Seattle University, WA Pre-Consumer Food Waste Program

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Seattle University, WA, US

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Type: Program

Status: Launched in 1995

Source File:


Seattle University has been composting organic waste since 1995. The organic waste includes pre-consumer food waste (fruit and vegetable trimmings, old bread, expired grains, and coffee grounds) generated by on-campus restaurant kitchens.

Between 1995 and 2002, the organic waste was sent to Cedar Grove Compost in Maple Valley. In 2003, the university built its own compost facility as a result of seeking LEED certification for the Student Center. The Student Center received a LEED innovation point for building a compost facility. See the Student Center case study. A full time Recycling & Composting Technician position was also added to the staff.

The compost facility’s location in a large city makes it unique. Located just off-campus, adjacent to an apartment building and restaurants, in a neighborhood of homes and businesses, the facility has operated without issues.


Closes the recycling loop. In calendar year 2006, 17 tons of the campus’ pre-consumer food waste and 27 tons of chipped tree trimmings were composted and applied as a soil amendment on the planting beds to improve soil quality. In 2007, 25 tons of food waste was composted.

Reduces green house gas emissions because a truck no longer hauls food waste 24 miles to a compost facility nor returns to campus with compost

Produces top quality compost, better than SU could purchase commercially. Soil Food Web Inc., the company that tests SU’s compost quality, listed our compost sample on their website in 2004 as being top quality and made their “Best of 2004” list for microbial counts.


2008 Green Washington Award from Washington CEO Magazine for SU's sustainable landscape practices and pre-consumer food waste composting program

2007 Sustainability Innovator Award from the Sustainable Endowments Institute

2006 Outstanding Achievement in Organics Recycling Award from the Washington Organics Recycling Coalition

Compost Process

Bon Appétit kitchen staff collects pre-consumer food waste (food that has not been served). The Arrupe Jesuit residence also collects food waste in their kitchen.

Recycling Assistants pick up food waste and deliver it to the recycling and composting yard.

Feedstocks. The primary feedstocks used are: pre-consumer food waste, chipped landscaping waste from campus grounds and local landscaping companies. The landscape waste from campus grounds is chipped using a wood chipper. Chipped landscaping waste is stored adjacent to the Connolly parking lot and in the recycling and composting yard.

Mixing. The Recycling & Composting Technician mixes various amounts of the feedstocks together to achieve a proper balance of carbon and nitrogen in each batch of compost.

Composting and Curing. Once a batch of compost is loaded into the composting facility, it stays there until the entire bay has been filled. Once the bay is completely filled, the material composts for 1-2 months before it is moved to the curing bay, where it cures for an additional 1-2 months.

On-Campus Application. When a new batch of compost is complete, the Grounds Crew applies it on the planting beds as a mulch to improve soil quality.