The more dubious leftovers from a night of pizza delivery in the dorm are the greasy, cheese-caked boxes — which can’t be recycled as easily as cans, bottles and paper.
About a year ago, N.C. State University started a pizza box composting program on campus and, today, nearly 10,000 boxes have gone through the process.
“The idea was a collaboration between Waste Reduction and Recycling and University Housing at N.C. State to develop a way to introduce a composting program that students could easily participate in,” said Lauren McKinnis, outreach coordinator for Waste Reduction and Recycling at N.C. State.
UNC doesn’t currently sponsor the composting of pizza boxes on campus. Neither the Residence Hall Association nor the UNC Sustainability Office responded to requests for comment about whether the University has considered it.
Carolina Dining Services has a composting system for uneaten food scraps and has composted more than 11 million pounds of food since the program began in 2000.
UNC also sponsors a special composting program for fruit and vegetable scraps, which residents can bring to the Carolina Campus Community Garden. The compost is used as soil in the garden, which provides produce for the University’s low-wage workers.
But N.C. State seems to be a step ahead on one type of composting. Its pizza box program encompasses a wide variety of pizza-related items, including paper plates, napkins and extra pizza slices that otherwise would have been thrown away.
Dumpsters for pizza box composting are located in a variety of places around the N.C. State campus, from the residence halls to Greek Village, to get as many students involved as possible. The system begins with the dumpsters, and then the boxes are picked up by specialized trucks to take the waste to composting facilities.
The boxes are put into a pile, where they begin to break down. Once the process is complete, the new soil can be used for planting pursuits.
The composting is also utilized by the three on-campus dining halls, which compost more than 350 tons of waste, preventing it from being disposed in landfills.
“This program will lead us to more composting efforts in the future that students can actively participate in,” McKinnis said.
At UNC, though there are recycling bins across campus, the only items that can be recycled are bottles, cans and paper. Pieces of cardboard and uneaten food join the rest of the trash in landfills.
Still, Haleigh Prysock, a UNC freshman, said she doesn’t think a pizza box composting system would make a huge difference on campus. She said UNC is already environmentally friendly, given the large presence of recycling bins.
She said she personally doesn’t recycle much.
“At Ehringhaus, some rooms have recycling bins and some don’t, so I put my water and aluminum cans in them, but it’s just such a far walk to recycle,” Prysock said.
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