Composting / Food Services


Centralizing compostables in 20 yard dumpster for hauling to processor, cart lifter is essential.

According to the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, compost comprises a significant portion of the waste stream as follows: yard debris ~10.5%, food waste ~ 6.6% and miscellaneous organics ~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. These materials 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 organic materials on the waste stream. Composting organic materials has a direct return in creating a usable soil amendment which saves money in campus and grounds costs. Additionally, 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.

In 1999, a group of students worked with the local forest products company, to test what type of food ware could be composted. Paper plates and napkins are inherently compostable and thus the group identified which items could be acceptable for campus events composting. The Recycling Program then entered into a test mode with the Rexius Forest Products, to develop a compostables waste recovery. Zero waste events was created and all of the events from then on, have been geared towards zero waste. As a result, the City and County took this on and created a zero waste events plan for all local events and festivals.

In 2008, the Recycling Program finally was able to expand this to the Student Union and Campus Cafes. The program started with a pilot project that was finally launched because the campus food service areas, took the initiative to purchase and use biodegradable food ware including paper plates and napkins. After several months the program became permanent and several more sites were added on campus including; Moss Street Childcare Center, Hamilton Dining area, Dux Bistro, Bean Kitchen and Carson Kitchen.

The Students at the University of Oregon, funded the infrastructure for this program and thus all composting and zero waste services are free at all student fee funded areas. The UO Zero Waste Program charges $5 per pick-up for non-student fee funded areas. Pre-consumer food waste is collected in all Housing, catering, student union and campus cafe kitchens. The Program has an Earth tub that was donated that collects a minimum amount of food waste that is converted to soil and used at the campus Urban Farm. The Urban Farm is a campus farm that is managed through a year round class. Additionally, Campus Catering now offers compostables in lieu of disposables. If departments want to recycle and compost at campus events, it is an extra charge and the customer has to know to order and pay for these services through the UO Zero Waste Program.

Pre and post-consumer waste is serviced five days a week with 35 gallon roll carts and a step van with a lift gate. The full roll carts are taken to a 20yd dumpster with rolling lid at Facilities Services parking lot. The roll carts are dumped into the dumpster using a roll cart lifter. When the dumpster is full it is hauled to Rexius Forest By-Products, a local commercial composter, where the material will be turned into soil amendment.

What is composted at the UO

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, the UO Zero Waste Program has been able to compost plates, napkins, chopsticks, wax cups along with food waste at campus events. See Zero Waste events recycling.

The Earth Tub

Signs for Campus compostables and Zero Waste Events

Food vendor bucket labels

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