Projects - Composting

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Zero Waste

Macalester College set a goal of achieving zero waste by 2020. Currently food waste from Café Mac is taken to a pig farmer for feed, but the rest of the food scraps and other materials can now be composted.

Why Compost?

Plastic does not go away in a landfill. Depending on the type of plastic and where it is, it could take hundreds to thousands of years to degrade. At a compost site, the same compostable silverware or cup takes from to 45 to 100 days to turn into compost.

At Macalester, most of our trash is incinerated, so the plastic dishware is burned, releasing toxic chemicals into the air. Composting will dramatically reduce the amount of this waste. According to a 2014 waste sort, 77% of the college’s trash could be recycled or composted!

Where Will our Compostable Material Go?

Composting can be done in the backyard, but backyard composting is not practical for Macalester due to our confined space and urban location.  At Macalester, we will contract with a hauler to take our compostable material to the Mulch Store in Empire Township.

How Can I Compost?

Starting in Summer 2013, compost bins have been available in all buildings.  Look for labeled compost bins in common areas of nonresidential buildings, kitchen spaces in dorms, and bathrooms with paper towel dispensers.
Compost Bin Expansion

What is Compostable at Macalester?

  • All food scraps
  • All non-recyclable paper products
    • Napkins, paper towels, tissues
    • Paper plates, cups and food containers
    • Paper milk and juice cartons
    • Paper bags and waxed paper (fast food wraps, etc.)
  • Coffee grounds, filters and tea bags
  • Pizza boxes
  • Compostable silverware and cups with the Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) logo

What is not compostable at Macalester?

Plastics of any kind (#1 through #7 plastics are recyclable), styrofoam, foil, condiment packets, chip bags and candy wrappers.

Where Do I Get Compostable Dishes?

Regular paper cups, plates, and napkins are already compostable. Silverware, however, needs to have a BPI logo, and is not as widely available.

Bon Appétit catering is committed to using compostable dishware, so if you cater with Bon Appetit, the dishware is all ready for the compost bin if you request it.

If you are not using Bon Appetit, then you need to find BPI certified compostable products. Macalester College can get state contract pricing through Litin Paper for compostable products. Contact Simon Hefty at 612-607-5704, , Once you order once, he will have your department p-card information and you can easily order again.

What is the Financial Impact of Composting?

Material sent to a landfill or incinerator is subject to a 75% tax in the State of Minnesota.  Compostable material sent to a commercial compost site is not taxed, so there is a financial benefit to composting.  In addition, the compostable dishware from the state contract through Litin Paper is cheaper than standard retail plastic silverware and dishes.

For further information, contact the Sustainability Office: or Suzanne Savanick Hansen, Macalester Sustainability Coordinator, , 651-696-6019.