Residential Compost Program diverted 10,070lbs of food waste in 2019

Campus Sustainability Office, Student Intern March 19, 2020
The 5 tons of compost collected in 2019 by the program is equivalent to 10 pianos; image of grand piano
The 5 tons of compost collected in 2019 by the program is equivalent to the weight of 10 grand pianos | Image provided by Cornell Campus Sustainability Office

Small actions can make a big difference - 5.035 tons, to be exact. The Residential Compost Program (RCP) - an initiative that provides volunteer-run compost collection in all residential facilities on campus - relaunched in 2018 after five years of smaller, pilot programs. 

The first full year of implementation was a huge success, with a large measurable impact on total compost collection for Cornell. 

By the numbers

Over 3,800 tons of food waste and other compostable materials are collected for processing by Farm Services at the Cornell Compost Facility.  Food scraps from front-of-house and back-of-house collection in Dining Services, as well as waste animal bedding, manure, and plant debris, comprise most of the material. 

But the Residential Compost Program (RCP) made a significant contribution this year, account for 5 tons of that waste. The compostable material collected would previously have gone into the landfill. 

The program is staffed by 46 student compost managers (three times larger than any previous year) and managed by the student intern position of Campus Sustainability Office Engagement Intern.

Program reach

The program originated from broad community interest in composting in residential communities.  Composting has been available in Dining Facilities since 2012, but until 2014, there was not an option for disposing of food scraps sustainably in the residence halls and other living communities.  

In the 2018-2019 academic year, the RCP reached 2/3 of all residential communities at Cornell including those in North Campus, West Campus, Graduate School Housing, areas of Collegetown and select co-ops and Program Houses.All locations where residential communities can participate are listed on the Cornell University Sustainable Waste Map.
The RCP is currently in the process of becoming an independent, student-run undergraduate club. This structure will promote program longevity, as upperclassmen graduate, underclassmen adopt the CM responsibilities.

Get involved

Apply to become a Compost Manager or ask your Residential Advisor (RA) or check the Sustainability Waste Map to see if your hall will be participating this upcoming academic year.

Story written by Naomi Haber, Campus Sustainability Office Engagement Intern (2019)

For more information about waste on campus, contact Cornell R5 Operations .