Most Americans are now familiar with recycling and how it helps reduce the amount of waste we generate, but recycling alone is not enough to eliminate the impact of larger and larger human populations that produce and discard more and more each year especially because not all types of waste can be recycled. 21% of landfill waste in the US is actually made up of food, and yard waste accounts for another 9% (source and more information). The best way to reduce this contribution is through composting.
Composting is the act of turning organic waste, which includes food scraps and yard and landscaping trimmings into a soil-like product that can be used to aid plant growth and development. Certain plates, cups, utensils and other items can also be certified as compostable. There are several different methods of composting with each method being ideal for different situations and different material inputs, and there are also plenty of ways you can compost in your own home. The City of Santa Barbara and UCSB are also working to increase composting at the community and campus level, respectively.
For more information on composting at home or on-site, check out Department of Public Worms!
Composting at UCSB
UCSB has a robust composting infrastructure that is improving every day. We have programs in place that process compostable waste both on and off-site, to divert as much organic waste from the landfill as possible.
Big Belly Compost Bins
Anyone at UCSB can use one of our compost drop-off bins for food and compostable service ware products! We can accept a wide variety of organic waste because we send the bulk of this waste to a commercial composting facility in Santa Maria, Engel & Gray. Engel & Gray’s 90-day cycle (as opposed to the 45-day cycle some other facilities use) let’s us use compostable plates, utensils, and other items and be assured that they will completely break down. It also allows us to compost a wider variety of material– meat, dairy and oils are not a problem for a large-scale facility.
Composting at the Dining Commons and UCen
Housing and Residential Services Dining Commons and the UCen send the majority of their food waste off-site to Engle & Gray. Both departments compost all scraps from the kitchen (peels, stems, the parts that don’t make it onto your plate). The Dining Commons also compost all food waste left on your plate. The on-campus food vendors provide compostable ware such as plates, cups, and utensils, which can all go into the compost bins. A small amount of food waste from the Dining Commons is collected by the Department of Public Worms and composted at their on-site compost facility at UCSB.
Grounds to Grounds
Grounds to Grounds is another major on-site composting program. Facilities grounds staff collect buckets of used coffee grounds and filters from the campus cafes each day and add them straight into the campus landscaping beds where they break down quickly and add plenty of nitrogen to the soil! You may have heard that coffee grounds are too acidic to be used directly like this, but in reality almost all of the acid is washed out during the brewing process. This program composts about 20 tons of coffee grounds per year!
Indoor Composting Program
AS Recycling also manages an indoor composting program. We provide yellow bins with hinged lids to departments interested in diverting food waste in their office kitchens from the landfill. Any department who requests a bin will receive an informational composting presentation and a descriptive sign to accompany their bin. To request a compost bin for your office, click the button below.
We take multiple steps to ensure our bins are sanitary. We include a hinged black lid on our bins to reduce the chance of odors and flies. We also line the bins with bags and empty them three to five times per week. Please contact us with any questions or concerns!
What can go in the bin:
ALL food scraps, including meat, dairy, and oils
Compostable products, including all coffee cups and lids, to-go containers, utensils and cups purchased from most campus eateries. Many plastic-looking compostable items are marked with a recycling symbol with the number 7, and the abbreviation PLA.
Napkins, wet or soiled paper, etc.
What can’t go in the bin:
Plastic bags or containers– if you bring your compostables to the bin in a bag, please take the bag back with you
Milk or ice cream cartons
Paperboard (i.e. cereal boxes)
Metal, plastic, glass, styrofoam