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Organic Waste Collection - Composting

Organic Material Soon Separated from Trash

As part of our commitment to sustainability and carbon neutrality, the university has a goal of sending zero waste to landfills and incinerators. Campus-wide organics collection will keep us on our road to zero waste.

What changes will be made?

Starting in January 2013, American University will be implementing campus-wide collection of organic waste. Facilities Management will place a new bin next to your existing landfill (trash) and recycling bins, somewhere in or near your kitchen. The new bin:

  • Is for collecting organic material for composting
  • Will be emptied by Housekeeping on a daily basis to prevent odor and pests

What is “Organic Material”?

Organic waste is anything that was once living (and not currently recycled), e.g. leftover food, paper sandwich wrappers, paper towels, greasy pizza boxes, and anything labeled "compostable" (cups, utensils, and containers). This organic waste is currently mixed with trash and sent to landfill, but through separation we can further reduce our waste footprint. The separated organic waste will be sent to a composting facility off-campus to become compost, a nutrient rich soil amendment. This sorting of organic waste will require a small change in behavior, but will help us get much closer to our overall goal of zero waste to landfill and incineration.

What happens to the organic waste?

The organic waste that is now collected was once being sent to a landfill. To further reduce our waste footprint, this waste is separated and sent to a composting facility off-campus to become compost. This is why we refer to this as organic waste collection, as the actually breakdown of organic waste happens elsewhere and not in these bins. Compost produced from organic waste is rich in nutrients and a great natural soil amendment. Compost is commonly used in farms, gardens, and landscaping.

Will You Be Piloting?

Collecting organic material isn't new – we collect it now but it is mixed in with your trash. Separating organic material from trash requires a small change in behavior and a change in housekeeping, so before we roll this out campus-wide, we will be piloting with a selected number of offices participating in the Green Office (GO!) program.

Will the bin smell?

Not any more than your existing bins. Organic material is already collected in your trash bins. Now this material will have a separate bin and will be collected every day. For any questions or concerns, please contact zerowaste@american.edu or 202-885-2351.

Does AU already separate organic material?

Yes. Food waste from the Terrace Dining Room and other campus eateries, as well as yard waste from campus grounds, are collected separately and sent to a compost facility. We collected 591 tons in 2011 alone! Implementing organics collection campus-wide will reduce the amount of campus waste sent to landfill significantly.

What can I put in my organic waste bin?

  • All pre-consumer and post-consumer food waste including: Dairy, deli, seafood, bread, frozen food, meat, bones, poultry, produce, egg shells, coffee grounds, tea bags
  • Wood-Based Products: e.g. Coffee Stirrers, chopsticks, toothpicks, cotton-tips
  • Wet/Soiled Paper: e.g. Waxy beverage cups, sandwich wrappers, placemats, coin wrappers, receipts. Note: Please recycle all dry, clean paper in the blue mixed paper recycling bin
  • Wet/Soiled Cardboard: e.g. Greasy pizza boxes, wet cardboard food containers
  • Paper-Based Materials: e.g. Egg-cartons, fruit trays, napkins, paper-towels, tissues, milk cartons
  • Labeled Compostable: e.g. Bags, cups, to-go containers, dishware, utensils

What should I not put in the organic waste bin?

  • Absolutely NO glass. It is so important to leave glass out of the organic waste bin because when this waste is sent to a composting facility, the glass can break and be incorporated into the compost. It is difficult to screen the glass out of the compost and can be a safety hazard. Glass can however be recycled in our green Plastic-Metal-Glass bin.
  • Plastic is not organic and does not degrade in the composting process. Plastic however can be recycled and our program accepts #1-7 plastics. Please recycle plastic products in the green Plastic-Metal-Glass bin.
  • Metal is also not organic and is not compostable. Please recycle your metal and aluminum in the green Plastic-Metal-Glass bin.
  • Batteries, Electronic waste, medical waste