The office buildings at 46 Blackstone Street, home to Harvard's UOS Department, began composting in March 2008. Small green buckets were placed in every kitchen and kitchenette to collect compostable wastes and composting will take place at all Blackstone barbecues.
What can I throw in the bin?
- ALL food waste (including grains, breads, meat, dairy, fruits, vegetables, tea bags, and coffee grinds)
- wooden coffee stirrers
- paper towels (white or brown)
- compostable containers (such as from Whole Foods)
What cannot go in the bin?
Please do not put tissues, plastics, paper plates, sugar packets, or paper coffee cups in the bins.
*** When in doubt, throw it out!***
It is very important that the organic waste is not contaminated with any plastics or non-biodegradable material, so if you are unsure as to whether something is compostable, please throw it in the trash!
What is the process for emptying the bins?
Our fabulous custodian will empty the bins when they are ¾ full or every Tuesday and Friday (whichever comes first). Bins also have charcoal activated filters and snap lids to minimize odors. The bins are lined with biodegradable bags (made of corn) that will break down at the compost facility. The bags are collected and put in the large compost bin outside by the trash.
Where does the compost go?
The compost goes to a local compost facility about 13 miles away. The waste is composted at a high temperature, allowing it to decompose in less than 10 months (and allowing us to compost meat and dairy products, which are not composted at home).
Why should we compost?
- Harvard’s trash is trucked to a landfill in South Carolina, over 800 miles away. Compost will be brought to a local compost facility, which is only 13 miles away.
- Composting supports two local businesses — the hauler and the compost facility.
- Composting breaks our waste down to a usable form of fertilizer; trash sits in a landfill and does not break down.
- Biodegradable material in a landfill breaks down anaerobically to form methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Composting lets waste break down naturally, releasing only CO2 a less potent greenhouse gas and part of the natural biodegradation cycle.
- Methane from landfilling food waste generates over 20 times as much greenhouse gases as composting.
Who else composts at Harvard?
Campus-wide, Harvard recovered 3,826 tons of organics for composting, representing 23% of our refuse stream in 2007!
Composting has been increasing at the University — most undergraduate dining halls and a few cafes run by Harvard University Dining Services have all begun or are beginning composting programs (including cafes at the GSD, HDS, and HSPH). HBS and HMS also have robust composting programs. Radcliffe composts in their offices and the Divinity School composts schoolwide.
The Herbaria and Arboretum both have on-site compost tumblers.
Does Harvard use compost?
Yes! Harvard Landscaping Services is working with the GSD and HGCI to test using compost tea (water that has filtered through compost) in Harvard Yard. Harvard Landscaping is buying compost from the same compost facility that we send our compost waste to- closing the circle!
Read more about this exciting program: Harvard Gazette article
Want to learn more or compost at home?
Note: most cities and towns offer reduced price home compost bins for about $25, the MA DEP composting website has a list of towns and contacts or call your town Department of Public Works.