Florida Group Learns to Compost Zoo ‘Doo’ at LSU AgCenter School

Linda Benedict, Carney, Jr., William A.  |  6/2/2005 11:39:10 PM

What to do with zoo doo-doo was the dilemma facing officials at the Panama City, Fla., Zoo World until they found out about the LSU AgCenter’s Compost Facility Operator Training School.

Now they have a plan to recycle the zoo waste into safe, useful and nearly odor-free compost. This plan involves working with two other groups in Panama City, a local high school and Tyndall Air Force Base. Both groups sent representatives to the weeklong school this past May.

“This is the first time we’ve had high school students at the compost school and the first time we’ve worked with a zoo,” said Dr. Bill Carney, coordinator of the LSU AgCenter’s Callegari Environmental Center. He has been directing these workshops, which he puts on every spring and fall, since 1994.

Class size is limited to 25 because of the intensity of the activities. The participants learn the chemistry of combining waste substances rich in nitrogen and carbon to build and maintain compost piles, called windrows.

“I didn’t realize we’d be doing so much science,” said Andrea Colbert, 16, one of the high school students. All three of the students are juniors in an environmental science class. Their teacher Mike Sylvester could not attend because of his schedule.

Their high school, which includes about 1,200 students, has established several businesses, called the “Phoenix Project,” as part of its curriculum. One business to be run by the environmental science classes is a composting facility.

Coincidentally, officials at Zoo World wanted to start composting the waste, which they now have to bury, and Tyndall had plans to set up a compost facility to handle the waste generated by the 6,000 people who live there.

“The Air Force wants all the bases to set up composting facilities,” Carney said. “It’s just getting too expensive to haul off all that waste.”

The compost school is open to anyone wanting to learn composting on a large scale, Carney said. More information about the school can be obtained by contacting Carney at (225) 578-6998 or going to the LSU AgCenter’s website.

Linda Foster Benedict

(This article appeared in the summer 2001 issue of Louisiana Agriculture.)
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