Spotlight on Campus Composting and Recycling

Recycling and composting programs have long been major topics in the world of higher education. In the last decade, even more of an emphasis has been placed upon them, as schools try to find new ways to promote sustainability on campus. Sara Koziatek of St. Louis Composting/Total Organics Recycling has worked to promote recycling in the St. Louis, MO, metro area for over five years and has watched colleges and universities work to make their recycling and composting programs more efficient.

Sara spoke recently with College Planning & Management about the benefits of recycling on campus, how to get students involved, and other topics.

Q. What are some recycling/composting innovations that are being introduced on modern college campuses?

A. Not necessarily an innovation, but what is becoming increasingly common is that campuses across the country are switching their service ware to certified compostable. These certifications include CMA, ASTM, and BPI*. With these certifications, it is easier for students and faculty to sort and decrease the potential for contamination to the composter.

  • *The Composting Manufacturing Alliance (CMA) certifies compostable feedstock and other products. More information is available at
  • The ASTM Composting Certification covers compostable plastic and plastic-based products. More information is available at
  • The Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) Certification helps to outline which food materials are naturally biodegradable. More information can be found at

Q. What are some challenges that are unique to colleges and universities when it comes to recycling and composting?

A. One of the main challenges that colleges and universities face is their ever-changing student body. Whereas you can train an office building and their turnover is minimal, universities get thousands of fresh faces every fall to educate and train on proper recycling and composting techniques.

Q. Are there any specific benefits campuses can enjoy when it comes to expanding their recycling and composting programs?

A. An advantage is that colleges and universities typically have extra land where they can compost or recycle on their campus. Schools are able to create their own composting and recycling operations to decrease their waste and educate their students on how they can also team up with a commercial composter to help properly dispose of those unwanted organics. Expanding their programs, if done properly and effectively, can decrease their trash costs as well.

Q. Is composting on a campus realistic? What are some considerations that should be taken when setting up a recycling or composting program?

A. Absolutely! The biggest consideration should be: “What will be actually going into the compost bin?” What type of material is the cafeteria currently serving food on? Any type of disposable service ware should be certified compostable to aid students and faculty in sorting, and having this type of service ware also helps lower the potential for contamination.