What Can I Compost?

What Can I Compost

Yard Debris
Food Scraps
Food Soiled Paper

Grass, leaves, weeds

Meat, poultry, fish, beans

Greasy pizza delivery boxes

Pine needles, pine cones

Dairy products

Coffee filters


Fruit, vegetables

Paper towels, napkins

Plant trimmings

Breads, grains, pastas

Paper egg cartons

Small amounts of sod - no rocks

Eggshells, nutshells

Uncoated paper plates, paper cups

Branches less than 3" in diameter

Coffee grounds, tea bags

Paper berry cartons

Paper grocery bags with food scraps

What Is Composting?

Composting is sustainable way to discard your food scraps and yard waste. Throwing these items away contributes to the problem of our overfilling landfills. By composting we can reduce our yard waste volume by 50-75% ( Although one may think that these items readily decompose in landfills, the decomposition process releases greenhouse gases such as methane into our atmosphere. Food and yard waste also can leach into the ground water polluting our waters. During the decomposition of organic matter, microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi create a nutrient rich substance called humus that can be harvested if separated from other wastes. The decomposition process also happens much more quickly as the compostable material is not contaminated by other waste.

Compost Cycle

Why Compost?

Composting organic material allows for its use in gardens and agricultural areas where the soil can benefit from the nutrients found in the humus. According to the EPA, compost has been shown to suppress plant diseases and pests, reduce or eliminate the need for chemical fertilizers, and promote higher yields of agricultural crops.  It also allows for the retention of water in the soil allowing for a reduction in the amount of water used. Compost has also been shown to reduce the likelihood of soil erosion and has curbed the flow of pollutants to streams and plants.  (

In Spokane, the composting situation is unique as Barr-Tech a regional facility composts Spokane's and Gonzaga's yard and food waste. At the facility, the energy and gases created during the composting process not only power the facility, but they also use the energy to grow fruits and vegetables in their greenhouse. Thus, in Spokane, diverting compost not only produces nutrient rich soil, but it also produces food and energy. (To learn more about the Barr-Tech facility visit their website at

Composting At Gonzaga

Currently Sodexo and Plant Services are working to divert food and yard waste. Sodexo has reduced their waste from 3 garbage pick-ups to 2 garbage pick-ups per week. They hope in the coming year that they can curb their waste to only 1 garbage pick-up. The reduction in waste has come with an increase in composting. Currently, Sodexo composts all of the food waste in the main dining hall. They achieve this by not having any garbage cans in the dining facility itself.  Instead students’ waste goes to the back where Sodexo employees separate the compostable waste from trash. Underneath the main dining hall in Spike’s and Subconnection only compostable to-go materials are used.  In these facilities, there are separate containers in which compostable items can be discarded. Check out their website, at to learn more about the efforts Sodexo is making in becoming sustainable.

Plant Services has provided Gonzaga Students the opportunity to compost outside of the dining experience.  With containers placed behind Cataldo, in Kennedy, in the Sharp-Boone Allyway and near Goller students have more access to composting their waste.  Plant services also uses these containers when disposing of the yard waste they collect when maintaining Gonzaga’s grounds.   

Quick Facts About Composting

Yard trimmings and food scraps accounted for 25 percent of all Municipal solid waste created nationally in 2006. US EPA "Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2006"

Organic material is bulky, takes up space in landfills, and produce methane gas that must be recovered or burned and produce liquids that contribute to leachate.

Disposing of food waste in a landfill contributes to global warming. Every metric dry ton of food that goes to a landfill may generate .25 metric tons of methane in the first 120 days. Thus, composting this food waste would reduce emissions by the equivalent of up to 6 metric tons of CO2. USCC Factsheet "Greenhouse Gases and the Role of Composting :A Primer for Compost Producers"

Compost can capture and destroy 99.6 percent of industrial volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) in contaminated air.

Compost-enriched soil can also reduce erosion, alleviate soil compaction, and help control disease and pest infestation in plants. "Innovative Uses of Compost Erosion Control, Turf remediation and Landscaping" EPA530-F-97-043 October 1997.

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