campus aerial
The UMass System

How the UMass Composting System Works

Source Separation

This is the party that diverts and properly places acceptable biodegradable materials in collection bins or carts.  Within the dinning commons, this role is filled by the kitchen staff (pre-consumer food waste) and dish washing staff (post-consumer staff). In retail food/café locations, this role is served both by café staff and the customer – who must place their food waste and acceptable food packaging into specially designated toters or cluster compartments (photo below).  In those residence halls where outside composting facilities are provided (North Apartments or at student run snack bars such as Greenough, McNamara), it is the apartment occupants that must properly separate and deposit the compostable in the trash room - food waste toters.

Collection and Transport to Composting Sites

For campus landscape materials and farm wastes, there are both designated staff and specific arrangements for the separation and delivery of leaves, garden & greenhouse waste or animal bedding to the WRTF or (Martins Farm for some animal bedding). Approximately 1,000 tons per year of leaves, yard waste and animal bedding (manure & sawdust) are delivered to the WRTF or to Martins Farm for composting each year.  The animal bedding which is shipped to Martin Farms accelerates the food waste composting process and contributes to a richer compost product.  Leaves, yard waste, chipped brush and, once again – after a 3 year hiatus – some animal bedding from the Hadley Farm  - are all combined at the WRTF into large open air windrow for composting on a 12 month cycle. The 500-1,000 cubic yards/year of compost product (that was once sold –pre 2012) to the community) is applied by UMass Grounds staff into the campus landscape as a garden bed soil amendment or lawn top dressing.

For food waste and biodegradable service ware/take-out packaging from all sources on campus (see chart above),  the material is deposited, either in toters for collection and consolidation by a full-time 2 person food waste crew, or,  - in the case of Franklin DC and the Campus Center – in food waste compactors located at the facility loading docks.  At the WRTF, all food waste collected from 18 campus locations by the OWM food waste crew is consolidated into 12 ton compactor loads for 3 times per week shipment to Martins Farms. The Franklin DC and Campus Center food waste compactors are also shipped to Martin Farms at least weekly during the school year.

Processing (composting) and Marketing

For food waste and bio-degradables, this is Martins Farm’s role (described elsewhere).  Excluding collection labor costs, this system costs UMass approximately $45 per ton all told – as compared to approximately $75 per ton for transport and disposal of UMass trash.  Monetary value is generated from the production and use of compost – in the neighborhood of $45/ton. The contract with Martins Farm keeps the compost sale revenue with the farm – as a means of offsetting the substantial cost to Martins of processing food waste into a valuable commodity.

In the case of UMass’ produced leaf and yard waste compost, the UMass Grounds Dept. realizes avoided purchase costs (same $45/ton) from directing the compost back into campus landscape and horticultural uses.  This in-house composting of leaves and yard waste is estimated to cost UMass less than $30 per ton – easily offset by the $45/ton value of compost produced and used internally.