Campus Compost Acquires Second Cow

Friday, October 16, 2015

It was a cold and rainy day that saw the arrival of Campus Compost's second "compost cow", a 55 cubic foot tumbler that gobbles up food waste from the University of Waterloo.  The weather, however, did not dampen any spirits for the volunteers who operate the system.

Waterloo grounds team members unload the compost cow tumbler

Campus Compost is a student-led initiative based out of the Faculty of Environment, and is affiliated with Sustainable Campus Initiative.  They operate a collection system of food waste bins within buildings from the Faculty of Environment and Faculty of Arts.  In 2014, they collected over 2,000 pounds of compostable organic materials and put them through their first compost cow.  The nutrient-rich soil at the end of the process is used to fertilize campus gardens.

The new digester is very close to the original model, and will help the student group double their collection capacity.  While compost generates its own heat inside the insulated drums (at a cozy 100 degrees Farenheit, it is steamy inside!), the 2014/15 winter was too cold and slowed down the decomposition process.  The second cow now comes with a small heating unit to maintain internal temperature over the winter months.

Adding a second drum also supports continuous collection of organics, as the students can begin filling the second drum while the first drum finishes decomposing.

The project has been a huge success for Waterloo, as it is the campus' first public organics collection.  It has also been a big learning experience for the student volunteers.  Navigating the logistics of waste collection, balancing nitrogen and carbon levels, maintaining temperature, and managing relationships have all challenged students to apply their classroom knowledge in a living laboratory on campus.

Campus Compost's leaders - Mike Hagger, Clover Mei, and Andres Garcia - as well as their dedicated volunteer team, are excited about expanding to new areas of campus.

Both compost cows were made possible through funding from the Waterloo Environment Students Endowment Fund.  A big thanks also goes out to Waterloo's grounds teams, who advised the student project and helped unload the tumblers.

For a full list of drop-off stations, visit the waste page on the sustainability website.

To contact or volunteer with Campus Compost, send them an email

Compost cow collection tumblers at the University of Waterloo