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Compost is the product of a biological process during which naturally occurring aerobic (oxygen-requiring) microorganisms break down organic materials such as food waste into humus, a nutrient-rich material that can be used to improve soil quality. During the composting process, the microbes use inputs of oxygen, moisture and organics to generate heat, water vapor, and carbon dioxide as they transform organics into humus.
Composting at Harvard Today:
• Harvard recovers nearly 4,000 tons of compostables annually, including food scraps and landscape waste.
• Food scraps from nearly all food preparation facilities at Harvard are composted. Many University cafés also offer “front of the house” composting including the Hark here at the Law School, Chauhaus at the Graduate School of Design, Rockefeller Refectory at the Divinity School, the Greenhouse at the Science Center, the Barker Café, Sebastian’s at the School of Public Health and others.
• Compost is an essential component of Harvard’s Organic Landscaping efforts. Over the past several years, the Landscape Services team in the Facilities Maintenance Operations group (FMO) has been transitioning its maintenance programs from conventional to fully organic methods. Each year at the Facilities Maintenance Operations Compost Facility in the Arnold Arboretum, Landscape Services converts more than 500 tons of leaves, grass clippings, tree branches, and other landscape waste and reintroduces it to the Harvard landscape in the form of compost, mulch and "compost teas" that suppress disease and deter pests. To learn more about our organic landscaping practices, visit http://www.uos.harvard.edu/fmo/landscape/organiclandscaping/.
Composting occurs in 3 ways at HLS:
|Building||Bin Location||Building Captain|
|Hauser||4th floor kitchen||Eleanor Toppingemail@example.com|
|125 Mt Auburn||2nd floor lounge||Carla Gannonfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|23 Everett St||Kitchen - room 205||Open - email email@example.com if you would like to become a captain for 23 Everett Stfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Austin||1st floor coffee station||Carrie Ayersemail@example.com|
|Areeda||Staff lounge||Karen Thomasfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Griswold||3rd floor lounge||Alyssa Laryemail@example.com|
|Lewis||Ground floor lounge||Diane Longfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Pound||3rd floor lounge||Pete Melishemail@example.com|
|Story||3rd floor||Trisha Kingsburyfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Dane||1st floor kitchen||Katy Yangemail@example.com|
|Ames||3rd floor kitchen||Amrit Dhirfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|North||1st floor lounge||Laura Wolfemail@example.com|
|Shaw||2nd floor kitchen||Katy Yangfirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Holmes||1st floor - Facilities||Amrit Dhiremail@example.com|
|1637 Mass Ave||1st floor - trash room||Laura Wolffirstname.lastname@example.org|
|Baker Hall (5 Mellen St)||1st floor kitchen||Laura Wolfemail@example.com|
|Carriage House (3 Mellen St)||1st floor kitchen||Laura Wolffirstname.lastname@example.org|
Look for the green bins on campus!
• ALL food waste (including grains, breads, meat, bones, dairy, fruit peels and seeds, vegetables, tea bags and coffee grounds, paper filters)
• paper towels
• compostable coffee cup sleeves from the Hark
• compostable Greenware cups from the Hark
• Compostable soup cups from the Hark
• compostable take-out containers from the Hark
• wood coffee stirrers and chopsticks
Soiled paper take-out food boxes
• Plants and leaves including houseplants and soil, yard waste and flowers
• Coffee cups and lids
• Soup lids from the Hark
• sugar packets (these are lined with plastic coating that does not biodegrade)
• plastic ketchup or similar single-serve dressing and sauce packets
• paper coffee cups not from the Hark (most coffee cups are lined with plastic)
• paper plates (most paper plates are lined with plastic)
• food wrappings (chips, cookies, etc.)
• plastic and metal
• used tissues
Why is it so important that the compost is not contaminated with ANY NON– BIODEGRADABLE waste?
Non-biodegradable waste does not break down during the composting process, and will result in contamination - like bits of plastic or metal – in the end product generated by the compost facility. In order to ensure the continuation of our building composting program, we must make sure our organic waste is uncontaminated so the compost facility will continue accepting it.
“When in doubt, throw it out!”
If you are unsure as to whether something is compostable, please throw it in the trash or recycle it; contamination is harmful.
What are “Compostable Products”?
The Hark offers biodegradable disposable service-ware that can be composted. These products (including cups, bowls and take-out clamshells) are made from renewable resources and will bio-degrade in the commercial composting environments. The products are not derived from petroleum but from plant materials including vegetable oils and starches and molded fibers such as bagasse (sugarcane) and grasses, etc. The lifecycle costs and emissions generated by the compostable products we use at the Hark are less than or equal to those of traditional recyclable disposable products.
In order for a product to be considered compostable, it must:
How can I tell if a service item is compostable?
See list below of compostable Harkness serviceware. Harvard uses BPI certification from the Biodegradeable Products Institute as our accepted standard for what is compostable, so look for the BPI logo (below) and/or check labeling - plastic made from bio-degradable plastic usually say “PLA” (which stands for poly-lactic acid), and/or “COMPOSTABLE” on the bottom. If you bring in a cup, plate, etc. from an outside vendor, it most likely is NOT bio-degradable and should be placed in the WASTE bin (even paper coffee cups and paper plates usually have a plastic lining, and are not compostable). Not sure if something is compostable? Contact the HLS Sustainability Coordinator at email@example.com or 617-384-6893.
TIP: Always purchase compostable plates and utensils certified by the Biodegradeable Products Institute (http://www.bpiworld.org/)
Compostable Serviceware Offerings at the Hark:
***Note—compostable containers are not intended to be used in the microwave, and do not hold up as well when heated.***
I am concerned about using a food source, such as corn, as packaging when there are so many global food shortages.
This is an incredibly complicated issue, and we don’t have an easy answer, but agree that this is a serious problem and should be addressed at all levels. For now we feel the positive waste reduction and greenhouse gas emissions reduction benefits outweigh the negatives from use of these biodegradable products, but will continue to learn about this issue and will consider all impacts of our choices for future decisions.
If you have space outside to keep a bin, check with your municipality to purchase a bin and for guidelines. If you don't have space outside, you can still compost inside, with vermicomposting (worms). See resources for composting options around HLS below.
The MassDEPs compost bin grant program began with a fiscal year 1993 pilot project in western Massachusetts. About 5,300 bins were distributed to residents of the region. A follow-up survey revealed that 92 pecent of the bins were in use one year later, and that people were putting out an average of 27 percent less garbage for disposal after they started composting. The MassDEPs compost bin grant program began with a fiscal year 1993 pilot project in western Massachusetts. About 5,300 bins were distributed to residents of the region. A follow-up survey revealed that 92 pecent of the bins were in use one year later, and that people were putting out an average of 27 percent less garbage for disposal after they started composting.
1. United States Composting Council: http://www.compostingcouncil.org/
2. EPA: http://www.epa.gov/wastes/conserve/rrr/composting/questions.htm
3. Boston Globe Magazine article: Municipal Composting in Boston?: http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/magazine/articles/2010/03/21/the_case_for_mandatory_composting/
Download printable compost guides here (and remember to print double-sided and only when necessary!).
One-page Fact Sheet
9 page Fact Sheet
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