To keep compost clean, county program makes changes

To keep compost clean, county program makes changes

Think twice the next time you consider throwing a compostable cup into a compost bin in Tompkins County. As of April 1, 2016, Tompkins County Solid Waste and Cayuga Compost will no longer accept those cups and plates. The only compost items accepted by TC Solid Waste are: food waste, paper napkins, paper towels, and compostable bin liners.

The change reflects a need to keep compost as pure as possible, according to Solid Waste Division Manager Barbara Eckstrom. Many plant-based plates and cups don’t fully compost: items labeled “compostable” are not the same as “biodegradable.” Some plates and cups appear to be paper, but they may have plastic linings. Distinguishing between the two is tough —  one coffee shop might use paper cups, while the one down the block uses cups with plastic linings.

The purity of compost is tough to ensure, and yet it is very important from an environmental perspective. No one wants plastic to end up in compost, and that’s why TC Solid Waste and Cayuga Compost are implementing this change.

(Residents should note that plastics recycling at TC Solid Waste will remain unchanged.)


Here’s the full press release from Tompkins County Solid Waste:

Changes to Food Scraps Recycling Program Coming Soon

Ithaca, NY – Updates will soon take place with Tompkins County’s highly-successful food scraps recycling program, in partnership with Trumansburg-based Cayuga Compost.

Beginning April 1st, the only materials accepted in the program will be food items, paper napkins and towels, and compostable bin liners.

That means all plastics, even those labeled as “compostable” and other food soiled paper – including all cups and plates – will no longer be accepted.

“These changes will apply to both the residential and business sectors and are the result of efforts to decrease plastic contamination and increase the quality of the finished compost product,” said Solid Waste Division Manager Barbara Eckstrom.

In order to help your household with this important transition, consider reducing the amount of disposable items you purchase and be on the lookout for recyclable packaging. If you plan on eating out, be sure to bring reusable to-go cups and containers with you.

“We understand this transition will likely have a greater impact on businesses than residents,” said Kat McCarthy, the County’s Waste Reduction and Recycling Specialist. “As a result, we are offering our support as needed to encourage consumers to recycle and reuse, to ensure material diverted from the landfill is done so in an environmentally safe manner.”

There are seven residential food scraps recycling drop spots around Tompkins County. Combined with what was collected from the business sector, over 3,400 tons of food scraps and other organic materials were diverted from the landfill in 2015.

For more information on food scraps recycling in Tompkins County, visit, or call the Solid Waste Division at (607) 273-6632.

Image credit: Tompkins County Solid Waste

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