Students Start Paper Towel Composting Project

The first time NC State students Kaley Cross and Kyra Levau opened a campus compost dumpster after launching a paper towel composting program, they screamed with delight.

The program, which they designed and implemented, was working.

“We were so excited to see students actually using it,” Levau recalled.

The paper towel composting program, which started this spring, is a pilot project coordinated by the Zero Waste Wolves student organization and funded by the NC State Sustainability Fund. Early in the semester, the program distributed simple compost collection systems to about 25 student suites in Bragaw and Metcalf residence halls.

After drying hands, students were able to collect wet paper towels in a reusable bag lined with a compostable paper bag. Once full, students tossed the paper bag of paper towels into their residence hall’s compost dumpster, which students already use to collect pizza boxes.

The composting system was designed to be simple: a reusable bag that can be filled with paper towels and emptied as needed.

“It’s a pretty simple process, and it reduces a lot of waste,” Cross said.

Levau and Cross are part of Zero Waste Wolves, which aims to educate the NC State community about the importance of waste diversion from the landfill. Composting paper towels is an easy introduction to the compost process, which converts organic waste into useful soil supplement.

“It’s a great first step to getting people comfortable with collecting compostable material,” Levau said.

Throughout the spring semester, Levau and Cross monitored weekly compost collections to track the progress of the program. During a waste audit at one of the residence halls this spring, they noted that paper towel waste had dropped in comparison to audits from previous years.

This fall, Zero Waste Wolves plans to expand the program to additional residence halls.

“We learned what works and doesn’t, and we have supplies to get started again in the fall semester,” Cross said.