The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

Sustainability Update: Mac seeks cost-effective compost bags

If you’ve been at Macalester for a while, you’ve probably noticed the new compost bins around campus. Hopefully you’ve done more than notice them, as composting is the best available option for disposing of paper and organic matter. Macalester started a composting campaign to broaden our frame of responsibility to our larger impact, even within an urban bubble. Most importantly, it has given faculty, staff and students a way to actively engage with everyday choices that help ease our footprint as we go about our daily activities. Sometimes changing one habit is enough to spark a revolution of changes in the way we think, act and live.

While the program has been largely successful in diverting waste and garnering interest and support for full-cycle waste disposal, there are a few kinks to work out. With the many articles that have been published in The Mac Weekly on the environmental and social aspects of the program, there is no lack of information or education about composting. There’s always more we can do to learn about the proper things that go in a compost bin or the science of how organic matter breaks down, but I’d like to highlight a piece of the puzzle not often recognized by the community.

Currently, Macalester purchases 33”x 39” compostable “Bio Star” trash bags from Pitt Plastics to line the slim grey bins with green lids we all recognize from around campus. These bags cost 52 cents apiece, which is pretty expensive even at the large scale on which Macalester operates. However, that price will soon change as Facilities gears up to find a new vendor for more cost-effective bags. The new bags will of course be certified by the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI), which is the industry “gold star” for compostable, single-use goods.

With this switch, we would also start buying smaller and larger bags to fit office-sized cans as well as the larger bins in places like the Leonard Center. We would be looking at a lower cost due to an offer from the potential supplier to buy in bulk and get a good deal.

The bins are normally emptied depending on fullness and smell, but every two days is the norm. The switch to new and possibly more size-options of bags would not affect the process we use now. “Composting will always be expanding little by little,” second-shift Custodial Supervisor Kyle Wright said. The improvement of compost infrastructure on campus as a result of lower cost and more options is a really positive thing for the Mac community. “In my eyes, it will make the college look more professional when it comes to compost/organics.”

“We’re just making sure we’re comparing apples to apples at the moment,” Custodial Services Manager Ralph Williamson said, on the timeline of this switch. Hopefully, everything will check out and we will be enjoying the benefits of this new vendor as soon as possible.

A whole-hearted thank you is much deserved to our custodial and facilities staff for their hard work in making campus composting an available resource and managing the logistics that many of us don’t see everyday. If you see someone you can thank on campus for helping make this possible, make sure to let them know that what they are doing matters to you!

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