Oscar the composter: a step in reducing CSU’s food waste

Katy Mueller

Colorado State University may have significantly decreased its emissions footprint thanks to Oscar, a composting system created by Housing and Dining’s composting program. 

Roughly 30 to 40 percent of food is wasted by Americans, with organic waste coming in second as a leading methane gas producers, according to worldfooddayusa.org.

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Craig Scott, 57, helps run the composting plant at the CSU Foothills Campus. (Photo Credit: Ryan Arb)
Craig Scott, 57, helps run the composting plant on the CSU Foothills Campus. (Photo Credit: Ryan Arb)

The composting machine, worth roughly $140,000 and located on the CSU Foothills Campus, is now in its fourth year of running. It can process about 250,000 pounds of food waste each year, or up to 10,000 pounds each week. All of the compost material is provided from the dining hall food waste that would otherwise have been dumped in a landfill.

The resulting compost is used in non-profit community organizations and landscaping projects around campus such as the new Laurel Village complex.

A faculty member from the Soil and Crop Sciences Department, Addy Elliott, said she is impressed with CSU’s investment in Oscar. 

“The purchase, use and support of Oscar is just one of several innovative recycling efforts underway,” Elliott said.

Food waste gets put into one end of the machine, with thicker materials such as wood or manure from the Equine Center added in afterwards at a 1:2 ratio. Then, the mixture is processed for roughly three weeks and left to sit for another three to four weeks until it is ready to be used. This system creates an earth-friendly environment, CSU students said.

Brianna Elliott, a senior studying environmental communications, said she values reducing landfill waste and likes the idea that less food will become trash because of Oscar. She said more students should know about the programs and other efforts CSU is making to reduce their carbon footprint. As far as Oscar goes, she said the money spent for these projects will benefit the school in the future.

“I think, as a labeled green university, it is really good to actually make those efforts and not just talk about it,” said Brianna Elliot. “In the long run, it’ll definitely be worth it, not necessarily monetarily, but just to reduce its carbon footprint is huge and more universities should follow suit.”

Sophomore Alli Rowley said Oscar is beneficial to CSU’s green initiatives. 

“The green movement is still going really strong, so I think as long as that stays in vogue, it (Oscar) will still be a thing,” Rowley said. “I think that’s a really good thing to have it be popular.”

Oscar will continue to make an impact on campus as long as there are hungry students with eyes bigger than their stomachs in the dining halls.

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Collegian Reporter Katy Mueller can be found online at news@collegian.com or on Twitter at @katymueller13.