Purchase College To Introduce Heavy Duty Food-Waste Composter

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Anna Palmer of Nyack, a junior at Purchase College, will serve as the first "Compost Master" at Purchase College when it unveils a new Rocket Composter on Wednesday, Feb. 5. Photo Credit: Contributed

PURCHASE, N.Y. -- Purchase College-SUNY will have a ribbon cutting on Wednesday, Feb. 5, for a large-scale food waste composting system, known as the Rocket Composter.

The initiative reflects the college’s commitment to environmental sustainability, as well as its strong tradition of engaging students in community and social activism.

Students and faculty will attend the ribbon-cutting ceremony, which will include eating apples and throwing the cores in the Rocket to kick off the composting. Thereafter, the Rocket will be composting food waste from the food court and coffee grounds from the Starbucks on campus. Composting from additional dining facilities will be incorporated into the program as it progresses.

“The composting program builds on the sustainability efforts already under way on the Purchase College campus, while it provides students with hands-on learning about environmental stewardship and innovation skills,” says Matthew Immergut, an assistant professor of sociology, who initiated the project with Brooke Singer, an associate professor of new media.

Immergut has been on Purchase’s Sustainability Committee for seven years and teaches a course in environmental sociology, which examines the intersection between human society and the larger non-human ecosystem. He plans to incorporate learning about the composter into the class.

The Rocket Composter transforms organic material into useable compost in two weeks, is self-contained, and requires only minimal electrical power and wood chips for operation. Costing as little as 12 cents a day to run, it has the capacity to handle 460 gallons of food waste per week. The machine was paid for through Purchase College’s Green Fee, a small fee that students pay to support sustainability on campus.

Anna Palmer, a Purchase College junior from Nyack who is majoring in environmental studies, will serve as the first “Compost Master.” Five days a week she will go to the food court (known as The Hub) and Starbucks to pick up food waste and transport it to the composter via cargo bike.

Palmer said, “As a vegetarian and an environmental activist, I am interested in the food system and growing organic food without pesticides.  This project helps us to learn how to grow — and ultimately live — more sustainably.”

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