Research into the Design and Development of a Campus Composting Facility

EPA Grant Number: SU835082
Title: Research into the Design and Development of a Campus Composting Facility
Investigators: Nagel, Robert L. , Ogundipe, Adebayo
Current Investigators: Nagel, Robert L. , Ogundipe, Adebayo , Heede, Connor , Cash, Jack , Graham, Kent , McCloud, Robert , Brooks, Tim
Institution: James Madison University
EPA Project Officer: Hahn, Intaek
Phase: I
Project Period: August 15, 2011 through August 14, 2012
Project Amount: $15,000
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2011) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Sustainable and Healthy Communities , P3 Awards , Sustainable and Healthy Communities


Implementation of an on-campus composting reactor will promote the environmental, economic, and social sustainability of James Madison University (JMU) and the Harrisonburg community. JMU currently has a composting arrangement with a third party company that collects the food waste generated at one of the dining halls and transports it for composting to a farm two hours from campus. Food waste from the remaining dining halls are sent to a landfill. In the landfill, anaerobic decomposition of the decaying organic material releases methane; transportation of the food waste to the third party farm generates carbon dioxide emissions from the combustion of fossil fuels. It is anticipated that an on-campus composting system will eliminate these sources of emissions and environmental impact as well as provide the Harrisonburg community with a local source of quality humus for landscaping, gardening, and agricultural applications.


The objective of this project is to provide JMU with a sustainable means of recycling food waste from the dining halls as well as lawn debris generated by the grounds crews. This will be done by designing and constructing an aerobic composting reactor and developing plans for a full scale composting system on the JMU campus.


The objective of this project will be achieved by a team of undergraduate general engineering students in the School of Engineering at JMU. The student team will be supervised by two School of Engineering faculty members—one with expertise in chemical processes and life cycle assessment and the other with expertise in engineering design and mechanical systems. The project will follow an engineering design process and to ensure an optimal final product within the shortest possible decomposition time, the student team will design and perform experiments on recipes for the initial feedstock.

Expected Results:

There are two expected results from this project. (1) The expected physical deliverable is a fully functional prototype of an aerobic composting reactor to demonstrate the feasibility of on campus composting. This physical prototype will be used to deliver an experiential learning experience for students in engineering courses at JMU. (2) To accompany the prototype, a proposal for full scale implementation will be prepared and presented to the JMU Administration, School of Engineering faculty, and the Facility Management Department. This proposal will include a cost-benefit analysis, a sustainability analysis including life cycle assessment, and the engineering documentation to construct a full-size system.

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this project: View all 2 publications for this project

Supplemental Keywords:

green engineering, sustainable design, industrial composting

Progress and Final Reports:

  • Final Report