Compost Bin for Rotting School Newspapers That Nobody Reads Wins Award

Written by: Tommy Jung

Malkie remarked, “Print media may be dead, but composting is very much alive.”
Photo by Sharon Roth

Last Wednesday, two UCSD undergraduate students were awarded the American Climate Award for their research project “Yellowed Pages.” The project, according to research co-lead Jeffery Graham, is a student-based initiative that seeks to eliminate decaying, yellowed school newspapers that “nobody has bothered to read in the last 17 years.”

“I’m used to the putrid scent of Eucalyptus trees after the occasional rain,” said Graham. “However, last year, I noticed that there was a new smell. It was stronger. Piles upon piles of wet newspapers that were distributed nearly two months ago. For the three years I’ve been here, school publications have distributed physical copies of their newspapers in those racks, like the ones you see around Center Hall. The newspapers would sit for months at a time until the custodial staff would begrudgingly be forced to clean up the mess.”

“I originally wanted to use the newspaper as fuel for campfires down at the beach, you know, to keep homeless people warm,” explained research co-lead Sarah Malkie. “But we got strong community backlash from the residents living close to the beach. We even got a few death threats. Now, the Yellowed Pages is a thriving community compost program. The research team began cultivating vegetables such as turnip, beets, and radish with the compost.” “It’s terribly inefficient”, continued Graham, “but these campus newspapers just won’t stop printing physical newspapers. I don’t think anybody told them that nobody reads them.”

“We liked this project because of its symbolism,” claimed one of the judges from the American Climate Summit, who wished to be anonymous. “There’s something beautiful about taking something that nobody wants and turning it into something almost nobody wants. Also, nobody really recycles; any project that’s marginally better than dumping recyclables in landfill deserves an award.”

Graham and Sarah are planning to expand the Yellowed Pages to include campus posters that nobody bothers taking down, useless coupon books handed out on Library Walk, and paper straws. “We feel good about what we’re doing”, the duo stated. “At this rate, UC San Diego might even consider recycling.”

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