Zero waste, big benefits: OARDC hosts large-scale composting course

In the future, Fred Michel (pictured) sees less food waste going into landfills. Or even none at all. And he’s working to make it happen in a literally big way.

An OARDC scientist, Michel studies large-scale composting, such as by farms, cities and industry, and co-organized the recent Ohio Compost Operator Education Course on OARDC’s Wooster campus.

“There’s a growing ‘zero-waste’ movement around the country and in Ohio,” said Michel, an associate professor in the Department of Food, Agricultural and Biological Engineering.

“Composting is an integral part of that movement since it can efficiently recycle organic wastes, such as food waste, into soil nutrients and soil amendments.”

The course, which marked its 13th year March 25-26 and is typically sold out, is for people who work at or with commercial-scale composting facilities — places that handle tons of waste and compost, rather than bushels, at a time.

“There’s a growing ‘zero-waste’ movement around the country and in Ohio. Composting is an integral part of that movement.”—Fred Michel

Less greenhouse gas, greener plants

  • Michel said food waste now makes up a major part of the solid waste collected by cities and counties, and most of it ends up in landfills.
  • Food waste in landfills rots and makes methane, which pound for pound is 20 times stronger than carbon dioxide as a climate change-causing greenhouse gas, says the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
  • “Food waste also contains valuable plant nutrients that shouldn’t be landfilled but recycled,” Michel said.
  • To contact the scientist: Fred Michel at