A group of students at the University of Maryland (UMD) started a club titled “Terps for Composting” and petitioned to have composting bins available at all on-campus dining halls.

While dining service administrators at UMD highlight on their website how they “compost food waste and recycle cardboard, plastic, aluminum, and cooking oil,” Sophomore and club leader Avery Kops said that there are gray areas in these practices.

“It’s not that they [UMD] do not have enough composting resources, they do not have them in the right places,” Kops said. “The composting bins that are available for students are not emphasizing the main resource that should be composted: food. For example, a composting bin in the bathrooms of the residence halls ends up collecting the incorrect waste and then the entire bin has to be taken to the landfill rather than being composted.”

UMD prides itself on its sustainability practices. Dining service administrators said in their sustainability progress report that they are committed to abiding by the Cool Food Pledge, which essentially serves as a tool to reduce negative environmental impacts of mass food production. Through honoring this pledge, UMD said they are dedicated to reducing greenhouse gas emissions created from their food services by 25% by 2030.

Kops said her campaign and club focus on providing more composting bins in dining halls, not just in their kitchens.

“With composting bins located here,” Kops said, “students would be much more likely to compost as well as understand what composting truly is.”

There is room for improvement in UMD’s composting practices aside from the dining halls. Annie McCarthy, ‘24, said that, “As a public health student pursuing a career in environmental law, I have become particularly passionate about the accumulation of trash on UMD’s campus… With such a large student body and a lack of areas to compost, there is a huge influx of our campus trash ending up in landfills.”

Lack of composting technology on college campuses leaves room for larger amounts of food waste. Through composting, organic waste can become an environmental and economic benefit with its nutrient dense soil qualities, according to the American Society for Horticulture Science.

Even with composting bins available, trouble still arises. Sophomore student Will Kinney said, “I notice that there is certainly a lack of information and resources available on campus when it comes to composting. Despite existing labeling, there needs to be more obvious and clear signage regarding what can be composted, as well as increased availability of composting locations.”

The club plans to give away three $25 Amazon gift cards to randomly selected students who fill out the petition to get more composting bins available.