Andrew Epperson/ Mustang News

Composting has become a popular waste management technique that has spread throughout Cal Poly’s campus.

Cal Poly placed compost bins for trial in red brick residence halls, The Avenue, Julian A. McPhee University Union (UU) and Robert E. Kennedy Library starting winter quarter to reduce waste as a school, saving money and the environment.

“I like the compost bins being put around campus, but having an extra bin in my room can be frustrating,” communication studies freshman Julia Shaw said.

After returning from winter break, freshmen discovered a new compost waste bin added to their residence halls.

“I like the new compost bins,” English freshman Sara Lesher said. “It’s an easy way to do good for the environment.”

Composting, while not brand new, is not widespread. Many people are still unaware of how to differentiate their trash between waste, recyclables and compostables. They don’t understand the benefits composting has on the environment.

“I don’t think twice about composting,” journalism freshman Claire Blachowski said. “It’s not as familiar to me as recycling or just throwing something away.”

The definition of compost, according to Merriam-Webster, is a mixture that consists largely of decayed organic matter.

Compost helps the Earth by acting as a fertilizer for gardens as well as reducing the waste put into landfills. The methane gas coming from the compost is now being used as a new source of green energy.

According to Linden Hills Power and Light, carbon footprints can be reduced through composting as well. When compostable materials are not sitting in a landfill, they give off less methane and other greenhouse gases, greatly reducing the damage these gases have on the atmosphere.

Composting also saves water, which has the potential to help California out of the current drought. The equivalent of 360 trillion water bottles a year could be saved if waste was disposed in the proper way according to the National Public Radio (NPR). 

“It’s really on (the student’s) part completely,” Zero Waste Club treasurer and environmental engineering sophomore Emily Miller said. “It seems like most people just don’t know.”

Eighty percent of Cal Poly’s waste goes to the landfill, according to Facilities. 


A new mandate from administration requires that 80 percent of that landfill waste is moved to either recyclables or compostables by 2020. Administration plans to achieve this through small steps, such as more bins and proper labels, as well as education through signs and activities put on by the Zero Waste Club. 

With Cal Poly’s large agricultural school and the amount of property being used for agriculture on campus, the water conserved through composting can be used to water crops and livestock. Compost can also be turned into fertilizer, which can be put right back in the fields on campus.

“One of the world’s most finite resources is freshwater, accounting for 1 percent of the world’s total water,” environmental engineering sophomore Amara Cairns said.

The world only has so many resources, and by composting and recycling, these resources will last longer for Cal Poly and the rest of the world.

The Zero Waste Club works as a bridge between Facilities and students when it comes to the sustainability efforts on campus. The club has advocated for the new implementations around campus until they became a reality this quarter.

“It’s going to take a lot of coordinated effort,” Cal Poly energy sustainability analyst and certified energy manager Eric Veium said. 

Sorting trash may seem tedious, but the extra 30 seconds it takes can help the environment immensely. The real problem is knowing what trash goes in which bin.

MN bins

Compost includes anything biodegradable including food, plant materials and certain paper materials such as newspapers or cardboard. Any food scraps or napkins can be put in the green compost bins.

Empty water bottles, plastic utensils and cans can be put in the blue recycling bin. A good way to check if something can be recycled is to look for the universal recycling symbol.

Anything else can be thrown in the landfill waste bin, such as empty chip bags or candy wrappers.

Zero Waste Club welcomes all students to join them at their meetings on Fridays at 2 p.m. if they have any questions or want to get involved.

“We want to focus on education and the empowerment of students to make informed choices about waste,” Veium said. “When in doubt, recycle.”

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