Composting is a process through which organic materials, such as carrot peels, onion skins or even that leftover pizza from Pizza Days, decompose into a nutrient-rich soil. This soil is referred to as compost.
Many people have labeled composting as Earth’s oldest recycling system. This is because when organic materials like food scraps are allowed to decompose in a natural setting, their nutrients return to the soil, where they can be reused by plants and microorganisms. By composting, we create naturally rich soil in which crops can flourish. Many small farms use an internal compost system to reduce waste and decrease the need for artificial fertilizers, which are costly and can lead to a variety of environmental problems by interfering with the local nutrient cycle. In a farm setting, using compost as fertilizer requires more labor and effort, but is a sustainable alternative to agrochemicals.
Composting at Tufts
The Tufts compost system consists of dozens of outdoor compost toters, dorm compost bins run by the Eco-Reps, compost infrastructure in the dining halls, and composting service at special events. Additionally, individual offices and apartments are encouraged to compost on their own. The Tufts compost program accepts food waste, yard waste, and paper plates/napkins from events upon request. For more information on what materials can be composted, visit our Composting FAQ page.
We do not compost bioplastics, nor do we recommend them. They are typically expensive, and do not decompose as fast as true organic material. They cannot be recycled like other plastics, and they pose contamination threats if they are accidentally placed in the recycling. Additionally, the long term effects of mixing bioplastics in with soil that may be used to grow food are unknown. Thus, the philosophy of the Precautionary Principle guides our decision to avoid or minimize their use whenever possible. We support the Northeast Recycling Council’s policy against the use of degradable additives in plastic packaging. For more information on bioplastics and why we don’t recommend them, click here.