By Used with permission from the Lowell Sun Online.
By DENISE MARCHIONDA
LOWELL -- Earth Day came a few days early for those participating in the latest partnership between the city and the University of Massachusetts Lowell.
The two groups' vericomposting project came to fruition yesterday, as city and university officials spread new compost onto the grounds outside the Tsongas Arena.
Mayor Eileen Donoghue and City Councilor Rita Mercier joined David Turcotte and Julie Villareal, program manager and assistant program manager at the Center for Family, Work and Community at UMass Lowell, spread the new compost, which was the result of a pilot program aimed at recycling food waste.
The compost was the result of work by "red wigglers," which are small worms used in composting bins. Food waste was collected from four city restaurants -- Cobblestones, Khemara, Park Caf and the Sugar Shack -- as well as from Aramark, the canteen company at UMass Lowell.
Next, the waste was stored in a composting bin to decompose. When it was ready, it was added to another bin with the worms, where they worked on making it into compost, a perfect fertilizer.
Turcotte said that this was an historic day for the compost project. Each participant shoveled some of the first-ever compost over the area at the front of the Arena to fertilize the shrubbery. Turcotte said that recycling efforts such as this should be viewed by not only an environmental standpoint, but as an economic one as well. Waste removal is an increasing concern and there is a growing industry in recovering organic waste.
The vericomposting project's goal is to develop a commercial business plan that can be sustained.
Donoghue said that the city is thankful to the university for leading the way in recycling efforts and contributing to the earth and the city.
"Thank you for teaching us and making the Arena a little greener," she said.
Mercier added that this exciting project was a great venture and that, "It is recycling in a positive and meaningful way."
Rich Lemoine, director of Environmental Health and Safety at UML, said that recycling efforts have grown tremendously during the past 11 years. He said it has tremendous benefits because it "is a closed-loop process where the waste is recycled and used on site."
For more information on the vericomposting project call the Center for Family, Work and Community at (978) 934-4677 or visit www.wormwoman.com.