A University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point student’s internship at a local compost and soil company this summer turned into a way to help area restaurants and residents divert food waste from landfills.
Maya Desai of Wausau, a soil and waste resources major, heard about an internship with Hsu Growing Supply from Professor Rob Michitsch. Hsu’s has more than 20 years of experience as a leader in the composting industry, supplying organic-based and sustainable growing supplies as well as high quality composts and soil blends.
Desai’s job would be to start a food waste recycling program in the Wausau area where food is picked up at different residential or business locations so that it can be turned into compost.
She had the program up and running in a month by learning about how other companies across the nation had created similar programs. She learned about composting as well as marketing as she reached out to area businesses to interest them in the program.
“This internship provided an opportunity for me to directly benefit the community I grew up in,” said Desai. “I was able to make actual change in the community by diverting thousands of pounds of food waste from landfills to create compost.”’
The program offers two residential drop off spots, for which the public can purchase a compost bucket. Businesses are supplied with a five-gallon compost bucket and a rolling bucket that are replaced weekly. The compost created from the fruit and vegetable waste is then sold or donated.
Initially free, the program now has a pricing structure. The benefit to restaurants is that it cuts the cost of recycling and waste disposal.
A non-traditional student, Desai grew up in Wausau and has always had an interest in the environment. She interned at Monk Gardens and learned about careers in soil and waste resources while there. After taking Introduction to Soil and Water Resources with Professor Kyle Herrman at UW-Stevens Point, she knew the major was a good fit for her.
Desai, who has become a certified composter, plans on continuing her education with a master’s degree, and has been teaching composting clinics. She is excited to continue working on implementing organic and composting practices.
“Reducing food waste in landfills reduces the need for more landfills, which is less costly for everyone in the end,” she said.