Steamy spaghetti and meat sauce, chicken nugget compost served up at PCHS


That's right, at this moment on the campus of Pearl City High School, mountains of food waste, wrapped under burlap bags, made up of tons of spaghetti and meat sauce, barbecued pork patties, chicken nuggets, pastrami sandwiches, corn chowder, along with green waste, worms, and billions of mirco-organisms are hard at work turning the above mentioned into possibly the most nutrient rich compost found on the island.

Residents got a chance to purchase, by the bucket, fresh compost for $10.00 at Pearl City High School's 100% Waste Recovery Program – PCHS Compost Sale held on campus on Saturday, June 28. The program is in its third year of working to take all green waste and food waste generated at the school and turning it into fresh compost (on campus) while diverting tons of organic waste from our landfills. This year, the program diverted an amazing 40 tons away from our landfills. The success is remarkable and will serve as the model for other schools to do the same.

Environmentally, the 100% Waste Recovery Program is also studying the effects the program has on diverting methane from the atmosphere by recovering all the nutrients from organic waste and turning into compost.

Mindy Jaffe, owner, Waikiki Worm Company

“We’ve been here for three years, working towards this moment which was to reach our goal of 100% diversion of organic waste. So we’ve used all the green waste, that’s all the tree trimmings, all the grass, all the leaves, and all the food waste, everything that comes out of the school kitchen and cafeteria and we’ve made compost and other soil amendments like worm compost from those materials.

This year we did 40 tons. We diverted 40 tons from the landfill. This is first semester, this is 20 tons and we’re selling our first batch of what we call cafeteria compost. This is spaghetti and meat sauce, and you all remember barbecued pork patty, chicken nuggets, pastrami sandwich with corn chowder. If you went to public school on this island, you know exactly what’s in this compost because that’s what we made it out of. So instead of all that waste, we’ve got all this beautiful compost which we’re selling to our community. There are people coming from all over the island to pick up some Pearl City Compost today because it is so high quality, so valuable, and they all wish they could do this at their school. Right now, Pearl City High is the only one with a 100% waste reduction program. Our 100% Resource Recovery Program is recovering all the nutrients from the green waste and the food waste that’s generated. This is the first year we’ve done it 100% where we threw nothing away. The school used to fill three dumpsters a day, now they fill a half a dumpster a day. We have cut back their waste considerably, and this is a very easy thing to do. This is natural, nature at work. You learn how to do it, set it up, and let nature do her job."

Cyrus Howe, RISE Fellow, KUPU

“I’m working with Mindy on and off because I’m researching and developing food waste management. Actually, what she has here at Pearl City High School is a pretty unique model and it would work for schools and other institutions. The kind of research that I’m doing is funded by the EPA Clean Air Act and one of the things they’re interested in knowing is how much methane we’re diverting from the atmosphere by doing this. It’s really interesting to do the calculations and I have these in my excel spreadsheets, how many cubic meters and metric tons of methane, CH4 is produced by food waste and it’s an incredible amount. The fact that they’re incorporating the green waste as well is just phenomenal. To me, it’s just like miraculous that you can throw chicken nuggets in this, processed meat, and even sometimes American cheese and it turns into moist soil.

It’s a little bit of the worms, but it’s just micro-organisms and bacteria. I really didn’t understand it until Mindy explained it to me why it’s called hot compost? She lifted up the burlap sack that’s covering and it would be steaming hot in the middle of the afternoon. You stick your hand in it and it’s a 160 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s an oven in there because of all of the activity, all the energy that’s being generated by the micro-organisms.

Fran Butera,  Gardener-in-Chief,  Foodscapes Hawaii

“I’ve been a customer of Mindy’s for a long time. I buy vermicast from her and I’ve also bought worm composting systems. We a have a job on Tuesday that I’m going to use this vermicast for. We’re installing a garden down in Foster Village. And then I’m going to take a whole bunch of it home for myself, for my garden!”

It's a truly amazing program that's takes a lot of hard work to maintain while providing a healthier planet and "green" environment in which to live in.

Mahalo to Mindy, Fran, Cyrus, and Pearl City High School for providing the teamwork and venue for our community to benefit from in today's world and for future generations to come.

Photo by Barry Villamil | [email protected]

(L-R) Cyrus Howe, RISE Fellow, KUPU; Fran Butera, Gardener-in-Chief, Foodscapes Hawaii;  Mindy Jaffe,

owner, Waikiki Worm Company are pictured at the PCHS Compost Sale on Saturday, June 28, 2014.

Photo by Barry Villamil | [email protected]

It doesn't get any richer than this!

Photo by Barry Villamil | [email protected]

Mother Nature at work on the Pearl City High School campus.