Compostable Waste

Diverting food waste and compostable waste from other solid waste reduces Yale’s environmental impact. The Yale Sustainability Plan 2025 includes multiple goals that touch upon issues of food waste and diversion: Food Literacy and Resilience, Sustainable Catering, Targeted Waste Reduction, and Materials Outreach and Engagement. 

Since 2011, food waste has been collected from the residential college dining halls and a number of other locations on campus, including the conference center at West Campus, the Medical School cafeteria, the Divinity School cafeteria, and other facilities during special events. Paper towels from the Payne Whitney Gym Israel Fitness Center are also being collected for compost. In 2017, Yale’s diversion rate was 42%, including 16.5% composted. This diversion rate does not include construction and demolition material. 

See below for the list of compostable items Yale.

Acceptable Items

  • bread, pastries, pasta, rice, beans, and grains
  • fruits and vegetables
  • cheese, yogurt, eggs, egg shells
  • meat, poultry, seafood, bones
  • nuts, shells
  • condiments
  • coffee grounds
  • coffee filters
  • tea bags
Food Soiled Paper
  • paper towels
  • napkins
  • pizza boxes (non-waxy)
  • cardboard food containers (non-waxy)
Wood Products
  • coffee stirrers
  • chopsticks
  • toothpicks

Non-Acceptable Items

  • NO glass
  • NO plastic (including plastic wrap, plastic gloves)
  • NO metal / foil
  • NO Styrofoam
  • NO excessive liquids
  • NO hot liquids
  • NO K-cups
  • NO kitchen preparation gloves (latex, rubber, etc)
  • NO electronics
  • NO human waste
  • NO animal waste
  • NO waxy paper
  • NO large quantities of oil or grease
  • NO toxic materials (paints, solvents, pesticides, etc)

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Where is Yale’s trash taken?

A: Yale’s municipal solid waste (trash) is incinerated at the Wheelabrator Bridgeport waste-to-energy facility in Bridgeport, CT.  

Q: Where is Yale’s compostable waste taken?

A: Yale’s compostable waste is taken to the Quantum Biopower facility in Southington, CT. Quantum Biopower uses anaerobic  digestion technology.

Q: Why don’t we take our compost somewhere closer to Yale?

A: Yale has been investigating opportunities to compost our food waste on or near campus, either through the use of an anaerobic digester, which would also provide clean energy, or traditional windrow, or in-vessel composting. We are currently conducting a feasibility study and are in talks with a vendor who would supply the technology.

We are also aware of several other proposed facilities that are going through the permitting process with the State now and hope to be online within the next 18 months. We are confident that there will be more options in the not-so-distant future, given the recently passed legislation which mandates that all producers of more than 2 tons of food waste/week, who are located within 20 miles of a permitted food waste recycling facility, must bring their organic material to that facility.

Q: How much food waste does Yale produce and compost?

A: In 2013, Yale sent nearly 1,200 short tons (2,400,000 pounds) of compostable waste to the New Milford Farms compost facility, most of which were from Yale Dining establishments in undergraduate residential colleges. This compostable waste represented 16% of Yale’s total waste material (by weight) in 2013. A significant amount of additional food waste is generated and disposed of with other trash. In the future, Yale aims to divert more of this compostable waste from Yale’s total waste material.

Q: What does waste and compost disposal cost?

Yale pays $87.50/ton to dispose of trash at the New Haven Transfer Station as opposed to $60/ton to dispose of food waste at New Milford Farms.

Q: Do we use any of the compost produced at New Milford Farms?

A: We “close the loop” by purchasing more than 45 cubic yards of the finished compost from NMF in 2013 – a quantity we hope to surpass in 2014. This compost was applied with a top dresser to lawns on Science Hill and replaced the use of synthetic fertilizer.

Q: Why are we expanding compostable waste collection now?

To work towards the goal of 50% waste diversion by June 2016. Also, we are getting the process in place so that if we were to construct our own facility, or a new one should open more locally, we will be prepared to hit the ground running.