UNH Composting Program

During the academic year, UNH dining halls serve almost 70,000 meals per week. UHS takes pride in providing contemporary food service by offering diners a wide selection of choices and flavors. Food disposed of at the end of a meal (post-consumer waste) coupled with organic waste generated in the preparation of meals (pre-consumer) leads to a tremendous amount of food waste.

To deal with this amount of food and organic waste in a sustainable manner, during the academic year this waste and other organic materials are gathered from sites on and near the campus. The dining staff load buckets of waste onto their compost truck and take them out to Kingman Farm.  Windrows are long compost piles composed of manure, sawdust, plant materials, and organic waste collected at UNH. Windrows that are lighter and coarser are newer and have not yet broken down into dark, crumbly, and more uniform compost. A tractor is used to dig a hole in the windrow into which the waste is poured and then covered. Once the waste is poured out and covered, the waste buckets are washed and returned to their original sites.
UNH Composting Facility

  • Food waste is picked up at all UNH Dining Halls (Stillings, Philbrook, Holloway), the UNH Memorial Union Building (MUB), and the UNH Research Greenhouses.
  • Approximately 25,000 - 40,000 pounds of food waste are collected per month during the academic year. Approximately 200,000 pounds per year are composted.
  • Since summer 2006, UNH Dining staff have been collecting food waste and bringing it to Kingman Farm. Prior to summer 2006, Sustainability Institute compost interns collected the food waste. Five interns were hired during the academic year, and two were hired during the summer.

  • Compost is a beneficial soil amendment that can improve soil texture and water-holding capacity, as well as increase nutrient levels in gardens, farms, landscape projects, and development.
  • Compost is created when microbial activity is present in a concentrated area of organic material. The microbes "eat" the organic material. The byproduct of this "eating" is a nutrient rich humus called compost.
  • Composting provides a way to reduce the amount of waste added to landfills and converts organic waste into a valuable soil amendment. By improving overall soil health, compost reduces the need for pesticides and fertilizers. On a larger scale, compost has been used in reforestation projects, as a topsoil replacement in areas damaged by erosion, and to remediate contaminated soil.
  • You can compost year-round. Although microbial activity slows down in the winter, it quickly recovers when the temperature warms, causing windrows to reach temperatures upwards of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.


University Facilities, along with the Sustainability Institute relabeled all recycling and trash (now called landfill) receptacles and dumpsters on campus. That process will also include rebranding, community education, and stakeholder training.

Here are some common myths about recycling at UNH:

  • “Single Stream” means that everything, trash and recycling, can go in the same bin.
    • False! Single Stream is for recycling only, and means that all recyclables can go in the same bin and do not have to be sorted. 
  • “It all goes to the landfill anyway; I’ve seen Waste Management put recycling in the same truck as trash”.
    • Sometimes true. If a recycling “dumpster” or “loader” has too much contamination, it cannot be taken as recycling.
    • Contamination includes plastic bags!!! If you are putting your recycling in a plastic bag to take outside, pour it out into the recyclables dumpster and throw the bag in the landfill dumpster, otherwise you are contaminating the recyclables!!
  • “It turns into the landfill gas anyway”
    • False! It’s true that landfill gas powers UNH, but recyclables like plastics, cans, and glass do not break down in a landfill, so you are not helping to power campus by not recycling.
  • “It doesn’t matter.”
    • Recycled goods are up-cycled into other products, textiles, bottles, etc. Again, these materials will not break down in the landfill and will only increase the space taken up.
  • “UNH already does more than most for environmental efforts”
    • That might be true on the energy and emissions fronts – but sadly, we are far behind our peers regarding recycling.  Comparator institutions with mixed stream recycling divert up to 40% of their waste….We can do better with your help! 

FAQ's Related to Waste, Composting & Recycling

The Sustainability Institute does not handle recycling at UNH. Recycling is handled under contract to Waste Management, and this contract is overseen by UNH Facilities. This contract provides for the collection of paperboard, mixed paper, and glass, metal and plastic containers. UNH has both indoor and outdoor recycling containers all over campus. 

For more information about recycling at UNH, contact UNH Facilities at (603) 862-1437.

The UNH recycling program is continually growing and expanding. UNH has both indoor and outdoor recycling bins and signs in every building and all over campus, and more are added as feasible. UNH Facilities, who manage UNH's recycling program, supplies recycling bins and recycling signs in every building on campus, and they have given information to all RA's on campus to help them educate others about recycling. But in order to continue to improve UNH's recycling program, we all have to pitch in and do our part - not only the great Facilities and Housekeeping staff who direct and oversee the day-to-day management of the program, but all of us - students, faculty, and staff - to use the recycling bins properly, pitch in and help empty our personal office and dorms bins as needed into larger building totters, and educate others about the importance of recycling. If you see someone throwing away recyclables, putting trash in recycling bins, or leaving trash on grounds and building floors, please speak up. Nothing beats the power of setting a good example yourself and of educating your peers.

No. Waste management on campus is handled by a variety of other offices, including UNH Facilities, the UNH Office of Environmental Health and Safety (EHS), UNH IT's Safe Electronic Equipment Disposal, and individual offices and departments. 

The Sustainability Institute managed the compost intern team that picked up waste for composting from the program's inception in 1997 until the summer of 2006, when UNH Dining Services took over this "front end" of the composting program. The UNH College of Life Sciences & Agriculture (COLSA) and Kingman Farm manage the "back end" of composting - the windrows and final compost product that is used by the UNH Organic Garden Club for growing food.

The UNH Compost Program is not accepting new pickup locations for pre-consumer or post-consumer waste at this time. Instead, we encourage homes, businesses, and schools to set up their own system on site. Think about starting small with pre-consumer waste, composting it onsite, and seeing how that goes. You should also recruit other family members and friends, neighbors, students, teachers, and employees to help you out. (See below for good advice on how to start.)

There are more resources than ever before for starting your own compost system. A couple of good places to start are the Compost Guide and How to Compost.org

The Safe Electronic Equipment Disposal (SEED) through UNH IT program provides for the disposal of university equipment containing data storage, including computers and mobile devices, as well as equipment containing circuit boards such as monitors, printers, peripherals, scientific equipment and audio-visual equipment.

For off-campus recycling and proper disposal of electronics like cell phones, CD's, and computers, visit Earth 911,  the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency eCycling Program, or the CD Recycling Center. These sites can help you locate donation or recycling programs in your area. You can also find more information from the Natural Resources Defense Council.

First, we recommend checking with UNH Printing Services,  If through this "Refill, Don't Landfill" program you can't refill your particular cartridge, you could check with the cartridge manufacturer itself (like HP, for example), or with an office supply store like Staples or OfficeMax, many of which have recycling programs and even in-store drop-off locations for used cartridges. UNH Facilities will also pick-up used ink cartridges, and take them to Reliable Technologies to be recycled. For more information contact UNH Facilities at (603) 862-1437.

The following kinds CAN go into the normal trash:

  1. Alkaline batteries: Since passage of the Mercury-Containing and Rechargeable Battery Management Act of 1996, use of mercury in batteries was phased out in the U.S. Alkaline batteries batteries sold after May 13, 1996 have no mercury added and may be placed in the regular trash. These may be identified by seeing a green stripe, green tree, "Hg free" label, or an expiration date later than 1998. Older batteries may contain mercury; if you are a UNH employee using such batteries at work, contact the UNH Office of Environmental Health and Safety to have them disposed of properly. At home, you should take them to a collection location, recycling facility or save them for a municipal household hazardous waste collection.
  2. Zinc carbon and zinc chloride batteries are non-hazardous and can be placed in the trash.

The battery types below CANNOT go into the trash and must be disposed of properly:

  1. Lithium batteries: Lithium batteries are considered a hazardous waste and are potentially reactive if not completely discharged. If you are a UNH employee using such batteries at work, contact the UNH Office of Environmental Health and Safety to have them disposed of properly. At home, you should take them to a collection location, recycling facility or save them for a municipal household hazardous waste collection.
  2. Button cell batteries: Button cell batteries may contain mercury or other hazardous substances, such as silver. If you are a UNH employee using such batteries at work, contact the UNH Office of Environmental Health and Safety to have them disposed of properly. At home, you should take them to a collection location, recycling facility or save them for a municipal household hazardous waste collection.

The Sustainability Institute does not handle battery disposal at UNH. The UNH Office of Environmental Health and Safety (OEHS) handles UNH policies, regulations, and management of any waste that could be hazardous. If you have any questions about battery disposal, contact Marty McCrone at 862-3526 or Pam Campbell 862-0683.

If you live in the Town of Durham, you should contact the town as it has its own CFL recycling and disposal program. UNH manages its own, separate program for lamps generated on campus. UNH faculty, staff, and on-campus student residents should contact the UNH Office of Environmental Health and Safety, which manages campus disposal of hazardous, radioactive, biological, and other regulated wastes. In particular, contact Marty McCrone (862-3526).

We recommend that you try and avoid using water bottles when you can as they do take a lot of fossil fuels to make and transport - fuels that when burned release greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. Instead, consider buying a reusable water bottle - a Nalgene bottle or stainless bottle like a Sigg or a Kleen Kanteen - and fill these at the various water bubblers in buildings on campus or from your tap. These bottles are simple to clean and easy to carry around.