Georgia College & State University (GCSU) has an active industrial compost system, where pre- and post-consumer waste is diverted from the dining facility. Currently, single-use disposable plastic and polystyrene dishware is used for campus events and to-go food services. The option of compostable dishware such as a Polylactic acid (PLA) hot cups, PLA cold cups, sugarcane portion cups, cardboard trays, and wooden sporks were explored to provide cost-effective options for these needs. This research project focuses on the impacts of compostable dishware on our compost system through weekly measurements of nitrate, pH, carbon: nitrogen ratio, moisture, and qualitative observations during fall semester, 2022. Through this project, we also developed an approach to assessing the impacts of compostable materials. In the preliminary data, the average pH of the in-vessel and ground compost was 7.7, the average nitrate level in these sample sites 1.8 mg/kg. After the implementation of the compostable dishware the pH became more basic with an increase from 5.8 to 6.9. Variation in nitrate levels increased due to anaerobic conditions within the in-vessel. The temperature of the compost decreased after the implementation of the dishware. We estimate that over 85% of the compostable dishware decomposed over the course of 5 weeks. These preliminary results suggest safe and beneficial compost to use on campus and in the community. The benefits of implementing a compostable single-use dishware initiative include cutting costs on waste from dining facilities, decreasing GCSU’s water and carbon footprints, while increasing education and awareness of sustainable practices in the GCSU community.

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