Mason Facilities and Mason Dining have partnered together with Natural Upcycling to collect and compost all food waste from the Southside Dining Hall to Freestate Farms, located in Prince William County, Virginia. Although not Mason’s first foray into composting (Mason’s Potomac Heights Vegetable Garden and Innovation Food Forest both take biodegradable waste for outdoor compost), this is Mason’s first large-scale, industrial composting partnership to take all food waste, including meats, grains, and coffee products.

Composting Process

  1. Students, staff, and faculty are encouraged to sort, and dispose or recycle non-compostable items, such as plastic bottles, to-go coffee cups, and candy wrappers before placing any food waste on the dish return in Southside.
  2. After food waste goes into the kitchen, it is immediately placed into a pulper that pulverizes the food before going into a waste bin.
  3. Full bins are collected by Natural Upcycling and travels approximately 18 miles from the Fairfax campus to Freestate Farms in northern Virginia.
  4. Freestate Farms uses anaerobic digestion to turn food waste into a methane-rich biogas and digestive slurry. Biogas can be used in various forms such as compressed natural gas to fuel vehicles, or combined heat and power to heat, cool, and control lighting and temperature in any given space, such as their on-site commercial greenhouse. For more information about their process, please visit Freestate Farms.

Why is Mason composting?

There are many benefits to composting:

— Less waste! Composting diverts waste sent to landfills, as well as reduces methane emissions from releasing into the environment.

— Richer Soil! Compost, as an end-product can be placed back into the soil, improves soil quality by retaining moisture and and increasing nutrient content.

— Saves money! Composting reduces Mason’s overall waste hauling costs.

Mason is doing a feasibility study to compost in other university dining halls. Stay tuned for updates!