compost guide

Carleton Custodial Services provides a system for solid waste that consists of three separate “waste streams” — compost, recycling, and landfill.

The Bottom Line:

  • Most waste is compostable or recyclable.
  • Be bold. Evidence suggests that Carls overuse the landfill because they are unsure about what belongs in the compost and recycling.
  • Dealing with waste responsibly is actually quick, intuitive, and satisfying once you begin practicing.


You may be surprised just how much Carleton’s compost can accept. This is not your backyard compost heap! We send our compost to a commercial composting facility that can process animal products, bleached and waxed paper, and even certain plastics.


Locating the compost

Compost receptacles have green bags lining the inside. In residence halls, compost bins are located in bathrooms, lounges, and kitchens—not hallways. The bins are yellow, blue, or gray, and often have black lids. Currently, compost receptacles are not available in hallways of residence halls. Don’t let this deter you from composting—seek a compost bin when you need it.

Common compostable items

  • Soiled paper products
    • Paper towels, napkins, and tissues
    • Paper used to wrap or package food
    • Pizza boxes
    • Paper plates that are not wax coated
  • Friday flowers including the paper wrap
  • Disposable coffee cups *the lids are recyclable
  • Food waste
    • Fruits and veggies
    • Meat, bones, dairy
  • Sayles to-go items
    • Sayles boxes
    • Clear plastic “Greenware” e.g. smoothie cups
    • Disposable eating utensils (off-white plastic)
    • Chopsticks

Composting guidelines

  • If your waste item was ever alive, or is derived from something that lived, then it is compostable.
  • Paper is biodegradable even if it has been bleached. If you have a soiled paper product, such as a bag or box, it is compostable. If it is wax coated, such as a dixie cup, it is landfill.
  • Ask yourself, “Is it edible? Was it ever edible?” If either answer is yes, send it to the compost.
  • Liquids go down the drain. Empty your coffees, smoothies, and other beverages before depositing compostable cups in the receptacle. This makes our custodian’s jobs a lot easier as the liquids would spill.


Locating the Recycling

In residence halls, recycling receptacles are blue with a black lining the inside. Recycling receptacles are located in hallways, kitchens, and lounges. Small recycling bins are also provided in personal rooms, lined with white bags.

Recycling liners are non-recyclable. When emptying bags full of recyclables, do not leave the bag with the recyclables. Put the bag in the landfill.


Common recyclable items

With all recyclable items, you must make sure that they are clean. Rinse aluminum, glass, and plastic containers before putting them in the bin. 

  • Paper clean and dry, otherwise compost
    • Old notebooks and papers from class
    • Newspaper and other publications
    • Card stock e.g. index cards
  • Aluminum
    • Beer and beverage cans
    • Pie pans and other aluminum trays, such as those from Chapati and El Triunfo
    • Aluminum or “tin” foil
  • Disposable coffee cup lids the cup is compost
  • Glass bottles and jars
  • Cardboard
  • Plastic bottles and containers
    • Beverage bottles
    • Sushi plates
    • Sayles sauce containers
    • Yogurt cups

Recycling guidelines

  • Hard plastic is recyclable. Look for the recycling logo printed or embossed into plastic packaging.
  • Film plastic is not recyclable. It clogs the machines that our recycling processor uses. This includes plastic bags, cling wrap, food packaging, etc.
  • Be mindful that items are hand-sorted at the recycling center.Attempt to clean excess food off of your aluminum trays and plastic containers. Even if your recyclable items have some food stuck to them, send them to the recycling bin.
  • When emptying your room recycling bin, do not leave the white bag in hallway recycling bin. This white liner is landfill, not recycling. If you can keep your container clean, you may choose not to use a bag.

Composite Waste

Some waste items that are seen as a single entity are in fact a combination of compostable, recyclable, and landfill material. When you want to dispose of something, ask yourself, “Can I break this item into distinct components? Do these components belong in different waste streams?”

How to dispose of your LDC bag lunch

  1. Shake the leftover sandwich out of the plastic wrap, into the compost bin. Also compost leftover fruit, carrots, and cookies. Lastly, compost your paper bag.
  2. Recycle the beverage container.
  3. Plastic wraps/bags are nonrecyclable and can go in the landfill.
  4. Chip bag wrappers are terracyclable – deposit them in the terracycling bin in your lounge.
  5. If you have uneaten food, don’t waste it. Leave it in your lounge for your floormates to enjoy.

Special Recyclables

There is class of special items that do not belong in any of the three options thus far presented. These items are commonly things with an electric current. See the following table for a summary of these items and their proper disposal sites.


Donating Resources

Every weekend, student waste monitors find valuable resources in our waste streams. Carls can reduce waste by redirecting their unwanted resources to charity, instead of sending them to the landfill.

donation options

FAQs and Challenges

It is too much effort to follow this guide. I don’t want to compost or recycle.

Carleton is committed to sustainability, so the Custodial Department provides waste streams for compostables and recyclables. By using these waste streams, you make the efforts of the Custodial Department meaningful and impactful.

Compost smells bad.

Waste is stinky, regardless of which receptacle it happens to be in. Compost bins are emptied multiple times a week by custodial staff and smells will not persist. Close the lid after each use.

Bleached/waxed/plasticized paper is compostable?!

Yes, we send our compost to a commercial facility that can compost all types of paper products.

Meat/dairy is compostable?!

Yes. Our composting facility accommodates animal products. Don’t think of our composting system as a backyard compost heap.

These clear plastic cups from Sayles are compostable?!

Yes, the disposable cups branded “Greenware” are a corn-based, compostable plastic. The lid and straw are compostable too. If you’re not sure whether plastic items are compostable, look for a #7 symbol with the letters “PLA” on the item.

I am confused by the color of compost bins and their signs.

The best indicator of a compost bin is the green bag lining the inside.

Why don’t we provide compost bins in dorm hallways?

Custodial Services will be expanding the composting program in residential halls to include hallway compost receptacles that are consistently signed and easy to recognize.

Why can’t I recycle the white bag that holds all my recyclables?

By mixing these white bags into our recycling stream, we compromise the quality of the whole batch of recycling. These bags become caught in sorting machinery at the recycling facility. Empty the contents of your room bin into the recycling, then dispose of the white bag separately in the landfill, or reuse it. If you are willing to keep your recycling container clean, you may simply not use a bag liner.

Why can’t batteries and electronics go in the landfill?

Batteries and electronics contain heavy metals that can contaminate the environment when they are improperly disposed of. These types of waste are rapidly growing problems that account for significant amounts of toxic waste in landfills.

You are invited to contact to further discuss these difficulties, why they are deterring you or your peers, and how they can be fixed.