Carnegie Mellon University

Food Waste Composting

A food composting program began at Carnegie Mellon's University Center in October 2008. Over the years this program grew to include all campus dining locations, a few campus residences, and is available in campus offices.

Food waste generally makes up half of the materials that are diverted from the landfill. During the 2021-22 academic year, Carnegie Mellon composted 180.2 tons of food waste in partnership with the local commercial composting company, AgRecycle.

In general, any cooked or raw food waste (including meat and dairy, but excluding shells), pizza boxes, coffee grounds/filters, tea bags, lunch room paper bags/napkins/towels or uncoated paper plates can be composted. Items (such as utensils, cups, and lids) that are labeled as compostable or BPI Certified are the only plastics that can be composted.  A list of products is available at: The Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI)

Compstable items are also listed on the What Can be Recycled? page. 

The majority of items found in campus dining locations can be disposed of in the compost bins located around campus. Each location should have signage specific to the items served in that location.

Here is a general poster (pdf) available for you to download and print: Compostable Waste Collection Guidelines

After the introduction of food waste composting at many campus-wide events, departments around the campus have been enthusiastic about having a regular compost bin in the office. From November 2012 to January 2013, the Facilities Management Green Practices delivered food-waste composting bins across the campus. The compost collection sites are now available in many departmental kitchens and lunch rooms for easy access. 

To request a bin for your department's kitchenette, send an email to You will receive a bin and poster for your space. 

A representative would be happy to meet with office users to review campus composting practices. Contact Debbie at for more information.  

What do we do when the office compost bag is full?

Compost bins are lined with a certified compostable green bag and extra bags should be located in your department.  If the bag is full, replace it with a fresh bag. Remove it from the bin, tie a knot in it, and set it next to the bin. The custodial staff has been trained to remove compost food-waste on a routine schedule.