Central Green Team: Students digging into compost effort

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Central senior Jacob Jansen dumps food waste from the cafeteria into a bucket that will be later hauled to the school’s composting pile.

By Pam Reinig

Register Editor


Believing that actions speak louder than words, a group of Central students is making much-needed changes to the school’s composting project.

Members of the Green Team, who launched the effort last year, recently learned that the location of their compost pile violates certain state regulations. They discussed their options, learned more about composting and now they’re ready to act.

After meeting with city and county officials, they’ve decided to move the compost pile to the city yard waste disposal site off Highway 13 near Pony Hollow trail. Central senior Jacob Jansen, who has been part of the effort since its inception, said the new location would accommodate a larger compost pile. As an added bonus, the yard waste that’s dumped there can be used as a carbon source to help the pile decompose efficiently.

The compost pile is currently located between the school’s blacktopped playground area and the Turkey River. 

Local activist and Central staffer Jamie Wingert jump-started the composting project last April by making Global Science students aware of the amount of trash generated daily at the school.

“From our calculations, on average, we generate 120 pounds of waste per day,” said Jansen. “Right now, we’re composting all of the school’s food waste, except for meat and bread, which is less than three percent of the total. We hope to compost that in the future. We also compost our napkins.”

The waste is scraped into a 32-gallon barrel. When it’s full, students and maintenance staff take the barrel to the compost site and dump its contents there. The students take turns with the task. Jansen, Brandon Hach, Blake Rochleau, Tom Shirborun and Ben Whittle head the composting effort with assistance from about 10 other students. Central is the only high school in Iowa with a student-driven composting project.

“We also take tin cans and recyclable milk containers to the appropriate dumpster,” Jansen said, adding he and his Global Science classmates started this project last year in an effort to increase recycling opportunities.

Moving the compost pile will require some effort and the use of a manure spreader. Food waste and a carbon source will be layered, like a cake.

“When the spreader is full, we’ll take it to the site and the spreader will mix the compost for us,” Jansen explained. “However, first we need a manure spreader.”

(Editor’s note: Anyone interested in loaning a spreader or contributing a carbon source like hay bales, cornstalks or yard waste can contact Central’s Green Team through its Facebook page or call Jansen at 563-880-5787.)

Student leaders of the current effort last week traveled to Fairfield to learn more about composting work at Maharishi University.

“I read online that our proposed system is similar to theirs so we went there to learn how their operation works,” Jansen said. 

The students hope to get the community involved in composting by providing a place for residents to dump their food waste, which is similar to the effort in Fairfield. They also hope to eventually generate enough compost for a community garden.

“This idea is feasible with the right help,” Jansen said. “In addition to waste from residents, we hope to include restaurant waste.”

The core group of students involved in the effort will soon graduate. They’re hopeful that others will step in and continued the work.

“Through this project I’ve developed a passion for conserving our precious natural resources,” Jansen said. “This project has inspired me to get involved with sustainability. I’d like to have a career that involves (working on) saving the environment. Most of all, I really want this project to succeed. It’s important that it lasts this year and for years to come.”

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