University Sustainability

Defining Sustainability since 1899


Appalachian State University's commitment to composting began as a student driven initiative in 1999. Over the years, the program has grown into a successful and effective way to sustainably recycle campus food waste into a compost soil amendment for use in the campus flowerbeds. In September 2011, the university completed this state-of-the-art composting facility that expands our annual composting capacity from 100 to 275 tons. The increased capacity will allow the university to expand food waste composting opportunities and further our commitment to sustainability.

Our Advanced Composting Technologies, Inc. facility creates the perfect environment for the naturally occurring biological process where microbes do all the work. The key is to give them what they need (air, water and food), when they need it, in the right proportions and let them do the work.

New State-of-the-Art Facility

  • In 2010 the decision was made and funds allocated to construct a new state-of-the-art, cutting edge facility, in partnership with Advanced Composting Technologies - Candler, NC
  • Historically Advanced Composting Technologies had been constructing facilities for the purpose of animal mortality composting only, so Appalachian and Advanced Composting have partnered to showcase their very first food waste composting facility
  • Our old system was antiquated and did not meet the permit requirements set by NC DENR. If we did not build the new facility, our composting permit would not have been renewed.
  • Our new state of the art facility allows for expansion (up to 275 tons annually) so we can implement more food waste collection sites on campus. It will also enable us to begin post-consumer food waste composting to further improve our waste diversion rate.
  • The new facility will broaden the scope of research opportunities for students - which include hands on learning opportunities.
  • The facility design embraces cutting edge technology that has drawn attention statewide for use in agricultural waste composting.
  • Provides educational and research opportunities for our students and faculty
  • The facility exemplifies the possibilities and positive outcome of collaborative efforts among divisions across campus- Physical Plant, Food Services, New River Light and Power, Design and Construction, Sustainability office, Sustainable development, Technology Department, Biology, and beyond. We have much to learn and benefit from this new tool.

Read about the opening of new composting facility

Appalachian State University Compost Facility Logistics

  • Type III facility (permit #95-04) permitted through NC DENR (NC Dept of Environment and Natural Resources); operational since 1999
  • Current App State Population
    • Students: 17,344
    • Faculty and Staff: 2,829
  • Appalachian State has been a leader in the state and southeast with regards to onsite food waste composting
    • First in-house compost operation in the UNC system schools
    • Largest in-house compost operation in UNC system schools
  • Beginning in the late 1990s, this is an amazing example of successful collaboration around sustainability efforts on campus
  • Daily collection and maintenance including temperature monitoring, adding materials, turning piles, etc.
  • We are permitted for pre and post-consumer food waste but about 90% - 95% of organics collected for composting on campus is pre-consumer
  • Our finished compost is used in landscape application by Landscape Services. We also deliver the finished compost to our Sustainable Development Farm in Valle Crucis and occasionally the greenhouse uses it for their raised beds.

Through the Years

  • The successful compost program was started as a sustainable development student initiative in Spring 1999
  • Began as a small static demonstration pile
  • Began as food waste collection from one cafeteria and one coffee shop with occasional clippings from the Biology greenhouse
  • The first year the program was in operation, we collected approximately 18 tons of food waste and coffee grounds for composting
  • In spring 2000, several Sustainable Resource Management students in the Appropriate Technology dept. decided to take this program on as a semester project adding aeration to the operation and growing the program.
  • Aeration was achieved with some really low tech and cost effective reuse of old mechanical salvaged from the physical plant and some perforated pipe!
  • In 2000-2006 we averaged around 25 tons of food waste collected per year
  • The program grew to include all cafeteria and dining halls on campus as well as two coffee shops, Living Learning Center, the Broyhill Inn and Student Recreation Center food court.
  • 2007-2008 averaging around 50-75 tons food waste collected per year
  • 2008-2010 averaging around 100 tons of food waste collected per year; maxing out at current facility and were beginning to outgrow our current space
  • The time came to expand to post-consumer collection and we knew we were going to need more space in order to begin this expansion