Montclair State University Demonstrates "Going Green" With Large-Scale Food Composter

University is set to demonstrate its newest contribution toward the "green revolution:" one of the few university-based aerobic composters in the country.

  • DATE: FRIDAY, OCTOBER 26, 2007
  • TIME: 12 NOON
  • LOCATION: BEHIND UNIVERSITY HALL (from the main entrance, take the back elevator located on the first floor next to room 1214, go to the Lower Level and exit the building)

The aerobic digester, a vessel that can process a total of 2 cubic yards (approximately 2 tons) of food residue daily, arrived on campus in summer 2007 and is fully operational, inexpensive to run (costs about $3 a day), and odor-free.

"The amount of food residue that ends up in landfills is astonishing," says Nicholas Smith-Sebasto, associate professor in the Department of Earth and Environmental Science, College of Science and Mathematics, "and the food waste that is thrown out and ends up in landfills is a contributing factor to the 'build out' problem that has reached a critical point in New Jersey."

Smith-Sebasto reports that approximately one ton of food is diverted from the Montclair State waste stream each month into the composter. This food residue, which is collected through one location of the University's food services vendor, Sodexho, is emptied into the bio-mixer where it is mixed in with wood chips (which act as a "bulking agent" to extract moisture while providing a source of carbon for microbes to breakdown the food matter.) The mixture reaches a temperature of at least 130 degrees Fahrenheit for several days, so it is odor-free.

The material is rotated slowly (4 times an hour, 4 times each day) to help break down the food residues, and two days later, it is completely broken down into usable compost that is used to fertilize green spaces on campus.


  • A 2007 study showed that about 15,000 acres are lost to development each year in the Garden State.
  • Researchers estimate that in the next several decades, NJ will have reached "full build-out"-there will be no undeveloped land to build on.
  • According to the USDA, just over a quarter of the country's food-about 25.9 million tons-gets thrown in the garbage can every year.
  • Food waste makes up the largest percentage of New Jersey trash that is not recycled. By volume, food waste in landfills is the largest contributor to methane gas production.

Compost samples will be available; this demonstration is free and open to the public.

Media coverage is encouraged.

Montclair State University

Montclair State is New Jersey's second largest university. It offers the advantages of a large university--a comprehensive undergraduate curriculum with a global focus, a broad variety of superior graduate programs through the doctoral level, and a diverse faculty and student body--combined with a small college's attention to students.