How Princeton is Taking Composting to the “Next Level”

Sept. 6, 2023

The composting efforts at Princeton were recently profiled in Waste 360. The article features Gina Talt, Project Manager, Office of Sustainability, and the various ways the office is working with campus partners to enact its composting program.  

Multiple Facilities departments – including Sanitation and Grounds – have a role to play in the lifecycle of organic waste on campus. The S.C.R.A.P. Lab is constantly looking for ways to learn from and scale up the program. From the article: 

They are leveraging the Ivy League school’s capacity as a research institution to see how they might improve composting practices, beginning on their campus, but aiming to gain knowledge they can share with other institutions and communities. 

“We use the campus as our lab to study and demonstrate potential solutions to sustainability challenges and looked at composting because of the problems we were seeing in our region,” says Gina Talt, project manager, Office of Sustainability Princeton University. 

New Jersey and surrounding states’ facilities were struggling to stay on top of odor and contamination. Some of them eventually shut down, forcing communities to scramble to find homes for their organic waste and prompting conversations around decentralized compost systems so economic and environmental benefits were more likely to stay local. 

Princeton decided to pilot an in-vessel system; it was small enough for their early project, yet there was potential to scale. The rotary drum system has a 5,000-pound-per-week capacity of food waste, which comes from the dining halls.  It’s affectionately called SCRAPPY, a name that’s caught on with staff and students.