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Miami continues green initiatives with composting systems in Armstrong

Miami University is stepping up its green game by installing five composting systems in Armstrong Student Center for the 2023-2024 school year.

The systems will consist of a television and a camera that uses artificial intelligence to tell students where to discard their waste. The system will also include four bins, which will be categorized as landfill, recycling, composting and paper.

“Students have been asking for composting for so long,” said Olivia Herron, director of sustainability. “We’ve been hearing this is something students want … We just need them to take two seconds [to use the system].”

The system, called Oscar Sort, is able to identify all parts of a student’s trash and where they should go. All students have to do is put those parts in each bin.

Miami received a grant from the Environmental Protection Agency to fund these systems. The fees for composting, which will be done through GoZERO, are split between Armstrong and Aramark.

In anticipation of the systems, Aramark has also worked to change their dining practices to fit with composting, including using compostable cutlery for meals. 

Kourtney Spaulding, associate director of events and operations for Armstrong, says this has been a pet project for her since she came into her position. However, she understands the new system might not feel “normal” immediately.

“It takes time to build a culture of change,” Spaulding said. “Everyone’s got to buy in and participate.”

Spaulding and Herron said the bins in Armstrong will also work as a sort of “test run” for the university. Problems may arise with improper disposal, so students should be cautious putting waste in the wrong bin because it can interfere with the system.

“Use it properly so we can make a good case for expanding it to the rest of the university,” Herron said.

Armstrong will fit the Oscar Sort systems, which will be referred to as “smart waste stations,” with cabinets later. They will also have signage directing students to the nearest system.

Spaulding and Herron say the devices are also a way to catch up with the rest of Oxford, which started composting before Miami, to the point where even DORA cups are now compostable. Off-campus students can even do their own composting, where they can drop it off at Chestnut Fields.

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Why is composting important?

Composting takes organic matter and turns it into fertilizer for plants. It’s an easy way to take materials that would otherwise just be thrown away and use them for something practical.

According to the National Resources Defense Council, composting has multiple benefits, including reducing waste, cutting emissions from landfills and improving soil health.

Jules Jefferson, a senior biochemistry and nutrition double major and the student body vice president, said composting is important, especially at Miami, because it will show students firsthand how Miami is reducing its greenhouse footprint.

“It’s first and foremost a tangible way to see sustainability,” Jefferson said. “Most people don’t really realize the importance of other sustainability things going on campus.”

Compostable materials normally include items that come from the ground. However, students won’t have to worry about knowing what to put in compost with the smart waste stations being able to direct them.

“Understand that the way you compost at home may be different than the way we have to compost here at Miami,” Jefferson said. “It’s a learning journey for everyone, so just be excited, open and ask questions.”