Vermiculture at Rhodes

Clang! You slam your plastic tray with the half-eaten remainders of Braised-Tenderised into the holder and leave the dining hall without a backward glance.

What is left on your plate is no longer your concern and how it will be discarded isn’t either.

Rhodes University usually prides itself on being exceptionally environmentally friendly.

This is most adeptly seen with the various societies around campus who attempt to promote Green Peace like RUEC (Rhodes University Environmental Committee) and RUGF (Rhodes University Green Fund).

The latter of the two states that it “aims to stimulate learning and practice in environmental sustainability so as to make Rhodes University and Grahamstown a model sustainable town in Southern Africa.”

Out of the twelve dining halls at Rhodes, only Nelson Mandela Hall supplies worm farms with some of their food waste for composting.

These worm farms are located and taken care of in and by the Grounds and Gardens Services who also offer to mow your lawns, weed and care for your garden, trim your hedges, and so forth.

Brett Sutherland, a past Rhodes student who won the Environmental Award in 2012 proposed that biodegradable food waste such as egg shells, vegetable peelings and other scraps should be composted. It was due to his passion and love for the environment that saw this idea brought to life.

Vermiculture, as it is more formally referred involves the worms Eisenia fetida or commonly known as the ‘red wriggler’ ingesting wasted food scraps and then excreting the nutrient-enriched compost.

This ‘vermitea’ can then be poured onto your other garden plants which will thrive with the added minerals.

Chelsea Idensohn the SRC Environmental Representative for 2015 maintained that she had plans on implementing a way for food to be properly disposed of in dining halls,

“Discussions have already been held and this is going to be a major project of mine next year, I would like to get as many res’s involved as I possibly can. My motives behind this are that first of all, it is an organic way of disposing of the vegetable scraps. Second of all the juices that are produced by these worms can be used as compost so that res’s can start their own veggie gardens and use it.”

Usually the other wasted dining hall food is dropped off at pig farms but is this the most environmental way of disposing of it?

Also what about the leftovers? Should it not be given to homeless children on the streets? Grahamstown is well known for its beggars especially on High Street and more often than not they plead for food.

Allan Mlambo, a SRC Hall Representative Candidate for 2015 and member of ENACTUS (now known as SIFE) voices his opinion on what problems he believes this would incur.

“The university is the economy of Grahamstown but it cannot sustain everyone. Why is there leftover food in the first place? Student meals are automatically booked and then they don’t pitch.”

He went on to explain that while he believes it is the university’s problem to get rid of the waste in an environmental fashion at the same time students should “know beforehand whether or not they’re coming”

Whether or not Rhodes will execute a more eco-friendly and green way of disposing waste food will only be seen in the future. Until then, it’s up to our prerogative and own initiative to do what we can to help save our planet.


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