A collage, students volunteers smiling and helping sort compost, enjoying food at a bbq served on compostable plates and giving the thumbs up with Sam the Minuteman, and an image of black gold compost fertilizing kale in a garden

UMass Amherst composts over 1,500 tons (3 million lbs) of food waste each year making composting the largest recycling stream on campus.

Where can I compost?

We are continuously reviewing and expanding the availability of compost bins across campus. 

Composting is available to residents in the Commonwealth Honors College this Fall 2020.

In Spring 2020 semester, composting became available to all residents in the Orchard Hill residential area as part of a pilot program. Residents were hired as "Compost Ambassadors" for a short time before the campus closed in March due to COVID-19 precautions. Responsibilities included daily monitoring of the compost waste bins, answering questions their peers in the building had about the program, and helping the Sustainability Coordinator in Res-Life develop programming and outreach.

In 2015 a compost pilot program was initiated in North Apartment D. The positive results from the initial pilot program led to an expansion of the pilot program. 

What Can I Compost?

Because our compost is processed at Martin's Farm, we can accept items like meat and bones (which typically aren't composted in smaller-scale backyard composts).

Acceptable items:

  • Food waste of any kind – meat, bones, veggies, grains.. If it is (or was) edible, it’s compostable.
  • Coffee grounds/paper filters (not Kcups) and teabags (without staples)
  • Plants – Turn out your thumb isn’t as green as you thought? Compost your failed botany projects and wilted flower arrangements. Pro tip: plastic pots are not compostable or recyclable – reuse or trash.
  • Greasy pizza boxes (clean pizza boxes without grease/food residue can be recycled!)
  • Tissues, paper towels & napkins – brown or white, used tissues, paper towels, and napkins can be composted

Unacceptable materials:

  • Liquids – Never go in the compost (or recycling or trash). Please always pour off your liquids. Pro tip: if you can pour it, it’s considered a liquid.
  • Recyclables – Recyclables are NOT compostable. Please place recyclable items in the recycling bin. Learn more about what is accepted in our single-stream recycling bins.
  • Food packaging – Food packaging generally isn’t compostable. Think: chip bags, snack wrappers, plastic tubs, and the like… Maybe you didn’t make it through that whole case of Ramen? You can compost the noodles, but trash the plastic wrapper and flavor packet. Pro Tip: Unopened non-perishable foods can also be dropped off at New2U collection tents during move-out for donation, and can be donated to local food pantries.
  • UMass Dining to-go containers are NOT compostable this year, they are recyclable. Empty food out of your container before recycling it. Food waste goes in the compost bin. If it isn't empty, it's trash. More information about recycling to go containers is on the UMass Dining website.

 empty food out of your container, food waste goes in compost, it doesn't have to be clean just empty, if it isn't empty it's trash.

Recycling helps your planet! Clear plastic take-out containers are recyclable. What you need to know: empty food out of your container, food waste goes in compost, it doesn't have to be clean just empty, if it isn't empty it's trash. 

 Composting helps your planet! Compost food waste only.

Composting helps your planet! Compost food waste only.

 Recycling helps your planet! Recycle empty containers.

Recycling helps your planet! Recycle empty containers. 

 Landfill is the last resort. If you can't compost it or recycle it, trash it!

Landfill is the last resort. If you can't compost it or recycle it, trash it!

Tons of waste composted and recycled in Fiscal Year 2016


 Misc, 395 Tons. Cardboard, 506 Tons. Single Stream Recyclables, 489 Tons. Metal, 416 Tons. Food Waste, 1,533 Tons. Electronics, 54 Tons. Other Organics, 785 Tons.

Waste Type Amount Recycled/Composted
Cardboard 506 Tons
Other Organics 785 Tons
Electronics 54 Tons
Food Waste 1,553 Tons
Metal 416 Tons
Single Stream 489 Tons
Miscellaneous 395 Tons


For more information on composting and recycling, visit the Office of Waste Management website.