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Campus Composting Program Lauded by State

University’s Efforts Cited as Leading Example

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Richard Lemoine, director of environmental and emergency management, gives Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner David Cash a tour of the university’s composting operations.

By Jill Gambon

Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection Commissioner David Cash lauded UMass Lowell’s food composting program as a prime example of an innovative solution for handling food waste. 

“Thank you for your leadership,” said Cash, who visited Fox Hall for a tour of the composting operation.

Cash’s visit coincided with the Oct. 1 introduction of new state regulations covering disposal of commercial food waste. Under the new rules, businesses and institutions that produce more than a ton of food waste per week cannot send the material to landfills. The ban, the most sweeping of its kind in the country, is intended to help the state reach its goal of cutting the waste stream by 30 percent by 2020. About 1,700 businesses and institutions, including supermarkets, colleges and universities, hotels, convention centers, hospitals and nursing homes, large restaurants, and food service and processing companies are subject to the ban.

“The food waste ban provides a win-win-win-win-win-win for residents and businesses in the Commonwealth,” Cash said. “It will reduce waste, save money on disposal costs, create renewable energy, cut emissions from fossil fuel use, produce a rich fertilizer for farm use, and grow jobs and stimulate the economy.”

The university launched its food composting program at Fox Hall’s University Dining Commons 15 months ago. The project was the result of a collaboration involving students, staff, Dining Services and Casella Waste Systems, the university’s solid waste contractor. Earlier this year, the composting program was expanded to all dining halls and food operations on campus.  During the first eight months of operations, an estimated 184,000 pounds of food waste was composted.

“The composting program is part of our efforts to be a leader in sustainability and energy conservation,” said Richard Lemoine, director of environmental and emergency management. “This is very important to the mission of the university.”

Cash and members of his staff toured operations at Fox Hall, where dining services collect and pulp food waste. Casella transports the material to a local farm for composting. Last spring, some of the nutrient-rich compost created from the food waste was brought back to campus for use in the community gardens on East Campus.

In addition to the composting program, the university has also launched an initiative to donate excess prepared food from campus dining operations to local non-profits.