Composting is an essential part of Harvard’s commitment to waste reduction. By composting food scraps, coffee grounds, landscape waste, and compostable products, the Harvard community helps to divert organic waste from landfills. 

By 2011, Harvard recovered more tons of organic waste for composting than it collected for recycling.

Pre and post-consumer composting occurs in all Undergraduate dining halls, and at major events such as Commencement. University Cafés, offices and Schools, and dorms and apartments may opt to implement compost programs in select areas or building or campus-wide.

Beginning in 2018, Harvard's compost is being sent by our vendor Save that Stuff to a innovative facility in Charlestown, MA where it is processed into a high-energy product that is eventually shipped to a local wastewater treatment plant in Lawrence, MA to produce energy in the form of methane gas. Learn more

What can be composted? 

All food waste
Coffee grounds
Tea bags
Wooden stirrers
Napkins and paper towels
All compostable products

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Composting in Harvard Yard

There is now composting in all freshman dorm rooms.

Here's how to compost in your room:

  1. Line the compost bin with a provided Biobag.
  2. Discard organic waste in the bin to keep it out of the landfill (see items listed on bin).
  3. Bring Compost from your suite to the compost bin located in the trash room.
  4. Obtain another Biobag bin liner from the trash room.

Landscape composting

Campus Services partners with the Arnold Arboretum to compost the majority of their landscape waste as part of the organic landscaping program. The landscape waste is transported to the Arboretum and then composted using a variety of recipes.

The finished product in the form of mature compost is applied as top dressing or in the form of compost teas.  Older compost is screened and used as soil amendments. The majority of Autumn leaf waste is ground with the wood chips that are accumulated during the dormant pruning season to produce approximately 200 yards of organic mulch which is applied during spring cleanups.

In-Vessel Composters and FOOD PULPER SYSTEMS

In 2012, Harvard Campus Services installed a BioGreen 360 in-vessel composter at Harvard Law School.  The unit receives 1,000 pounds of food scraps daily and through microbial activity and electric heat, evaporates and breaks down the scraps to about 100 pounds of sterile pellets.  To date, Harvard has been experimenting with adding the pellets to horticultural refuse to augment organic nutrients for use on campus soils.

Harvard University Dining Service and other caterers on campus have installed Somat food pulper systems which grind food scraps, flush them from kitchens and dishrooms, spin out 85% of the water for recycling and deposit the dried pulp into containers for compost collection.  This densifies and de-waters the food scraps, saving water and making compost collection more efficient.


On October 2014, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' ban on food waste went into effect for institutions that generate over one ton per week of organic (compostable) waste will need to have composting programs in place. This ban applies to many of Harvard's facilities and some events. For guidance on the ban visit the Environmental Health & Safety's Solid Waste webpage.

Additional Resources and Reading

Worm Composting Comes to Freshman Dorms
City of Cambridge Composting
City of Boston Composting