could do more to help the environment.

“Last night, I printed out like 80 pages and I really don’t think that was necessary,” Fuller said.

Warner said she makes a point in her office to encourage printing on both sides of paper to reduce waste.

Patricia Seagle, a senior from Christopher studying physiology, said teachers in most of her classes encourage students to print out everything.

“So there’s a huge waste of everything,” Seagle said.

Non-recyclable and contaminated campus waste is put in the Southern Illinois Regional Landfill in DeSoto.

This landfill had almost 49.9 million cubic yards of capacity available in 2005, the last year statistics are available from the Environmental Protection Agency. That year the Southern Illinois Regional Landfill accounted for almost 67 percent of the region’s waste put in landfills.

According to the EPA’s Web site, the region’s landfills reported a total capacity of more than 117.8 million gate cubic yards in early 2006. This would allow for 51 years of continued waste disposal, it said.

The EPA classifies the southern Illinois area as region seven, containing five active landfills. In 2005, The Southern Illinois Regional Landfill was ranked 10th of all state landfills for percentage of waste dumped.

The five active landfills for Region 7 accepted almost 2.3 million gate cubic yards of waste during 2005, according to the EPA Website.

The average annual amount of campus waste diverted to the recycling bins is about 20 percent, SIUC Recycling Coordinator Andilee Warner said. She said she would love to see that number reach 40 or 50 percent.

Fuller said it bothers her that people just throw anything anywhere and ignore recycle bins.

“Nature’s pretty enough, why do we have to ruin it?” she said.

Brandy Oxford can be reached at 536-3311 ext. 255 or [email protected].

Christian Holt can be reached at 536-331 ext. 268 or [email protected].