Compost bins now available for Northwest Apartments residents


Student sustainability coordinator Eric Urbaniak removes the non-recyclable flimsy plastic from a container that can be recycled while doing a waste audit of his dorm room garbage in this February 2021 photo. 

Central Michigan University students living at the Northwest Apartments now have the option to compost their food waste. As of Feb. 22, Central Sustainability has placed composting bins outside of each of the two laundry rooms at the Northwest residence for students to dispose of any food waste.  

Up until now, composting at CMU has only been available for those eating in the dining halls, but with this project, Central Sustainability hopes to expand their resources to those on campus without meal plans. 

Meghan VanDamme, a junior studying environmental engineering and the sustainability coordinator at Central Sustainability, said the bins aren’t limited to Northwest residents, but available for any on-campus students to utilize. 

“If you live in a dorm and you collect your own compost, you are more than welcome to come over here and dispose of the composting,” VanDamme said. “As long as it’s being used very responsibly and people know how to properly sort their compost we want everyone to be utilizing these.”

The composting bins are also not limited to food waste, VanDamme said. Students can use them to dispose of any fibrous, organic-based substance like paper, paper towels, soil, yard waste, cardboard and pizza boxes. 

Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, the waste from the composting bins across campus are collected by Don Long from Facilities Management and taken to Morgan Composting located in Sears, Michigan. The food waste is then made into compost, fertilizer and soil, which is brought back to be used in CMU's garden beds and on the Jack Saunders Marching Band Field. 

VanDamme said the idea for the project started last semester when Central Sustainability’s team began to plan and create a proposal on how to implement the program. Earlier this semester, Central Sustainability met with Don Long and Ryan Lewis from facilities operations at Residence Life to discuss the possibility of the program being implemented at the Northwest Apartments, she said. A week later, the plan was approved, and on Feb. 22, the bins were placed. 

VanDamme said Central Sustainability hopes this program will educate students about sustainability and waste management and will help them make more mindful choices in what they are buying and consuming in the future.

“Food waste is a major issue, especially with sustainability and so we think that when students have the opportunity to compost they really can reflect on their own waste production,” she says. 

On March 15, Central Sustainability did a waste audit at the Bovee University Center dumpster. A waste audits means sorting through what could have been composted or recycled. 

The team had found that 80% of the waste thrown in the dumpster could have been recycled or composted, while only 20% of what was thrown away should have gone to the landfill. Around 47% of the waste that was thrown away was compostable material. Because of this, VanDamme said this type of composting program is needed in other places across campus. 

VanDamme says that CMU’s composting program has had success in the past, generating great resident participation in the project since its implementation in the dining halls, collecting around 15 thousand pounds of food waste every week to be composted. CMU had also won the Campus Race to Zero Waste competition in 2022 for food organics due to its composting efforts. 

VanDamme said going forward, she hopes that this program is successful at Northwest so that Central Sustainability can add more composting bins across campus such as in the UC, academic buildings, graduate housing and in residence hall communal kitchens. 

“As we know, Northwest is only going to be here for one more year so we’re hoping that this program doesn’t end with Northwest. That we can implement it in other places, too,” she said. 

For more information about CMU’s waste management and sustainability efforts, visit Central Sustainability’s website or email them at