Cornell University, NY Food Scrap Composting Program

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Cornell University, NY, US

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Type: Program

Status: Ongoing

Source File:


Food Scrap Composting is a project of the Farm Services Department in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Campus Life's Dining and Retail Services at Cornell University. The primary goal of the program is to reduce the cost of disposing of cafeteria food waste by diverting it from landfill disposal while producing a usable agricultural commodity. The program composts over 350 tons of pre- and post-consumer food waste annually.

Dining and Retail Services employees collect scraps in plastic barrels that are picked up daily by Farm Services employees using a pick-up truck with a sealed dump body. The scraps are mixed with agricultural compost material, and windrowed on a compacted gravel pad with a runoff collection pond. Farm Services is an enterprise department (meaning it must earn the funds it needs to operate) so it charges its customers a small fee (less than the cost of landfilling). This fee covers labor and equipment costs. No waste is accepted from off-campus, and all of the compost is used on Cornell's property.

While most of the material in the program is composted behind the scenes in the Dining Halls, Cornell Dining is experimenting with a post-consumer composting program in Trillium. They are purchasing compostable plates and take-out containers, and have a big yellow bin available for their patrons to use after they are done eating.

Beneficial Impacts of Program:

  • Reduced landfill tipping fees and hauling charges for cafeteria food waste.
  • Incorporating the food waste with the current Agricultural Composting program produces a higher quality product.
  • Over 350 tons annually of food scraps are being diverted from landfill disposal.
  • Compost can be used on farm fields in place of chemical fertilizers.
  • Farm Services soils are improved and enhanced by the addition of compost.
  • The site provides a working model for others interested in large scale composting.