Diverting organic materials, which includes food, napkins and other compostable products, at schools is a significant opportunity to put waste to better use through food donation, food-to-animals, or organic composting programs.
For more information and tips on getting started, see the organics recycling in schools best practices guide (PDF)
Common organic wastes at schools
Organic waste in schools is commonly collected in the kitchen, cafeteria, restrooms, and faculty lounge.
The most common organic waste collected at schools is food waste and paper produces. See the organics recycling at schools guide (PDF) for more details on materials accepted.
All food can be composted in an organics program, including scraps from kitchen prep, lunches and snacks.
Paper products that can be composted include paper towels, napkins, tissues, paper lunch bags, pizza boxes, and certified compostable or uncoated paper products.
Organics recycling options
Donate edible food to organizations that help people in need.
Have your food processed into feed for livestock.
Have your food scraps and food-soiled paper products turned into valuable compost.
Learn more about organics recycling options.
Tips and lessons learned
Expect to spend some time educating both students and staff about an organics recycling program, especially during the initial start-up of the program. Have dedicated monitors (which can be students, staff, parents, or other volunteers) at waste containers to educate students and assist them with sorting. Monitors should educate and encourage sorting while offering minimal assistance so that the organics program can eventually operate with little or no supervision.
The capital cost of starting up an organics recycling programs includes, but is not limited to:
- Compostable bags
- Educational materials and advertising
- New containers for organic waste
Efficiently operated organics recycling programs can pay for themselves. Significant cost savings can result from:
- Reduced trash service because pick-ups can happen less frequently.
- State and county solid waste tax exemptions. Trash is taxed at 31.5 percent , while there is no tax for organics recycling.
- Reduced tipping fee on organic waste. At Hennepin County facilities, trash costs $58 per ton plus taxes and fees, while organics costs $25 per ton.
Minnesota cooperative purchasing for compostable bags and products
The State of Minnesota manages a Cooperative Purchasing Venture that is available to public entities including school districts and charter schools. The state contracts with vendors to provide goods and services at competitive prices.
Contracts are available for compostable bags, reusable and compostable food service ware, and waste and recycling containers.
Check first with your purchasing department to see if you already have an agreement in place, either with a janitorial supply company or another buying cooperative.
Steps to use the state contract:
- See if your school or district is a member by checking the current member list.
- If you are not a member, sign up for a free membership in the Cooperative Purchasing Venture (PDF).
- Search for current state contracts (access code is required). Some of the contracts available as of July 2019 are listed below.
- Follow the directions on the contract regarding ordering and contract terms.
If you have any questions about which contract to use, contact Kira Berglund, Hennepin County school recycling specialist, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For questions about a specific contracts, contact the Acquisition Management Specialist listed on the contract.