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Chats begins composting excess coffee grounds

Staff Writer

Published: Thursday, April 5, 2012

Updated: Thursday, April 5, 2012 11:04

Chats

WHITNEY PHILLIPS/Northern Iowan

Chats recently started donating coffee grounds and coffee filters to the University of Northern Iowa’s composting area.

Chats, a restaurant housed in Maucker Union at the University of Northern Iowa, recently began donating coffee grounds and coffee filters to the university’s composting area.  

Sarah Kaufman, a Chats student employee, said she is glad to be part of the “eco-friendly environment at UNI.”

“I think it’s neat how we’re literally using our trash as someone else’s treasure,” said Kaufman, a junior elementary and early childhood education double major.  “I’m glad we’re taking steps to help the environment, use less waste and use our resources wisely.”    

Lisa Kremer, assistant manager for dining services at Prexy’s, said there has been an “increased interest and effort put towards sustainability on campus.”

Last fall, Kremer read an article from Chats’ coffee supplier, the Roasterie, that discussed using coffee grounds as compost for their business garden.  Kremer thought something similar to this would be a great way to utilize the grounds.

After reading the article, Kremer said she began to meet with people across campus to determine the best way to proceed. Kremer talked to Billie Hemmer, the manager of the UNI greenhouse, who told her there is a composting area on campus where donations could be made. She decided this was an opportunity she wanted to take advantage of.

The plan fell into place last week when Chats started collecting coffee grounds to give to the Department of Facilities Planning, which then delivers the grounds to the composting area.

According to Kremer, 175-200 pounds of grounds are thrown away during the winter months, and 150-175 pounds are thrown out during other months.

She said coffee grounds add another item to the composting, which makes higher quality soil.  According to Kremer, it takes a combination of plant matter, food waste and paper waste to make the best mixture.

According to Paul Meyermann, assistant director of operations planning, the university is just starting to compost food waste, but has been composting yard waste for several years. The facilities and planning department is currently doing a 30-day test to see how the pickup, handling and curing processes will work.  

The product of the compost is currently recycled as soil amendments in campus turf areas. According to Meyermann, this promotes soil microbial activity, enhancing soil fertility and reducing the need for supplemental hydrocarbon-based fertilizers.                                                                           

Kremer said Chats will give any excess coffee grounds that are not composted to faculty, staff and students who wish to use them for their own composts.

According to Kremer, these plans are very popular with the student staff as it involves “less trips to the dumpsters.”

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