Food Waste Diversion

A collage, students volunteers smiling and helping sort food waste, 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 diverts over 1,500 tons (3 million lbs) of food waste each year making food waste the largest recycling stream on campus.

Where can I compost?

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

Food Waste Diversion is available to residents in the Commonwealth Honors College this Spring 2021.

In Spring 2020 semester, food waste diversion became available to all residents in the Orchard Hill residential area as part of a pilot program. Residents were hired as "Food Waste Diversion Ambassadors" for a short time before the campus closed in March due to COVID-19 precautions. Responsibilities included daily monitoring of the food 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 food waste diversion 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 Divert from Trash?

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

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.