Half-eaten Fries & Clarkson
Ashley Waldron and the invasion of the lunch-eating bacteria
To Ashley Waldron ’12, recycling means so much more than tossing the occasional can into a recycling bin. As a civil engineering major with a concentration in environmental engineering, she saw the potential in food scraps that go in the trash or down the drain.
Ashley’s involved with a project that turns discarded food into electricity and fertilizer. At Ro-Bro cafeteria, students and food-service workers scrape discarded food into special recycling bins. Ashley’s team dumps it all into the campus anaerobic digester, where bacteria consider that disgusting mix of tossed-away food particularly yummy. The bacteria chow down, generating methane gas that’s turned into electricity and heat for a campus greenhouse. All that’s left is a sludge full of nutrients, which is used to fertilize greenhouse plants.
The process saves money on trash hauling, keeps food waste out of landfills, and produces energy. The long-term goal is to expand this pilot program to all campus eateries. Ashley hopes to be here when that happens, since she’s sticking around to earn a master’s in environmental science and engineering.
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Stories of Support