What can I put in a UW–Madison compost collection bin?

  • Food products
    • Meat and dairy
    • Fats, oils, and grease
    • Fruits and vegetables
    • Breads, grains, and pasta
    • Coffee grounds and filters, tea bags
  • Soiled paper products
    • Napkins and paper towels
    • Paper cups, bowls, and take-out containers


  • Pizza boxes
  • Bones
  • “Compostable” plastic bags, cups, containers, and silverware
    • Note: even if it says “compostable” or “biodegradable”, the biodigester cannot break down any plastics – these should go in the trash bin
  • Metals and Ceramics
    • Silverware, cans, dishes
  • Plastics
    • Bags, food wrappers, Styrofoam
  • Wood
    • Chop sticks, stir sticks, bamboo products
  • Yard waste
    • Leaves, sticks, soil, and sand

Compost locations on campus

The UW–Madison collects food waste from residence halls, dining halls, student Unions, Union-operated cafés, the UW Hospital, some athletic facilities, and some academic buildings. Students, faculty, staff, and visitors are welcome to dispose of food waste from meals eaten on campus in compost collection bins on campus.

If you are interested in collecting food waste in a building where collection is not currently available, the Compost Stewards program may be able to help. Please contact us with questions.

What about food waste from home?

The UW–Madison does not accept additional food waste brought from off-campus residences. For food scraps and other organic materials generated off-campus, please consider the following options:

  • Reduce the volume of surplus food generated.EPA - Food Waste Hierarchy
  • Donate extra food to food banks, soup kitchens and shelters.
  • Utilize an in-sink garbage disposal. This is more preferable than composting if you live within the Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) service area. The Wastewater/Resource Recovery Treatment plant at Nine Springs recovers energy and collects the biosolids for fertilizer (Metrogro).
  • Drop off your food scraps at one of three collection points run by the City of Madison. You can learn more here.
  • Set up your own compost system. Decide if a backyard or vermicompost system fits best with your available space and volume of food scraps. The UW–Extension Master Composter Program offers resources and support.
  • Compost your food scraps at a community garden. Find a garden near you. Ask the garden coordinator if you could bring your food scraps to the compost pile and/or help maintain the compost pile.
  • Work with a private food waste collection service. Local options include Curbside Composter and Earth Stew Compost Services. Don’t have a private organics collection hauler? Contact your municipality or your landlord to inquire.

UW–Madison Compost Journey