Organics Recycling Self-Help Guide

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Organics Recycling FAQ

Organics Recycling FAQ

All food scraps (including meat, bones, and dairy products), soiled paper items (i.e. napkins, tissues, paper towels, delivery pizza boxes), coffee grounds and filters, compostable tea bags, flower and plant clippings, and certified compostable food service ware can be put into the organics recycling bin. When looking for certified compostable service ware, look for a BPI logo or the term "compostable." If in doubt about whether something can go in organics recycling, throw it out!

As of April 2020, organics recycling is available in all residence halls, most buildings on the St. Paul campus, and many buildings on East Bank. Visit our Organics Recycling Building Prioritization Schedule to find the most up-to-date list of buildings that have been rolled out.

Organics Recycling Building Prioritization Schedule

When organics recycling is introduced to your building, you will see an organics container at every waste station (color coded as green). Newspaper plus and office paper containers will be combined into a single recyclable paper container (color coded as gold). Cans & bottles containers will remain the same (color coded as maroon). Lastly, centralized collection will be introduced. This means that custodial will no longer serve desk side trash containers on a weekly basis. Rather, individuals will be responsible for bringing all trash, recycling, and organics to a nearby waste station. Organics containers will be serviced daily Monday through Friday, so this material will leave your building at the same rate it did when it was going in the trash.

In 2017, the University Senate passed a resolution supporting centralized collection, meaning that individuals sort their desk-side waste into central waste stations. The current custodial collection process of collecting trash, but not recycling, from desks makes trash the most convenient disposal option. Our studies have shown that diversion rates increase to 65% when waste sorting is put in the hands of the generator and recycling and trash are equally accessible. Centralized collection also helps offset the extra time required to service organics containers daily. There are health benefits, too! Use this new process as an opportunity to get some steps in throughout the day.

Organics Recycling/Centralized Collection Resolutions

Departments are responsible for purchasing any deskside trash cans or recycling bins that staff and faculty may need. Bins are available through U-Market (see Zero Waste Purchasing Options for product numbers) or can often be found at the ReUse Program. Bags for your deskside trash can are provided by your building's custodial team. Typically bags can be found in break rooms or kitchens. Call or email the FM Call Center to be directed to your building's custodial supervisor for specific bag locations.

Zero Waste Purchasing Options

FM Call Center

All organics containers will be emptied every day Monday through Friday. Remember: organics recycling does not change the type of waste thrown away in your building or how often it's leaving the building. It simply changes which bin your waste is ending up in. Remember to bring food waste from your desk to an organics container every day to ensure that food is removed from your space promptly.

No. Organics containers in residence halls will be located within trash rooms and common spaces. As with trash and recycling, students living in residence halls will bring their organics recycling out to a trash room to sort it out. Students may choose to supply their own bins to sort their organics recycling in their room if they so choose.

See our Zero Waste Purchasing Options for compostable products available through U-Market. Compostable products can be found through other vendors or retailers. Remember: products must be BPI certified compostable. Visit BPI's website ( to verify if a product has been certified. Please reach out to the Recycling Program for assistance if you are going through a vendor other than U-Market and need help determining if supplies are certified compostable.

Zero Waste Purchasing Options

The UMN Twin Cities Recycling Program supports zero waste events by providing extra organics and recycling bins, coordinating waste disposal, and advising on waste-related decision making. To request support for a zero waste event, please fill out the Zero Waste Event Request Form. If you aren't sure how to get started planning your zero waste event, visit our Zero Waste Events page or email us at

Zero Waste Event Request Form

Organics from the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus is brought to an industrial composting facility, where they're mixed with yard waste and composted. Microbes break down material in the piles, causing them to heat up. After several pile turnings and a curing process – a process that takes six to nine months – the compost is screened to remove any items that didn’t get composted (such as larger sticks or contaminants) and is ready for use in gardens, or in landscaping or erosion control projects.

You can compost more materials with organics recycling than in your backyard compost bin. Large-scale industrial composting facilities maintain higher temperatures than backyard compost bins. These temperatures are needed to kill bacteria and break down items that cannot be composted in a backyard composting bin, including meat, bones, dairy products and compostable plastics. Backyard composting is still a great option for recycling fruit and vegetable scraps and yard waste into a soil amendment that you can use at home.

Traditional paper coffee cups are lined with a plastic moisture barrier. This plastic is not compostable and it is difficult to separate from the paper, so it cannot be easily recycled. These cups should be put into the trash. Some paper coffee cups are certified compostable and can be placed in organics recycling. Look for the BPI logo or the term "compostable" on these cups. Plastic lids should go in the trash unless the lid says "compostable."

Any item that has a smooth and shiny coating on it must say it's compostable or have the BPI certification to be able to be placed in the organics. This includes all items that you think may be plastic lined such as: cups, plates, bowls, wax paper, parchment paper, paper take-out containers, paper ice cream tubs, milk and juice cartons, microwaveable popcorn bags, and more. If you're unsure if an item is BPI certified compostable, visit their website and check their certified compostable catalog. Remember, if in doubt about whether something can go in organics recycling, throw it out!

If a product contains chemical cleaner, it's best to keep it out of the organics recycling. Disinfectant wipes typically contain synthetic fibers and should also go in the trash.

Delivery pizza boxes that are grease stained should be put into the organics bin. Pizza boxes can also be stacked near a waste station if they do not fit within the organics bin itself. If the pizza box is not grease stained, it can be put into the recyclable paper bin. Please remove any sauce cups, plastic pizza "savers," or plastic utensils.