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Price for Oaklands composting rises

Independent housing takes care of their own compost, rather than campus facilities. They have bins outside their housing complexes. (Hart Rosenberg)
Independent housing takes care of their own compost, rather than campus facilities. They have bins outside their housing complexes. (Hart Rosenberg)

Over the summer, the city of Oakland struck a deal with Waste Management Corp to exclusively pick up compost and garbage. This plan caused Mills’ composting bill to go up 500%.

Due to wanting to be as sustainable as possible, both monetarily and ecologically, new Sustainability Coordinator Nicole Gaetjens and Associate Vice President for Operations Linda Zitzner have been working over the summer to create a composting subcommittee in the sustainability committee, as well as short term plans to cut the campus’ composting fees.

Because of the price hikes, there are now two compost toters for the compost collectors. Due to this, campus facilities, who manage the waste for all dorms, except for independent living, must travel further on campus to dump the compost bags.

“Most of that work falls on our janitorial [staff],” Zitzner said. “They collect them [from around campus] and carry them to either Founders or to the Tea Shop and dispose of them.”

However, this does not apply to independent housing (Larsen House, Courtyard Townhouses and Prospect Hill Apartments), where campus facilities do not dispose of their trash. Residents at the start of the school year were provided with a small container for compost waste. Residents are to then dump these containers in bins located near the trash bins outside of the independent housing complexes.

In trying to help out with disposing of compost from Independent Living and the nature of the smaller bins, Gaetjens has been helping move compost around campus.

“I am just picking up the compost with my golf cart,” Gaetjens said.

She hopes that in the future, the Eco-reps will be able to take the independent living’s compost. Currently, Gaetjens is testing out the bins to see how often they need to be picked up.

The reason for the sustainability center’s short term plans is because the city of Oakland has been receiving push back from many restaurants and other high compost creating businesses. As it currently stands, paying for compost in the city of Oakland through Waste Management is currently more than paying for garbage.

It is not just Mills College who is having to scramble for new composting ideas, as the San Francisco Chronicle reports. Many businesses and apartment complexes also had their compost bill spike anywhere from 300-600%.

Octavia Sun, Sustainability ASMC chair and Campanil reporter, said that a green fee is being reviewed. A small fee, approximately 15 percent per student, would be added to the fees students pay in their Mills bills. However, this is still in the planning process, according to Sun.

This new plan took affect on Aug 1. An emergency council meeting was called after restauranteurs went on strike on July 10 after hearing about the new contract on July 1. However, the city council decided to keep the contract with Waste Management as is. According to Gaetjens, the compost fees will hopefully be on the Sept. 17 meeting agenda.