Composting at Tufts
Compost includes organic and biodegradable materials, such as food waste and fiber-based items, that will break down naturally under the right conditions.See below for more information about composting at Tufts.
According to the EPA, organic materials such as food waste and yard trimmings account for almost 30% of all municipal solid waste in the U.S. Much of this waste is currently sent to landfills, and handling it in a more sustainable manner by composting it can have a significant positive impact on the environment.
- Reduces food waste that ends up in landfills and water treatment facilities. Food waste releases methane, the most potent greenhouse gas contributing to climate change, in landfills.
- Creates nutrient-rich organic soils, which provide an alternative to artificial fertilizers. Grafton campus composts on site and other Tufts campuses send their compost to local area handlers, where it is turned into a rich soil. Some of it is also used to produce electricity by harnessing gases from organic decomposition.
- Makes your kitchen, apartment, or office space cleaner! Unpleasant odors in residential trash typically come from food items. By storing all your food and organic waste together instead of throwing it away, your trash can will be cleaner, smell better, and may not need to be emptied as often.
- It doesn't smell bad. As long as you make sure to empty it regularly, compost bins typically don't smell any more than normal trash cans. Some bins, such as those maintained by the Eco-Reps in campus dorms, include an activated carbon filter in the lid to help minimize any scents. If you're still worried about smelly compost, try storing your compost bin in the freezer to eliminate all odors, and make cleaning a breeze!
Compost includes organic and biodegradable materials, such as food waste and fiber-based items, that will break down naturally under the right conditions.
The Tufts compost system consists of dozens of outdoor compost toters, residence hall compost bins run by the Eco-Reps, compost infrastructure in the dining halls, and composting service at special events. Additionally, individual offices and apartments are encouraged to compost on their own.
Most food waste can be composted (with some important exceptions below) as well as some other organic materials.
Guidelines for the Medford/Somerville, SMFA, & Boston Health Sciences Campuses:
Compost from these three campuses is turned into agricultural pellets that can be used as organic fertilizer!
- Most food waste (except dairy and meat)
- Used napkins and paper towels (any color)
- Paper tea bags and coffee grounds with filters
- Greasy pizza boxes, paper bags, and other food-soiled paper/cardboard items (once food-soiled, these can no longer be recycled)
- Fiber-based paper plates (without a wax coating)
Do NOT Compost
- Dairy products
- Meat products
- Stickers on fruit and other produce
- Waxy paper items (e.g., takeout boxes and most paper plates)
- Any synthetic materials
- Bioplastics (even those with a BPI certification)*
*Bioplastics must be put in the landfill bins at Tufts. They are not conventionally recyclable.
Feel free to download a printable PDF version!
Public Bin Locations:
Medical Education building (4th floor, near microwave)
Medical Education building (4th floor, open space near food 4 thought cafe)
Dental school (2nd floor, student lounge - Haymarket)
For more information regarding indoor compost bins or to get involved, email firstname.lastname@example.org
- Main Atrium: Students, Faculty, and Staff can drop their compost off in the compost bin in the main atrium of the SMFA building.
- Dean's Suite Staff Kitchen: Staff and faculty can use the compost bin located in the staff kitchen of the Dean's Suite
If you live in a Residence Hall, you will have a compost bin in the main lobby. Contact your Eco-Rep to help locate your bin!
- Kindelvan Cafe
- JCC near Starbucks
- Campus Center near The Commons
Compost rules for the Grafton Campus differ from the other 3 campuses because composting happens on-site on the farm, whereas for other campuses, it is taken to an industrial compost facility.
- Fruits & Vegetables (make sure to take off the PLU sticker first)
- Tea bags and coffee grounds
- Fish bones & shellfish
- Dairy products
- Lawn clippings
Do NOT Compost
- Any bioplastics plates, cups, or utensils, even if labeled "compostable."
- Fish bones and shellfish
- BioBags/compostable bags
- Shredded paper
- Paper towels
- Large sticks or branches
Where to Drop Off Compost
Grafton campus faculty, staff, and students may independently collect their compost (at home or school/office) and drop it off at the dump truck parked near the Goat Barn 1/Amelia Peabody Pavilion. Information on what can and cannot be composted is posted on the sign by the dump truck. The farm staff empties this dump truck regularly.
Please download and follow the Grafton Campus Compost Guidelines if you are going to drop food scraps at the dump truck.
Please do not hesitate to contact the Grafton Sustainability Intern - email@example.com
DVM Student Class Compost
DVM students have compost buckets set up at each lecture hall to collect compostable waste generated during the day.
We are always looking for volunteers from the incoming class to manage compost for their class. If interested, contact GraftonGreenTeamAdmin@tufts.edu.
Public Compost Bin Locations
- Elm's Cafe
- Break-rooms in Foster's Animal Hospital
- Front desk at Foster's Animal Hospital
1) Get your coworkers on board
Tell your officemates your idea to start composting and get them on board. If there is any resistance, make sure to explain that all the organic material already goes in the trash and should not smell more than trash. Your office will empty the compost bin at least once a week, which will prevent smells. The lid will also block smells from getting out. Meat and dairy are not allowed in the bin to prevent pests and odors.
2) Register your office or department
Email firstname.lastname@example.org to register your office or department into the compost program and receive instructions. Once you register, your office will be featured on our "where to take your compost" page!
3) Get a compost bin and liners
- Purchase a small compost bin for the office
- Purchase biodegradable plastic compost liners for your bin. Here is an example from Amazon.
4) Post signage.
Place a compost sign over the bin so everyone knows what goes in it. Also place a checklist next to it that you or a colleague update each time you check or empty the bin so that people know it’s being taken care of. The checklist should have your name and email address on it so if there is an issue, people will know who to contact.
5) Create a schedule for emptying
Determine a compost bin emptying schedule. Will you be the one to check it daily, or will your office take turns checking the bin every day? Make sure to locate the compost toter nearest to your office and empty the compost there.
5) Spread the word
Let everyone in your office know the location of the compost bin and share your contact information as the first person of contact if there is a problem with the bin. Here is a compost checklist to print out that will help everyone keep track. Don't forget to print off our downloadable compost sign and put it above the bin!
6) Start composting!
A complete, up-to-date list of compost drop-off locations can be viewed through the Tufts Eco Map; navigate to your compost and select "compost toters" on the left-hand side.
Residence halls with assigned Eco-Reps have one or more large green compost bins, often located in the kitchen or another central space. This includes Posner (Boston campus), Beacon St. (SMFA campus), and most main Medford/Somerville residence halls.
If you are unsure where the compost bin in your residence hall is located, or to learn more about composting in your residence hall, contact your Eco-Rep! The Eco-Reps empty these bins regularly, and their efforts make residence hall composting possible.
If you live in an on-campus residence without an assigned Eco-Rep and would like to start your own bin, contact email@example.com to get set up.
For employees and students who live off-campus who would like to compost, there are many options depending on where you live.
Curbside Composting Services
If you are interested in a more hands-off approach. There are several companies in the greater Boston area that will pick up compost from your house.
- Bootstrap Compost: Bootstrap provides residential subscribers with a 5-gallon bucket, liner, and lid. Every week on the pickup day, they will pickup the bucket outside near the front entrance of your residence. They will then replace your bucket with a new, clean one.
- Garbage to Garden: Garbage to Garden has a curbside composting program that services Arlington, Somerville, Medford, and Belmont, MA. Once a week, they will collect your foodscraps and other compostables from the curb, and leave you with a clean bucket and a bag of compost upon request. There is a discount for Medford, MA residents.
- City Compost : City Compost will provide you with a kitchen container and a bucket. They will pick up your bucket outside on the morning of pickup day, and your bucket will be switched out with a new one.
- The City of Cambridge offers free curbside composting.
If a paid compost pick up or a backyard compost pile are not options for you, please get in touch with firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss other options.
Outdoor Drop-Off on Tufts Campuses
Students, faculty, and staff from all four campuses can bring compost from their homes to one of the outdoor composting drop-off locations.
Tufts University aims to reduce landfill waste by 3% each year. If you are planning to have an event on campus with food or drinks, you can help Tufts reach its' goal by having a Zero Waste Event! The Office of Sustainability provides pre-event and on-site assistance to ensure proper recycling and composting!
For more information, read our Organizer's Guide.
Once you are ready, email email@example.com, at least one month in advance, with the event date and time, venue, and menu.