Published: Sept. 13, 2022
person working in garden bed

Putting compostable items in the compost bin instead of the trash can is one of the easiest and most effective first steps you can take to reduce greenhouse gas emissions—specifically methane, which is generated when our food and yard waste is landfilled.

Composting also produces a nutrient-rich soil amendment that restores farmland and promotes sustainable agriculture. However, when we put items into our compost bin, we must make sure that what we put in is actually compostable in order to create compost that can be used by farmers and gardeners.

CU Boulder has been asked by the region’s primary composting facility, A1 Organics, to address what has become a significant challenge for their process—compost contaminated with non-compostable materials. Below are some composting tips to educate yourself on how you can help eliminate compost contamination in our community.

What you can compost

A good rule to start with is if it was recently alive, it can probably be composted. Common items you can compost on campus include food waste, compostable plastics and paper, paper towels, and napkins. For information on pieces you cannot compost, read this article from the city of Boulder.

When composting, do your best to avoid contamination. Make sure the item is labeled compostable or has the right symbol or identifier. Plastic-lined coffee cups and to-go food containers are not compostable. However, many places on campus—including the UMC Starbucks, dining centers, Alferd Packer Grill and The Bakery—provide compostable to-go items.

Where you can compost

All academic and administrative buildings on campus now have compost! Compost bins are mostly found in restrooms or next to recycling bins in buildings. Having compost in restrooms ensures it gets emptied daily.

Composting guidelines on campus are the same as in the city and county of Boulder (it all goes to the same place). If you live off campus in the city of Boulder, your landlord is required to provide you with composting services under the Universal Zero Waste Ordinance, so ask if you don’t have it.

If you’re unsure of whether or not an item is compostable, it’s safest to throw it out. Do your part by composting often and appropriately to ensure a healthier future.