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What Can and Cannot Be Composted at Work? (+Other Tips)

Composting at work

Wondering what can and cannot be composted at the office? Today’s post takes a closer look at your workplace composting program to unearth what should and what shouldn’t be composted.

Composting at work is becoming increasingly common, with green teams leading the way on what to do with food waste and other compostable products. Once your team has conducted a thorough waste audit, you’ll be better positioned to streamline your composting program.

Office composting can be complex without this initial audit. So, make sure that your team knows what kinds of compostable waste are being created onsite. According to The Environmental Protection Agency 24.9 million tons of food and yard waste was composted between 2015 and 2018.

Studies have said that most people would compost if its easy to do – which means your workplace composting process needs to be simple for employees to adopt. Use this handy list to determine what can and cannot be composted at work.

What Can You Compost at Work?

Workplace composting is similar to composting at home with one caveat – a large amount of people are expected to contribute to the program. For this to happen effectively, the right educational practices must be put in place alongside regular company reporting to gain employee buy-in.

To compost at work, processes must be put in place focusing on the kitchen or cafeteria area. Food scraps are going to be the essential composting items here. Remember that this post is aimed at curbside composting programs that are picking up your office compost on a regular basis.

  • Meat and Bone

Whether raw or cooked, meat isn’t always meant for the compost heap. In this case, when your business is composting in conjunction with a municipal composting program, you might get away with it. Most city programs accept meats from cafeterias whether they are on or off the bone.

Double check whether or not your city accepts raw meat and carcasses though, in case they don’t want anything that doesn’t ‘grow’ in your green cart.

  • Dairy and Eggs

Another typical no-go for home composting environments, city programs are happy to accept all dairy and eggshell waste in your workplace compost.

  • Paper Eating Utensils

Can you compost paper cups? What about plates, napkins, and towels? While soiled or food smeared paper utensils are a no for the recycling bin, they’re welcome in the office compost. The next time you have cake for Rita in accounting, remind your team to compost the remains.  

  • Raw or Cooked Vegetables and Fruit

Whether chopped, peeled, half-eaten or cooked into starchy grains – feel free to get your employees to compost all vegetable and fruit items.

  • Shredded Paper

Been wondering what to do with all that shredded paper you can’t recycle? Put it in your green compost bin. Add a special green waste bin to your printing room and add it to your composting bin at the end of every week.

  • Coffee Grounds, Coffee Filters, and Tea Bags

As long as your employees are removing the staples from your tea bags, they usually accept all forms of caffeinated breakroom refreshment. From filters and bags to leaves and coffee grounds – having a compost bin in the breakroom is a great way to promote your program.

What Cannot be Composted at Work?

There are some surprising no-no’s when composting at work. Beginners may not know that these items shouldn’t go in your workplace compost bin, so get your green team to put up posters or send out mailers detailing where these banned items should go.

  • Pet Waste

If you have a dog or cat friendly office, make sure your employees aren’t trying to compost their pet waste. This includes all fecal matter, cat litter and soiled paper items used in the disposal of animal waste. Experts say the risk is too high, with parasites and harmful bacteria present.

  • Smoking Related Items

Some of your employees will nip outside for a smoke break, but can that waste be composted? Typically, cigarette butts and ash can’t be composted. Neither can vape cartridges, mouthpieces, atomizers, or batteries! These don’t go in your normal recycling either, they should be placed in an e-waste recycling bin for disposal.

  • Most Corks

Do you have Friday drinks at the office? Most corks these days aren’t natural corks, so they can’t be composted. If you do happen across some natural cork then it can go in the composting bin – just make sure all wire, foil and aluminum are removed from it first.

As always you can’t compost plastics, aluminum, or glass of any kind. The general rule is that only organic materials can be composted.

Make sure that you check with your local municipality so that your workplace composting program is in line with your city rules. Follow their rules and you’ll know what can and can’t be composted at work.

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