Composting at School

Recycle fruit and vegetable scraps from school lunches and other organic material, like leaves and plant clippings, into nutrient-rich compost.

Onsite Composting

Schools should check local zoning before composting. Schools in Hamilton County, Ohio may compost under the following conditions:

  • The compost site cannot exceed 300 square feet for all material, including the active compost pile(s), curing pile, and stored bulking material (such as dried leaves, straw, wood chips, shredded paper, etc.).
  • The site cannot create a nuisance, such as dust, odors, or attracting vermin. If someone complains about the site, the Health Department will investigate.
  • The site cannot be located in or close to a stream.

Some suggestions to make your compost program successful:

  • Start small. Consider just collecting food scraps from the environmental club, one class per day, or one grade. If everything goes well, consider increasing collection.
  • Only compost fruit and vegetable scraps, garden trimmings, and weeds.
  • Provide signage (with pictures) of what can and cannot be composted where you collect food scraps.
  • Have plenty of carbon-rich material on hand to balance the nitrogen-rich food scraps and plant trimmings.
  • Do not put the compost area near a property line.
  • Provide some type of training (assistance is available from the District) for everyone who adds material to the compost area.
  • Create a schedule and sign-up list to take turns taking food scraps to the compost pile/bin and turning the pile/bin—we recommend turning it at least once a month during the spring, summer, and fall (do not turn it in the winter).

Vermicomposting Indoors

Invite worms into the school. Starting a classroom worm bin to compost food scraps will reduce food waste going into the landfill and become a living teaching tool for biology. Because worm bins use non-native worms and are kept indoors, we recommend special training before starting a worm bin. Teachers may acquire training and materials by attending a local vermicomposting workshop.

Haul-Away Composting

Have food scraps hauled to a commercial composting facility. Commercial compost facilities can usually accept animal products (meat and dairy) and oily food in addition to fruit and vegetable scraps. 

Setting up Your Program:
Find out what organics the hauling company can accept. 
Seek input from school staff (teachers, janitors, cafeteria staff, etc.) about the new program prior to beginning.
Educate students and staff about composting. Coordinate with kitchen and/or custodial staff about how to move the collected material from the cafeteria to the outdoor collection station.
Put together a team of students, staff, and/or parent helpers to oversee the waste sorting station for each lunch period in the beginning. Have helpers teach students sort materials themselves so it becomes a habit.
Provide several waste sorting stations to keep lines short. 
Encouraging students to separate the waste on their tray (e.g., compostables on the right, garbage on the left) before they get up from their table helps the sorting line move quicker.  
Provide signs with pictures at each receptacle showing what goes where.

Support from the District

We would like to know how your composting project is going, particularly any challenges, so that we can help others in the future. We are here to help, so never hesitate to contact Cher Mohring at 513-946-7737..