Pepsi UF Sustainability Challenge focusing on compost education

February 25, 2015

Now through March 1, students are invited to submit ideas on how to educate Reitz Union patrons about the importance of post-consumer composting as part of the 2015 Pepsi UF Sustainability Challenge. Submissions will be vetted internally for feasibility and cost, and the top projects will then be presented for public voting. The winning idea will be funded and implemented through a grant from PepsiCo.

Composting is a significant part of the University of Florida’s Zero Waste initiative and has already been implemented on campus inside Ben Hill Griffin Stadium during home football games. Last year, both dining halls – Gator Corner and Fresh Food Co. – also began collecting pre- and post-consumer food scraps for compost.

Post-consumer compost collection is expected to begin at the Reitz Union by fall 2015, said Liz Storn, a program coordinator for the UF Office of Sustainability.

Patrons will need to be educated on how to sort their waste and food scraps into the appropriate bins to be recycled, composted or transported to the landfill, Storn said. To accomplish this, the 2015 Pepsi UF Sustainability Challenge will be dedicated solely to the consumer education component of this program.

"This year we picked one thing that we know we really want to do. We want to try to get all of that interest, enthusiasm and creativity focused on one thing, and that one thing is solving the educational component of post-consumer composting at the Reitz Union," said Megan Walker-Radtke, a program coordinator for the Office of Sustainability.      

The educational component is essential because people must know how to participate in a way that is effective and will reduce contamination, Walker-Radtke said.

"With composting, if there are too many contaminants, the waste will be sent to the landfill instead because those contaminants will prevent the material from degrading properly into usable compost," Walker-Radtke added.

Compost – or decomposed organic matter – can be used as a nutrient-rich soil amendment in place of fertilizers and pesticides, which provides numerous benefits to plants, agriculture and landscaping, while keeping unnecessary waste out of the landfill.

This year’s Pepsi UF Sustainability Challenge provides an opportunity to explore challenging behavior patterns and to find innovative solutions from people across campus, Walker-Radtke said.

"We really want something that is environment-specific," she said. "We know that that the Reitz Union is going to be its own animal, and we are hoping that students who go there will be able to help us solve this issue."

Submissions can be made by individuals or groups, and should consist of an essay that describes an idea that will effectively educate Reitz Union patrons on the importance and process of proper waste sorting for composting. Submissions will be judged by representatives from PepsiCo North America Beverages, the University of Florida Business Services, the UF Common Reading Program Committees and the UF Office of Sustainability.

Ideas will be judged on the content of the idea, why it needs to be executed and how it will be effective. Feasibility of the project on UF’s campus will also be considered. Public voting will take place from March 6 to April 17. For the complete rules and submission process, please visit