Scraps to Compost in 24 Hours: Madison College Digester Diverts Waste, Cuts Emissions

Chester the Digester at Madison College

By Chris Hubbuch, Wisconsin State Journal

Nobody eats like “Chester.”

In a storage room off the teaching kitchen at Madison Area Technical College, the cabinet-size aerobic digester consumes up to 300 pounds of food scraps per day, turning waste into garden compost.

Nicknamed Chester by students, the award-winning digester has been gobbling up scraps, leftovers, expired ingredients — just about anything generated by the college’s culinary arts program as well as its cafeteria.

“It could be steaks, it could be sauces, rice, pasta, pasta salad — all that stuff,” said John Johnson, a culinary arts instructor. “Our trash cans are pretty much empty now. If it can go into Chester, it goes in.”

The process is simple: Dump the food scraps in and close the door. The digester slowly churns the material while heating it up to activate the bacteria, which do most of the work. By the next day, all that’s left is a dry, brown powder.

With moisture vented out through a pipe in the ceiling, Chester produces about a pound of compost for every 10 pounds of waste.

Chester especially likes scraps from the baking program, as the bacteria thrive on sugars. Large bones are one of the few things it can’t handle.

“Fat makes Chester sick,” Johnson said.

Read the full article, Scraps to Compost in 24 Hours: Madison College Digester Diverts Waste, Cuts Emissions, in the Wisconsin State Journal.

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