According to the Food & Agriculture Organization, food waste, “the discard of edible foods at the retail and consumer levels” makes up one third of all food produced.  Composting food waste not only reduces pressures on landfills, but also reduces the amount of methane, a greenhouse gas 34 times stronger than CO2, that is released during decomposition.  The financial impact of food waste is considerable, as is the ecological impact.  Therefore we should do all we can to reduce the amount of food we waste.

When it comes to food at Williams College, we try to decrease waste and increase composting of unused or uneaten food. At each dining hall clearing station or dish return area, there is signage on the walls with updated examples of every non-food item that is compostable in that dining hall. In most locations, the food waste barrel has a 10″ hole with a magnetic rim around the edge to attempt to catch any utensils that accidentally get dropped in.

What is compostable and non-compostable?

Please see our comprehensive composting guide for more information.


Where does compost go?

TAM Organics outdoor composting facility

PJ’s Trash & Appliance Removal collects food waste and compostables from the compost collection bins around campus every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, as well as from the dining halls. PJ’s empties this food waste into totes (essentially trash cans on wheels) in our Facilities storage area, where it is layered with sawdust. Once a week, Casella brings the compostables and food waste from Williams campus to the Long Trail Compost Facility, an industrial composting facility in Bennington, VT where the food waste and other compostables break down into a soil enriching compost. 

What initiatives has the College pursued?

Reusable and compostable plates, utensils, cups, and other items are increasing in popularity as an alternative to disposable items that will end up in a landfill.

Williams Dining has moved toward either reusable or compostable items for to-go coffee cups,  coffee items (sleeves, lids, straws), utensils, and other dishware.  There are compost collection bins in dining halls, Eco Cafe, Goodrich Coffee Bars, the libraries, and many of the dorms. However, many buildings and dorms across campus still do not have compost collection bins in them.

The college has also introduced reusable clamshell containers in dining halls for to-go food that can be returned in yellow collection bins across campus. 

Town Composting

The Zilkha Center has been working with the Williamstown COOL (CO2 Lowering) Committee to align Williamstown’s food waste diversion efforts with the College’s. We have been reaching out to businesses, schools, and other institutions to see if they will join the town’s efforts. Williamstown Composts has also started a pilot program for compost collection by Casella, available to Williamstown residents on select streets. 

Who to contact about composting

If you aren’t sure about what can be composted, check the signs near the collection bins or contact the Zilkha Center by emailing [email protected].

Where to leave compost