That Doesn’t Go There!!! New Composting Guidelines begin on August 2016

Food scraps and napkins only...


Article and graphics by Felix Blanco ‘19, Biology Major, Student Outreach Coordinator

Imagine picking out plastic service-ware from a pile of compost scraps. Then separating plastic and paper cups and messy plates too from that pile. Processing contamination in compost scraps slows down the processing of compost, and compostables sent to the landfill can even cause detrimental climate effects like an increase in the amount of methane gas released to the atmosphere from landfills.

As Cornell students and faculty prepare to come back for a new exciting academic year, Cornell University and Tompkins County have come together to regulate composting guidelines to reduce contamination in compost bins.

On Thursday, August 18, 2016, compostable materials collected on Tompkins County will be defined as food scraps, paper towels, and napkins. Plastic and paper service-ware will no longer be accepted in compost bins. The goal of this change it to increase usable material in the composting process by decreasing contamination.

Does contamination slows down composting efforts?

Yes, data up until June 2016, shows that post-consumer compostable materials collected at Cornell Dining locations are regularly rejected and put into landfills at rates up to 50% because compost collections were contaminated with non-compost materials.

With these new, simpler guidelines, Cornellians will decrease the rejection levels of compost collected by Farm Services because we will decrease the high rates of contamination at those areas.

Not only do plastic and paper service-ware contaminate compost (because most are lined or coated with plastic), but also, if improperly placed in recycling bins, they contaminate recycling streams.

Cornell University and Tompkins County are hoping that these new guidelines can help our services effectively process compost and recycling material. However, it is up to the community to actively participate by following these guidelines.

Views expressed in News posts may not be those of Cornell University. No endorsement is implied.