The De La Guerra dining commons will soon initiate a program that will turn discarded food, paper, plastics and other wastes into rich soil.

Teaming up with MarBorg Industries – a waste facility located in downtown Santa Barbara – the 120-day compost pilot program will move all food waste produced at the DLG to a giant compost compactor and transport it downtown.

According to Ron Cortez, associate vice chancellor of administrative services, the project will serve as a test trial and allow the campus to judge whether or not to create a more comprehensive program and expand the compost machines to the other dining commons.

Cortez said the program has the potential to be advantageous in several ways.

“The biggest benefit is the environment,” Cortez said. “We will be cutting down on waste with this program and putting it towards such things as landscaping. It’ll also save the campus money in a sense that we’ll no longer be transferring waste in garbage trucks.”

Once transported downtown, the organic material will be processed with other green waste, such as yard clippings, branches or wood chips, and transformed into a rich soil additive to be used on campus or sent to farmers that produce many of the vegetables used at the dinning commons. In the future, Cortez said, the compost could be used to create such things as plastics and dining plates, rather than just soil.

Cortez said the success of the program depends on the ability of the campus to execute the compost program properly and cost efficiently.

“First thing we’re going to judge is the success of the project in general; whether we’re composting the waste efficiently without any problems such as odors,” Cortez said. “Secondly, we’ll be monitoring the overall cost of the project. Lastly we’ll see if it can be expanded elsewhere on campus.”

Mark Rousseau, energy and environmental manager for Housing and Residential Services, said he hopes the pilot program will spur a communitywide compost program.

“If we take what MarBorg creates, and we either bring it back here, or MarBorg takes it to farmers, who use it to grow products that we then buy for UCSB, it becomes a big loop,” Rousseau said, in a press release. “That would be kind of nice, if we can find partners to help us make this into a loop.”

Marc Palanca, a first-year film studies major and current employee of the DLG, said the compost compactor was previously reserved for scraps before being promoted to a catchall receptacle.

“We collect the leftover food from students, toss it all into these green barrels, and then take it out back and feed it to the machine,” Palanca said. “The machine was formally used for extra vegetables that the cooks couldn’t use. Now we throw everything in there, no matter what kind of trash it is. It’s good to see the campus using all of our resources to their advantages.”