Food Waste Composting


The University’s food waste composting program began in 2004 with the collection of coffee grounds and pre-consumer vegetative food waste from the UW Club and three Housing and Food Services kitchens. Since that time, the program has expanded greatly and now includes almost all restaurants and coffee shops on campus. Housing and Food Services also has approved compostable serviceware available at all of their food service locations and for events catered by Bay Laurel Catering. Effective January 2015, the City of Seattle’s ban on recyclables in the garbage prohibits the disposal of food and compostable paper, including food-soiled pizza boxes, paper napkins and paper towels, in the garbage.

For a list of buildings with food waste containers, click here. All food waste and approved compostable serviceware is consolidated into toters at building loading docks/areas. Toters are serviced by our contracted vendor, Cedar Grove Composting, at minimum one time per week.

There are two ways to get a compost program set up in your building: through MiniMax or the voluntary, self-serve office/kitchen compost program.

What is acceptable for composting

  • Meat, poultry, fish, shellfish, bones
  • Egg and dairy products
  • Table scraps and plate scrapings
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Bread, dough, pasta, grains
  • Coffee grounds, coffee filters, tea bags
  • Approved compostable serviceware; only those items approved by our vendor are acceptable; click here for more information
  • Kitchen paper towels
  • Restroom paper towels
  • Paper napkins
  • Pizza delivery boxes
  • Waxed cardboard and paper
  • Paper take-out cartons without plastic lining (to test for plastic lining, tear the item; plastic is usually visible along the tear)
  • Flowers and plants (no soil)
  • Paper bags and approved biodegradable bags

To learn more about compostable products, visit the Cedar Grove website.

Print out the UW Food Waste Composting poster for more information.

What is not acceptable for composting

Office/kitchen compost program

The office/kitchen compost program is voluntary. Staff are responsible for servicing their indoor food waste collection bin and purchasing any supplies (i.e., compostable liner bags) needed beyond the compost starter kit provided by UW Recycling.

To participate in this program, read through the below information and contact UW Recycling with any questions.

UW Recycling will provide you with a compost starter kit, which includes:

  • 1 x 23-gallon Slim Jim compost container with lid
  • 1 case of compostable bags to line the container; note that it is your responsibility to purchase additional liner bags

If you need a different container than what we provide, you can use any food-grade plastic container (such as a large ice cream tub or food storage container; do not use any container that contained paint, chemicals, or hazardous items) or you can purchase a food waste bin. There are many container options of varying prices available through online purchase. To find bins for purchase, do an online search for “countertop compost bin”. Some tips on choosing a countertop food waste collection bin:

  • Heat, moisture, and odor can build up; lids with carbon filters, ventilated bins, or storing your bin in the refrigerator or freezer can alleviate or prevent these issues.
  • Plastic bins, after prolonged use without a liner bag, may absorb odors; metal or ceramic bins typically do not absorb odors, even when used without a liner bag.
  • For an office collecting food scraps only, choose a bin not larger than 2 gallons.
  • For a large office collecting food scraps and approved compostable serviceware, contact [UW Recycling].( for suggestions on containers.

Lining your countertop food waste collection bin is not required. However, you can choose to line it with one of the following:

  • Biodegradable bags; only approved compostable bags are permitted in the food waste toters; tie off the bag before emptying it into the toter.
  • Paper bags; permitted in the food waste toters; close the top of the bag by folding it before putting it into the toter.

Note that plastic bags are not permitted in the food waste toters; if you are using a plastic liner bag, you must empty the material out of the bag into the toter. Reuse the plastic bag or throw it away as garbage.

There are several things you can do to prevent odors and fruit flies:

  • Empty your bin often, at least once per week or more often if needed
  • Make sure your bin has a tight-fitting lid and/or a carbon filter
  • Store your bin in the refrigerator or freezer
  • Use approved compostable liner bags (see above for more information); if not using bags, sprinkle baking soda in the container or line it with a small bit of newspaper or shredded paper to absorb liquids and odors
  • If you get fruit flies, place a simple trap:
    • Half-fill a small glass jar or plastic tub with apple cider vinegar (fruit flies are attracted to the sweet smell of this vinegar; white vinegar will not work)
    • Add a couple drops of liquid dish detergent and swirl to dissolve
    • Cover the jar with a piece of plastic wrap and secure it with a rubber band
    • Poke several small holes in the top of the plastic wrap with a toothpick
    • Place the jar on the countertop near the source of the problem

Using your food waste collection bin

Print out the UW Food Waste Composting poster and post it by your bin. Empty your bin into a food waste toter at your building’s loading area. Do not use any toters labeled for a food service location. If your building does not have a food waste toter, request one by contacting UW Recycling.

Composting at special events

Special Events Containers, Outdoor Special Events Containers, Indoor

UW Recycling provides compost containers for special events on the Seattle campus. Note: only approved compostable serviceware is accepted for composting. For more information about special event composting and to request containers, see the Special Event Bins Request Form.

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