The University of Arkansas at Little Rock compost bucket program began during the summer of 2020 after Dr. Stephen Grace, Dr. Michael DeAngelis and several students assembled the new compost bin system. Since then, the program has gone through various changes.
“The program expanded in January 2021 beyond individual buckets by working with our on-campus partners in Sodexo,” said Nancy Hyde, the Office Manager at Donaghey Student Center. “A bucket pick-up system was implemented through a collaboration with the Trojan Café, Starbucks and the Donaghey Student Center to collect and deliver kitchen food waste and coffee grounds.”
The compost bucket shelf is located near the entrance of the Campus Garden, which is across from U.S. Pizza on Fair Park, and is accessible 24/7. Participation from students, faculty and staff, along with the collections from the Trojan Café and Starbucks, contribute to 20-30 buckets per week. Those working within the garden anticipate a significant increase with the arrival of warmer weather and changes in seasonal produce availability.
Part of the program’s success is its flexible and volunteer-based process. Hyde affirms that a compost bucket is easy to fill when preparing food at home, as food waste from fruits, vegetables, cheese and grains is one of the main sources for composting. Additionally, tea leaves and compostable tea bags are effective in compost. Hyde also says that before the compost bucket program, the Campus Garden partnered with the City of Little Rock for yard waste compost and the Little Rock Zoo for zoo compost. They are in the process of curing equine manure as well, which will be useful for future projects.
The three-stage aerobic compost bin, whose design was inspired by the Centennial Garden compost bin at Arkansas Children’s Hospital, is a low-odor, low-cost and practical solution with rapid decomposition. With this system, food scraps and other compost materials move through three rotations: in stage one the materials produce internal heat that breaks them down, in stage two the decomposing compost cures after cooling and in stage three the compost finishes curing and is ready to be used.
“This process helps support healthy roots, healthy plants, and vigorous production,” Hyde said.
Composting has a variety of advantages. Compost enriches the soil by adding important nutrients and minerals for the crops, suppresses plant disease and pests, improves “moisture retention” and the “workability” of the soil, and reduces overall waste. According to Rhonda Sherman, an Extension Solid Waste Specialist, recycling organic matter can reduce trash disposal, save money, and conserve natural resources.
The Campus Garden’s compost bucket program is UA Little Rock’s way of helping the environment.
“We greatly appreciate our Campus Garden supporters as partners in sustainable agriculture practices making a personal and collective impact on local, urban food production,” Hyde said. “Everyone can help to make a difference with small acts that support food independence and healthy living.”
If you are interested in participating in the compost bucket program, feel free to stop by the Campus Garden entrance to pick up a bucket. On UA Little Rock’s official website, the Campus Garden page has additional resources and information for participants.