Compost is a combination of food scraps, soiled paper, yard trimmings and other organic materials. When compostable materials are sent to the landfill, they decompose anaerobically, or, without oxygen. The decomposition of biodegradable material in landfills results in the number one human-caused methane emission. When disposed of correctly, however, organic materials can be made into a rich black soil.

Furthermore, each pound of organic material, when put into the landfill, constitutes 2.5 pounds of methane emissions. If each person composted their estimated 1200 pounds of compostable waste per year, we would knock out roughly 3,000 pounds of methane per person in just one year. This is about 7% of the statistically average American’s carbon footprint (

Methane pollution has been found to cause health problems such as asthma and cancer, thus infecting surrounding neighborhoods. Here in San Francisco, we contribute to 12 landfills. Each of these landfills is located in Bay View Hunters Point. While we do not have immediate control of where these waste sites are located, we have a lot of control over what we put into them. Therefore, it is your responsibility to care about how you dispose of your waste to help with environmental justice and global warming issues.

Despite all these facts, a large number of students continue to dispose their waste incorrectly. In a survey conducted in the USF cafeteria, out of 100 students, only 65% disposed their waste correctly. The number of students who disposed incorrectly were broken down into two categories: those who didn’t care and those who didn’t know or were confused. We wanted to figure out why students were disposing incorrectly when everything is so clearly marked. Of these students, 67% disposed incorrectly because they didn’t care to take the time and sort while 33% claimed they didn’t know or were confused.

There were a couple common themes amongst students who disposed incorrectly. The first one was that they didn’t take the time to sort and threw everything in one bin, while the second was that when a student seemed unsure they decided to throw everything in the garbage figuring that that was the most responsible thing to do. These are shocking results considering all food waste, boxes, eating utensils, cups, napkins and most wrappers are all compostable which is why out of the eight waste cans in the cafeteria, five are compost, two are recycling and only one is garbage. Large signs have been placed on top of the cans to let students know what is acceptable in each.

With USF’s push to be eco-friendly, nearly every item disposed in our cafeteria should be either composted or recycled. Reducing our carbon footprint starts with you. Please help by taking an extra five seconds of your day to place your waste in its desired bins. It’s a really simple step to take part in, but together is a huge step in the right direction.


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