Simply Science: Composting at Saint Cloud Hospital

ST. CLOUD, Minn. - At Saint Cloud Hospital, no food goes to waste. What starts as leftover macaroni, banana peels and brown lettuce leaves, eventually ends up as compost.

In step 1, bowls and plates are emptied into a running stream of water that leads right to step 2:

Executive Chef, Paul Ruszat explains, "this is basically a giant garbage disposal. SO what it does, it chops everything up into a giant slurry."

What now looks like oatmeal travels through pipes one floor down, where an auger system called the hydra-extractor, sends water back to step 1 to be recycled and pushes the food on to step 3.

Step 3 is the dehydrator, or pulper, that heats up and dries out the food scraps.

We turn it on and let it cook. Today's batch took 14 hours, that just tell me there's a lot of water in it... It wasn't a dry menu day, says Ruszat.

What comes out is a brown powder that heads out to the hospital's composters for step 4. It takes 2 months of food scraps to fill one composter!

Sustainability expert, Dustin Maddy, oversees the composting. "We add some sawdust from our woodshop. Because what we get out of the kitchen has such a high nitrogen content, we need some more carbon in there to keep the balance of compost working."

The final product, of compost, plus some added black dirt, will end up next spring in the Dr. James H. Kelly Community Garden.


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