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UH Hilo Sustainability Blog

Waste Sustainability through Composting and Vermicomposting Project (WSCVP)

Recently, at the 5th annual Sustainability Summit held at UHWO, two UH Students bring home outstanding awards that shall significantly contribute to the current waste sustainability initiatives on campus.

Alexis Stubbs took home the most prestigious award of $10,000 with her Waste Sustainability through Composting and Vermicomposting Project proposal.


The project specifically aims to:

  1.     30% by ‘30. Recover up to 70% of waste generated on the UH Hilo campus by active thermophilic composting and vermicomposting by year 2030. Currently, wastes generated by the university are hauled by subcontractors and only a very small portion of paper wastes collected from the CAB and ADMIN Building are composted and vermicomposted by Students of Sustainability and Professor Norman Arancon with his classes. Compost and Vermicomposts produced from these operations will support the productivity of campus gardens for sustainable agriculture classes, clubs/organizations and also holds the potential to produce sufficient yields for utilization in the cafeteria. The expansion of campus gardens will also allow for potential establishment of a Student Growers Market.
  2.     Forge collaborations among different interested parties in these sites specially students, faculty and staff in a concerted effort of recovering our wastes. The collection of recyclable and compostable materials including paper and post consumer waste will create an awareness of the recovery efforts by the provision of efficient wastes stations at each building . This will be complemented by extensive educational activities such as visible and effective signs and posters, room to room campaigns, press releases, education outreach booths in campus plaza and library lanai, radio announcements and incorporation of the theme in some courses. The collaborations will extend to some faculty and students whose subject matter discusses issues of sustainability. These courses will involve:  AG230, Hort262, Hort481 and other S- designated courses taught by professors in the UH Hilo sustainability committee. Student involvement will not only be limited to come from classroom instruction but will also come from volunteers from student organization such as UH Hilo Student Association, AgClub, G.O.E.S and primarily advised by Students of Sustainability Organization. The project will also generate positions for work study positions, internships and a potential venue for students who would like to conduct experiments in compost related topics through independent studies from different colleges and departments and through the office of Applied Learning Experience (ALEX).
  3. The project will support a structure of sustainable food systems by supplying valuable organic soil amendments for growing food crops (fruits and vegetables) on campus. Currently, vegetable and fruit gardens are sprucing up around the campus that are initiated and maintained by courses such as AG230 (Sustainable Agriculture) and Hort 352 (Tropical Fruit Crop production). These gardens usually require the acquisition of seeds and soil organic amendments. Currently, a small vermicomposting and composting operation is maintained by the Students of Sustainability that recycles paper wastes from CAB and Admin Building, a small portion of post consumer food wastes from the dorms and 6 newly introduced collection stations: 2 in UCB, 2 Campus Plaza, 2 Library Lanai that collects waste primarily from third-party food vendors. This small pilot operation was initially introduced through Professor Norman Arancon and his students and is now carried by members of SOS. The current operation can only supply a very small portion of the soil nutrient requirements to maintain the campus gardens.  Increase supply of compost and vermicomposts will not only increase productivity of the gardens but it will also increase potential areas of production of these staple vegetables around the campus. The overall increase of crop production around the campus will support the university’s initiative in promoting the use of locally produced foods especially those produced by the university itself.
  4. To expand composting and vermicomposting prototypes and operations to accommodate the volume of organic materials collected from the specified sites with a potential to accommodate all sites producing these wastes on campus. The composting bays and vermicomposting bins will be expandable to accommodate all organic materials from all buildings of UH Hilo campus future recycling efforts on campus.


Currently UH Hilo collects mixed recyclables (cardboard, metals and plastics) in large neon-green dumpsters from roll-away bins. The bins are emptied out twice weekly with approximately 62 cubic yards of organic wastes (bulk material) per week. Currently, these dumpsters are hauled away by a private company for $25,000/year. The total volume of organic wastes from the green dumpsters could be reduced to about 25% equivalent to 15.5 cubic yards with appropriate equipment such as shredder and mixers, according to current estimates. There are 130 classrooms and labs, and 575 offices located in the buildings listed in Table 1 (below) with their corresponding waste outputs. This project will focus on the collection of all paper and post-consumer waste from the entire campus.