UW-Stout Group in Ecomagination Challenge Finals

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A group of students from UW-Stout say they’ve come up with a simple and efficient way to deal with food waste on campus.

The project earned then a top-ten spot in a national contest, the Ecomagination Challenge. It’s sponsored by MTV-U, a division of Music Television, and General Electric.

Everything from leftover salad to sandwich crusts get tossed at UW-Stout. It adds up to about 53 tons every year.

"Currently all the food waste is just being landfill,” group member Jason Burbank said.

Burbank says he and two other students have come up with an eco-friendly way to deal with all those leftovers.

"This would provide some nice compost that the landscaping people could use instead of chemical fertilizers and it would decrease the amount of fuel that's used to truck all this food waste to the landfill in Eau Claire,” Burbank said.

Here’s how the system would work. Food service workers would put all of they day’s food scraps into barrels. They’d get rolled on a track, where the material would break down for about 40 days.

"It also utilizes solar energy for heat and makes it possible for kind of optimum composting conditions, even in the dead of winter in Wisconsin,” Assistant Professor of Industrial Design, Noah Norton said.

Norton taught the class where the students came up with the idea, and says he thinks the eco-friendly designs are important in today’s world.

"Especially as product designers,” Norton said. “We create things, we don't necessarily, a lot of times at least in the past, it wasn't really considered what happens to these things after they're done being used."

If the group’s project wins the Ecomagination Challenge, UW-Stout will get a $25,000 grant to take the idea off the paper, and onto the ground.

"It would really be incredible seeing something like that implemented,” Burbank said.

The UW-Stout entry is competing with other projects from such schools at MIT and the University of Michigan.

If you’d like to vote in the Ecomagination Challenge, you’ll find a link under our “Featured Links” section.