Composting: Food Service Organics

In June of 2013, two environmental health students approached the University’s Sustainability Steering Committee about starting a composting program on campus. The committee agreed and immediately began working to make this happen. In July of 2013, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection announced new legislation which banned the disposal of organic food waste from commercial kitchens, like those at the university, with an effective date for July 2014. 

After collaboration with numerous university stakeholders, a successful composting program began at the start of the fall 2013 semester in the University Dining Commons at Fox Hall, our largest dining facility. In the dishwashing room of University Dining Commons, a pulper grinds food waste and napkins washed off of plates. As a result, this was an ideal location to pilot a composting program. In the first month, the university averaged around 450 pounds of ground waste each day. 

Earth to Earth Composting

Stakeholders at the university wanted to ensure that leftover food scraps would be used to create high-grade compost and not be fed to animals. Sending food scraps to be made to compost is called Earth-to-Earth composting. Through our partnership with Casella Waste Solutions, a local composting facility was identified to accept our food waste. The end-goal was to expand university-wide by the beginning of October of 2014, in time to meet the wants of students and requirements of new state legislation.

In March 2014, composting expanded to all residential dining halls and University Catering. As a result, composting now occurs at South Campus Dining Hall, the Inn and Conference Center Dining Hall and at the Tsongas Arena catering kitchen, in addition to Fox Hall. When school is in session approximately 5,500 pounds of compost is collected from all locations each week.

A portion of all the compost we generate is brought back to campus for use each year in the community garden to grow new food completing the farm to campus sustainability loop.

This food composting program is recognized as a sustainable model for higher education. The university will continue to measure its success.