University of Oregon Food Services Composting Program

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Type: Program

Status: Ongoing

Source File:


Compost makes up an impressive amount of the waste stream. According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, yard debris comprises ~10.5%, food waste comprises ~ 6.6% and miscellaneous organics comprise ~6.7% by volume. In total compost comprises ~23.1% of the waste stream. The unique thing about compost is that it can be captured, processed by nature and turned into a beautiful soil amendment. Another unique thing about these materials is that they are dense and heavy and thus disposal per ton costs are notable. In reducing waste on a college campus, it is important to recognize the impact of these organic materials on the waste stream. Additionally, unlike other materials, they have a direct return in creating a usable soil amendment which saves money in campus and grounds costs. With all of the food waste and disposable/compostable materials generated at university food service areas, athletic events, conferences, outdoor concerts and festivals, composting is creating a new opportunity for Zero Waste on college campuses.

Composting at the UO
The UO composts:

  • All yard waste, leaves and branches. This material is managed in windrows and the finished product closes the loop by being used on the campus grounds in place of soil amendment. This saves money and resources while enhancing the overall process.
  • Pre-consumer food waste from prep food through an on-site Earth Tub composter. Food that is cooked and not served from the cafeterias, is collected by Food for Lane County which redistributes the food to folks in need.
  • Post-consumer food waste is not currently recovered due but Campus Recycling performs food waste audits which encourage people to reduce their waste by taking what they'll eat and going back for more.
  • Food waste audits also provide us with valuable information on amount of post-consumer food waste in order to better view possibilities for waste reduction in this area.
  • At the University of Oregon, reduced waste has been a new direction at all campus events that use disposables. Through precycling efforts with food vendors and food ware distributors, Campus Recycling has been able to compost plates, napkins, chopsticks,wax cups along with food waste at campus events. See our events recycling section for more information.

With the new movement on Zero Waste and large scale composting, the future looks bright for further reducing campus waste through composting beyond food waste (think of the possibilities!)