UW-Stout News Story

Student receives UW System grant to study composting in city

February 9, 2012

Kyle Mills is digging into the issue of composting in the city of Menomonie.

Mills, a junior at University of Wisconsin-Stout majoring in psychology with an economics minor, recently was awarded a UW System student grant for $4,000 through the UW System Solid Waste Research Program.

Ideally, the project “Composting Audit with the City of Menomonie” will be the first step in establishing a citywide program that increases the efficiency of local solid waste management. The project should be complete by the end of May.

Mills, from Rosemount, Minn., would like to see a local composting system involving the university, area residents and businesses.

UW-Stout has a program through University Dining Services that involves compostable waste picked up by Veolia and trucked to Eau Claire, where it is used as landfill cover. The university is expanding the program to include collecting more food waste, compostable dinnerware, napkins and other items.

Through the audit and study of the present system, Mills hopes to identify an efficient use of the compostable material, one that saves the university money by connecting it to a communitywide program. As part of the audit, Mills is researching factors involved with a composting program, such as composting materials, costs and labor.

Since these factors require analysis, he is approaching the audit from an economic perspective and is using his experience from psychology to assess the composting needs of local businesses, institutions and restaurants.

“Both the school and the city have a demand for a composting program, but it depends on the quality of data and analysis to actually make a positive impact,” he said.

Mills is working with George Hayducsko, Dunn County Division of Solid Waste, and Randy Eide, director of Public Works, city of Menomonie.

Mills’ research advisers are Sarah Rykal, UW-Stout environmental sustainability coordinator, and Krista James, biology instructor.

The audit is the first step in a long process, Mills said. Other students, led by James, will survey local residents about composting needs to complete a community service requirement.

Mills learned of the city’s underdeveloped composting system and the grant through James’ Biology 111 class, Science, Society and the Environment. “I figured this would be a good time to apply my economic and psychological background to real world issues,” he said.

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