Say Yes to Composting

Composting has the potential to reduce U-M’s landfill waste by about one-third. But expanding compost beyond food prep kitchens requires new processes, training, and outreach. The Office of Campus Sustainability and Custodial Services have approached this goal with creativity and a sense of what’s possible, exemplifying the B&F goal to “Say yes, how might we?”

As of August 2018, about 60 campus buildings are on the regular compost pick-up route to support zero waste events and/or composting in staff kitchens. Until May, departmental staff ambassadors were responsible for emptying the bins and taking the compost to the loading dock.

Custodian Darryl Stiltner and Anya Dale, sustainability representative with the Office of Campus Sustainability, discuss plans to add composting to a new building.

The composting program needed more institutionalized support to continue to expand and become operationally sustainable. Seeing this challenge, the Office of Campus Sustainability (OCS) reached out to Custodial Services, a fellow Facilities & Operations department, to ask if they would consider adding service of the standard-sized kitchen compost bins to their existing workload. The change would require a little extra work to collect a third waste stream because most Custodial Services carts only have two spaces.

“We recognized that customers want this service,” said Colette Donner, Custodial Services Manager. “We want to be part of the solution to making sustainability successful.”

New full-size compost bin ready for installation!

Custodial Services and OCS came up with a win-win plan. Together, they decided that Custodial Services would not be responsible for emptying the small green compost bins, which are often stored under cabinets and take more time to empty. Departmental ambassadors would be reminded this was to remain their responsibility. In return, Custodial Services began emptying all of the standardized (full-size) brown compost bins on campus.

Empowering staff to improve customer service and encouraging collaboration yields great benefits—and in this case, supports a presidential initiative! With logistical adjustments and ongoing training, the new arrangement has increased compost service, clarified responsibilities for all parties, and set U-M up to more effectively meet its 2025 sustainability goal to reduce landfill waste by 40%.