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sustainNU - Office of Sustainability

Waste and Compost

NU recycles more than 1,800 tons of the 5,300 tons of waste generated annually, representing a 34 percent diversion rate.


Recycling has been a part of Northwestern University’s campus greening efforts since 1989. Students started the program and it is now a part of daily operations across our campus. Reducing waste and increasing our diversion rate are an important part of our campus sustainability efforts. Recycling reduces greenhouse gas emissions, water pollutants, and saves energy.


compost dirtNorthwestern has been composting food since 2012. Every Evanston campus dining and food service operation participates in the program. Diverting food trimmings, leftovers, plate waste, and other organic materials for composting is an environmentally beneficial process in many ways. In landfills, organic material contributes to methane generation, a greenhouse gas that is more pervasive than carbon dioxide. Compost operations produce a material which naturally replenishes and nourishes soil, reducing the need for fertilizers and chemicals.

Compostable items in the dining halls, Allen Center, and Norris University Center are collected and delivered to a local composting facility. The compost is then used in landscape and farming operations, where it is added to the soil, reducing the need for fertilizers:

  • Step 1: Food scraps are collected in bins in kitchens.
  • Step 2: The scraps are taken to a facility and composted.
  • Step 3: The compost is used on farms as rich fertilizer to grow healthy plants.

Want to compost at an NU event? Contact Julie Cahillane for more information.

Strategic Initiatives

How to Help

  • Make your events waste-free by working with Sodexo to compost food waste, use chinaware, and recycle all other materials.
  • Take only what you can eat.
  • Dispose of electronics properly with Northwestern’s electronic recycling program.