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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.

Check out the links on this page to learn how your contribution to The Clarkson Fund makes it possible for students like Ashley Waldron to shape the future. You can make it happen. It’s your voice…your choice.

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