Off-Campus Compost Collection Pilot Program

Off-Campus Compost Collection Pilot Program

Ben Porter, Staff Writer

Macalester’s off-campus compost collection program is an initiative that was recently conceived, researched and is now being implemented by sustainability student workers. The goal of the program is to go to off-campus student housing within two miles of Macalester and pick up their compost each week. Amy Damon, the acting director of sustainability and a professor of economics and Latin American studies, assisted the student-led pilot program with the logistics of the program.

“We just want to encourage off-campus students to compost,” Jane Dawson ’25, the sustainability student worker heading up the program, said. “I think [composting] is difficult if you’re living in an apartment and if you don’t want to bring your compost to campus. Hopefully, this will encourage off-campus students.”

Off-campus students were already able to bring their compost to campus and drop it off in a bin behind the George Draper Dayton Residence Hall, but students rarely utilize this service. Sustainability started their research into an off-campus composting solution by sending out several polls to gauge interest. These polls came back overwhelmingly positive, with over one hundred responses expressing interest in a composting program, according to Dawson.

“Since these responses, we’ve just been working on collecting all of the components of such a program,” Dawson said. “We’re going to start with it being a pilot program of 29 households, which reaches over 90 students, and do that for the rest of the semester. If it’s successful, then hopefully it’ll be offered to the rest of the student body.”

The pilot program will map a route for the houses and send sustainability office employees on trailered bikes to collect compost each Tuesday.

“We really are in the proof-of-concept phase to understand what kinks and barriers there are so that we can address and understand [the issues] before we think about scaling up the program,” Damon said.

The sustainability office will offer participants in the pilot program free compostable bags. Eventually, students will have to cover the cost of compostable bags, which sustainability would buy in bulk and then sell at cost. The pick-up service the sustainability employees are providing would continue at no cost. 

The sustainability department stresses that this program can only be successful if students put their compost outside by the agreed-upon time and make sure it’s reasonably secured for student workers to carry.

“The pilot program is to get people in the habit of thinking about the kinds of things they can compost,” Damon said. “In addition, all of the participants are receiving with their compost bags some information about what is appropriate to compost.”

In step with Macalester’s ongoing goal of becoming zero-waste, one way that students can contribute to this goal is by becoming mindful of this personal composting.

“Separating your compost from your garbage is an important step towards not just reducing solid waste but also reducing the gases produced as organics break down in a landfill,” Damon said. “Composting is also a pretty concrete step one can take to reduce their personal waste stream.”


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