Food and Compostable Material Collection and Composting on Campus

Food and Compostable Material Collection and Composting

Stanford University began food and compostable material collection in January 2003. Currently, all dining halls and graduate and student managed housing on campus, 17 cafès/restaurants, medical school kitchens, faculty-staff housing, 2 elementary schools, and 2 nursery school have food and compostable material collection service. In addition campus departments and buildings have two option for service.  We are currently diverting about 140 tons or 280,000 pounds of food scraps and compostable material per month. We continue to focus on improving the collection of compostables at cafés, special events, and office/breakrooms on campus. Yard trimmings, wood, brush, and horse manure are a part of Stanford's full Composting and Organics Program.

Why Collect and Compost Food Waste?

Waste audits from campus buildings and events reveal that 31% of the trash Stanford sends to the landfill is food, napkins and compostables plastic material. In the landfill, anaerobic decay of food waste releases methane with 23 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide. Composting greatly reduces these emissions. Of course, the best way to reduce organic trash is to avoid producing waste in the first place. The hierarchy that we follow when dealing with excess food is first to reduce the amount of food being served so less food waste is generated. Next we feed the excess to people, if possible, then to animals. Once we have tried to reduce and reuse the food waste, then we compost it.

Benefits of Composting Food Waste

There are many benefits to composting food waste including making a valuable soil product that will add biodiversity and structure to the soil to increase the health and yield of the soil, avoiding disposal fees at the landfill, helping to meet waste reduction goals, and sustaining local recycling infrastructures. Most importantly, removing organic material from the landfill reduces the amount of methane that a landfill produces. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 23 times more efficient than carbon dioxide at trapping heat in the earth’s atmosphere.

Zero Tolerance for Contamination

Our compost facility has zero tolerance for contamination in the food waste; there cannot be any non-compostable items in the food/compost material that we bring to them. We do not sort through the compostable material, it is hauled directly to the compost facility. Therefore, we have special requirements for this service.

What is Compostable?

See our labels and flyers and Zero Waste Flyer for what is considered compostable in our program.

Also, check out our Compostable Serviceware Guide for help in choosing the correct compostable plates, utensils, and cups.

How Do I Get Started?

Where you live or work on campus will determine if you have access to compost collection bins.


Interior Composting Program

Building and departments have two choices

1) Voluntary Compostables Collection Program. This program provides one small kitchen compost bucket to an office and that office finds volunteers to monitor, empty the bin in the nearest outdoor compostables collection bin and keep the bin clean.  Liners are not provided but can be purchased via SmartMart. 

There are currently compostable collection bins in the dumpster enclosure at the following buildings: ESF, Pine Hall, Medical School Loading Dock, Clark Center, Cantor Arts Center, Bing Concert Hall, Lathrop, Montag, Knight Management Center, Cubberly, CERAS, Law School, Bookstore, Tresidder, Haas Center, Bechtel, Building 02-500, Math Corner, Lane History Corner, Pigott Hall, Mitchell, Y2E2, Varian, and Spikler.
Map of Food and Compostable Materials Collection Bins

2) Customer Funded Compostables Collection Program. This program requires a department to submit a blanket work order to PSSI/Stanford Recycling to provide a 16 gallon rectangular shaped compostables collection bni, compostable liners, and a minimum collection service of three times per week, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at designated locations.  The cost of this program is $52/month per collection site.  Price subject to change.

Be sure to replace all purchases of disposable serviceware wtih certified copmostable serviceware.  See "Compostable Break Room Supplies" shopping list at OfficeMax in SmartMart.

For more information on these two programs, please see the flyer:

How To Set Up An Interior Composting Program

Cafe Composting Program

There are over 30 cafés/restaurants/eateries on campus and half of them are collecting food scraps for composting and providing compost opportunities for their customers. Check out the requirements for the Café Composting Program and contact PSSI/Stanford Recycling if you have questions or want to get started.

How To Set Up a Cafe Composting Program


Graduate Housing and Student Managed Houses Composting Program

Escondido Village, Rains, Munger, Lyman, and Mirrielees residents as well as residents that live in Student Managed Houses have a 64 gallon brown, wheeled food and compostable material collection cart in each dumpster enclosure.

Map of the Food and Compostable Materials Collection Bins in Housing 

Dining Halls

All Dining Halls on campus have access to food and compostable materials dumpster.

Special Events

If you are serving food at your event and have ordered BPI certified compostable serviceware, you can order compost bins for your event.

Faculty/Staff Housing - Single Family Homes

Residents living in single family homes on campus may place food scraps and food-soiled paper in their yard trimmings cart.

Medical School Kitchens

Kitchens and/or breakrooms in the medical school have compost bins. For more information visit:


SLAC currently collects food and compostable materials at the following buildings: Building 028, 901, 950, 999, 750, 052, 299, 027, and the Stanford Guest House. See for more information on SLAC's recycling and composting program.

Nursery and Elementary School Composting

Escondido and Nixon Elementary collect food leftovers at lunchtime for composting. Bing Nursery and Rainbow School compost their food scraps and paper towels as well.