Food Waste Composting at YSU!

YSU only accepts food waste generated on campus, and our finished product is not for sale or available for donation. YSU Recycling is available to offer technical assistance regarding food waste composting. Tours of YSU's small operation are always available by appointment! The composting site is in operation year-round, however, we only accept food waste during the fall and spring semesters.


How did food waste composting begin on campus?

A waste audit was done at YSU on April 15, 2005, and it found that 35% of our waste stream consisted of food waste – particularly 312 pounds per day from Christman Dining Hall.

According to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), food waste comprises 15% of Ohio’s valuable landfill space. Although the materials will biodegrade in certain conditions, a landfill can restrict the degradation process and allow this material to persist for decades. However, certain food wastes do not ever have to enter into a landfill and can be put back into the earth naturally as compost – a nutrient-rich, soil enhancing material which is the end product of organic decomposition in a controlled environment.

It simply made sense to begin recovering food waste for composting since YSU already had a successful, aggressive recycling program. After meeting with University Administrators, researching composting methods, meeting with the Ohio EPA and filling out the proper paperwork, YSU began composting food waste at Christman Dining Hall late in the Fall semester of 2006. In 2012, with grant funding from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, YSU began composting at Dining Services locations in Kilcawley Center.

Since 2006, YSU has composted almost 100 tons worth of food scraps on campus!


How is Food Waste Composted on Campus?

Kitchen staff at Christman and Kilcawley Center sort and separate designated food waste in 32-gallon compost containers provided by YSU Recycling. Food waste is also collected at a local cafe and from a food lab in Cushwa.



By using finished compost for landscaping purposes, little or no chemical fertilizers are necessary. Chemical fertilizers can pollute the local environment by entering into streams as run-off, which can have affects on the surrounding community. Also, valuable landfill space is conserved, since composting diverts materials that otherwise should not enter into landfills. So YSU is protecting water quality and conserving landfill space while improving the nutrient content of the soil.



Although not all of the food waste is composted for various reasons (ex. meat, dairy products, and fats), much of the vegetable prep waste, post-consumer plate scrapings, and napkins or absorbent paper products are composted.



YSU uses the Earth Tub, manufactured by Green Mountain Technologies, Inc. It is an in-vessel composting system and was chosen due to it's size, design, and cost. The Earth Tub eliminates any odors associated with composting and keeps out vectors such as rodents which is important in an urban environment such as YSU. The Earth Tub has a 3 cubic yard capacity, and receives about 200 lbs of food waste per day from our dining hall. It is be emptied once a month and all materials leaving the vessel are transported to the curing area where it sits for about six months to one year. All finished compost is used by the Grounds Department in landscaping on campus. We currently have two Earth Tubs in operation on campus at our composting site.

Earth Tub on a patio

Earth tub extraction area

A pile of compost

Area for compost pile collection



Our first Earth Tub was purchased with money from the Mahoning County Recycling Initiatives grant offered by the Mahoning County Commissioners’ Reuse and Recycling Program. YSU Recycling received $4,200 – the highest amount awarded – to embark on this project. Supplemental financial support for student help (ex. separating compostable materials in the dining hall) is being offered through Support Services, who has been instrumental in supporting this project. Any other expenses will be paid through the Recycling Program’s current funds. Another grant for $4,200 was received in 2007 from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to help expand YSU’s composting program by constructing a curing area. In 2011, YSU received a $11,800 grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources to purchase a second Earth Tub, allowing us to recover and compost more food waste throughout the year.



According to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency and ODNR, YSU was the first University in Ohio to compost food waste. YSU paved the way with this innovative program aimed at reducing food waste generated in Christman Dining Hall, and we hope to set an example for other schools and local institutions and businesses that generated large amounts of food waste.



Local schools and other interested groups can take advantage of this opportunity to learn how composting works by visiting the University. To plan a visit, please contact the YSU Recycling Program.