If you have a grandparent who grows beautiful tomatoes, then you probably understand what compost is. You watched your grandparent save their coffee grounds, egg shells and vegetable peels and turn them into compost that enriched their vegetable garden.
MIT collects food waste from 22 locations with an average of 15 tons retrieved monthly. Since 2008, the amount of food waste collected has grown with an increase of 21.5 tons from 2014 to 2015. MIT’s Recycling Program received a Food Recovery Challenge Regional Achievement Certificate from the US EPA for those efforts.
Can it compost?
About five years ago MIT expanded beyond back of kitchen collection to include post-consumer locations, like the Forbes Café and the Stratton Student Center. The bins included not only food, but compostable plastics and paper that are designed to breakdown in a commercial composting facility.
After the Massachusetts Organic Waste Ban went into effect in October of 2014, compostable plastics and paper became an issue because they require a higher heat than food to decompose; without that heat, they take longer to breakdown. The farms who were taking PLA plastics and paper products no longer do.
As a result, Casella, MIT’s waste hauler, was forced to change their pick up policy and now requests food only in the Food Waste Bins. The Recycling Office is changing signage around campus and working with the Dining Office and student sustainability groups to promote the change.
Clean your plate
So for now, it’s food waste only; any other type of material found in food waste bins will cause contamination and the contents will be considered trash. It’s important to separate waste appropriately. Before putting an item in a blue recycling bin, please be sure to wipe them clean. If there is any food waste, that should go into a green food waste bin.