What is composting?

Composting is a process during which organic materials, such as carrot peels, onion skins or even that leftover pizza from Pizza Days, decompose into a rich soil. This soil is referred to as compost.

Many people have labeled composting as our earth’s oldest recycling system. This is because when these organic materials (such as carrot peels or onion skins) are allowed to decompose in a natural setting, the nutrients go into the soil and allow it to support the growth of new organic materials. By composting, we enrich the soil causing the food being grown to yield more, as well as to have a higher resistance to pests and disease. In a sense, composting is relying on nature to do what it has been doing for thousands of years instead of relying on temporary man-made solutions that often tend to lead to more problems down the road.

Learn more about composting by watching our recommended videos:

  • film by Joseph Cutrufo, presented in partnership with Tufts Recycles!, Tufts University Facilities Department, and the Office of Sustainability. Featuring Jeanne Eisenhaure, George Ellmore, John Fisher, Dawn Quirk, and Dallase Scott. Music by Hot Protestants.
  • The National Geographic’s complete guide to home composting is a comprehensive look at a local composting process.

Why compost?

Current statistics have organic materials (as in, food waste and yard waste) at approximately 30% of the waste stream. If everyone composted their kitchen and yard trimmings instead of throwing them in the trash, 30% less waste would end up in landfills, waterways and water treatment facilities. 

What we do and don’t compost at Tufts

We compost food waste and paper plates/napkins from special events upon request. We do not compost bioplastics, nor do we recommend them. The most relevant issue for Tufts with bioplastics are logistical problems caused by forks ripping liners, their high cost, and the composting facility’s difficulty composting them as fast as other organic matter. From a global perspective the  long term effects of mixing bioplastics in with soil that may be used to grow food is unknown. The philosophy of the Precautionary Principle in part guides our decision to avoid or minimize their use whenever possible.

Additionally, we support the Northeast Recycling Council’s policy against the use of degradable additives in plastic packaging, which can be found here:

For more information on the complexities of bioplastics, review this comprehensive look at bioplastics published in the Smithsonian Magazine:

Other Resources

The  Tufts Medford campus composts both food and yard waste, thanks to the cooperation and coordination of Tufts Dining Services, Tufts Facilities Department, Save that Stuff, Inc. and Herb’s Disposal.

Click here to learn about TUD’s program.
Click here to learn more about independent composting for offices and houses at Tufts. 
Click here for a How to Compost wall sign.
 Click here to read blog posts about composting.

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