Yard Waste Composting Program for UW

Executive Summary:

Grounds Management of the UW Seattle Campus seeks to implement a green waste composting program; waste that currently goes to Cedar Grove will be composted and used on-site to maintain the soil health of the UW landscape. Benefits of this program will include long term cost savings, greenhouse gas emissions avoided, student opportunities for engagement and leadership and composted material will be available to campus organizations, such as the UW Farm, SEED and UW Botanic Gardens. Estimated total cost is $153,637.00 and the compost committee is requesting $78,637 from the Campus Sustainability Fund, with the rest of the costs being matched by Grounds Management.

Student Involvement:

  • A steering committee consisting of UW students and Grounds Management staff has been formed to develop and implement the composting program.
  • UW Grounds Management is working with the student organization SEED to explore the possibility of incorporating coffee grounds from Housing and Food Services into the composting material. This amendment would increase nitrogen and beneficial microorganism content in the final compost. If implemented, SEED members will lead the coordination of this effort.
  • A UW Landscape Architecture graduate student is developing the site plan and specification drawings for the composting facility (see PDF attached for a preliminary plan). This student will present the plan to the Montlake Landfill Oversight Committee for approval and will also gain valuable project management experience by working closely with Grounds Management staff during construction. Some of the construction must be performed by licensed contractors, but the work will be guided by student input.
  • The UW Grounds IPM & Sustainability coordinator, a graduate research assistant, will aid in development of education and outreach materials. She will be responsible for records keeping, tracking costs, quantities and procedures, and coordinating regulatory components of the program.
  • A UW Design student will be recruited to create the interpretive signs and any graphics needed for the Grounds Management website. We have also begun exploring potential for the project to be used ass a case study design class.
  • There is potential for a student led willow planting along the fence to enhance the aesthetic and ecological value of the site. The planting could be done in collaboration with UW Botanic Gardens, since the proposed site is adjacent to the Union Bay Natural Area.
  • Students will have the opportunity to perform research on the composting process, microbial fauna, and soils on campus as a result of this program.


Education & Outreach:

  • Information about sustainable practices will be incorporated into the Grounds Management website presence, which will include details about our composting program, advice on composting practices, as well as links to composting resources.
  • Interpretive signs will be developed and placed in select planting beds on campus where compost is utilized, which will describe our program and the benefits of composting.
  • Grounds Management will facilitate student engagement by hosting a workshop about our sustainable practices. This will include an overview of the composting program, science and theory behind compost, compost tea, and Integrated Pest Management.
  • Grounds Management will also participate in campus environmental events such as Earth Day and the Campus Sustainability Summit, where we will highlight our composting efforts.
  • Opportunities for student research will be available. Evaluating the compost for nutrient and microbial content would be an interesting and educational project.
  • The compost material will be available to campus organizations such as the UW Farm, P-Patches maintained by Students Exhibiting Environmental Dedication and the UW Botanic Gardens.
Environmental Impact:
  • Energy Use
  • Living Systems and Biodiversity
  • Waste
Project Longevity:

Environmental Problem:

Maintenance of campus grounds results in the accumulation of large volumes of organic waste, with the greatest amount during autumn leaf drop. The current system for handling these materials is to transport them to Cedar Grove where they are composted; to maintain planting beds and lawns Grounds Management applies compost, which is ironically purchased back from Cedar Grove. Transportation of these materials results in unnecessary carbon emissions, use of fossil fuels, and additional costs.

An in-house composting program would address these issues, but the site best suited to accommodate this operation requires modification in order to meet both operational and regulatory needs. This site would also serve as a staging area for recycled timber and wood chip mulch from campus tree pruning. The current site where green waste is accumulated and disposed of could be modified to accommodate a permit exempt composting site. This would involve grading and paving the site to properly address moisture and runoff concerns, constructing bins to house the composting operation, and installing a fence around the site to maintain a secure and uncontaminated environment.

Explain how the impacts will be measured:

Implementing an in-house yard waste composting program would reduce carbon emissions and fossil fuel use associated with transporting waste to and from Cedar Grove facilities. It would also reduce costs associated with the supplemental nutrient needs of the campus landscape.

Current annual costs of removal of green waste and purchased compost average $55,434, and $10,000 respectively. We expect to reduce removal to Cedar Grove by at least half, as regulatory constraints limit the amount of material that can be processed on site. Thus, annual cost savings are expected to be approximately $37,717.00. The total cost of implementing our proposed compost program is estimated at $153,637, so net cost savings will be seen within 4 years.

Carbon emissions avoided could be estimated using formulas presented by Boldrin et. Al. (2009)1. They cite an example of a similar green waste composting program with an estimated 218 kg CO2-eq. tonne–1 ww of emissions avoided.

Total amount requested from the CSF: $78,637
This funding request is a: Grant
If this is a loan, what is the estimated payback period?:


ItemCost per ItemQuantityTotal Cost
Clearing and grading, drainage installation, paving, bin construction, and security fencing installation$150,000 (includes both contracted work and UW personnel)1$150,000
Interpretive Signs$5003$1500
Permit Exemption Fee$6371$637
Compostex Geotextile, prevents runoff, leaching, and keeps piles at optimum temperature/moisture$6002$1200

Non-CSF Sources:

Source/DescriptionAmount RequestedDate RequestedDate Received
FS Grounds Management/Operational Budget$75000Approved
Project Completion Total: $153,637


TaskTimeframeEstimated Completion Date
Construction Documents, Site Survey and Material Procurement1 monthMarch 2012
Site preparation and Construction1 monthApril 2012
Interpretive Signage Design and Fabrication1 monthMay 2012

Project Approval Forms: