SUNY Oswego’s compost program recognized for its sustainability 

OSWEGO, N.Y. – SUNY Oswego is emphasizing the importance of sustainability on campus and is very collaborative with other offices on campus to promote sustainability. 

The sustainability program won the 2022 College Recycling Leadership Award from the New York State Association of Reduction, Reuse, and Recycling. Jon Mills, campus sustainability coordinator, said that SUNY Oswego needed a composting program.

“It started out as two or three of us picking up all of these buckets from each facility and dumping them into big piles,” said Mills.

When the project originally started, the staff would stop at every retail cafe and dining hall every Monday through Saturday, leaving Sunday as the staff’s only day off. The staff would drive to Fulton every day to drop off compost.

All of the waste being picked up is pre-consumer waste which means that once the product is given to a student the waste no longer goes to compost. 

Post-consumer waste, like leftovers, is not something that is being collected by the Sustainability Office at the moment.

“We were reached out to by Briston Hill Transfer Station and they were interested in becoming an industrial composting facility and they needed material to play around with,” said Mills.

Auxiliary Services and the Sustainability Office work together to compost and recycle as much as they can to make campus sustainable. Auxiliary Services includes all dining halls and retail cafes.

“We bag it all in compostable bioplastic and we store them in five gallon buckets, we then store them in the loading dock in 96 gallon totes for daily pick up six times a week,” Stephen McAfee, executive director of Auxiliary Services. 

The locations recycle all possible waste products that can be and collect the coffee grounds for the composting program. The success of this collaboration has led to the 2022 College Recycling Leadership Award. 

“I am proud because we are putting our money where our mouth is and saying that we are committed to this. I live on the Oswego river and that is my drinking water and a lot of communities,” said Stephen McAfee, executive director of Auxiliary Services. 

This impacts the community as well because it can possibly inspire others to think more sustainably. The community also lives off of the river water so Oswego is trying to keep the water clean as well.

“To know that we changed one of the poorest counties in New York and they are the first one to actually get certified. This community cannot afford to increase the tax space and to be able to find a way out of it,” said McAfee.

The Sustainability Office is working on new ways to push more sustainable living on campus. The campus is looking for ways in the dining hall to get the excess food waste from the plates of students. 

“The real next push is to provide educational materials about where you dump your food waste and where to put your silverware…so the biggest overhaul is how can we capture that waste in a way where we don’t need contamination issues,” said Mills.

Students are trained already to separate and scrape the plates in the dining hall which can then take a step further to leftover foods that get thrown away to go into composting. 

The next step for the Sustainability Office is potentially looking to develop some composting and sustainability techniques in the on-campus apartments The Village for students that do not rely on the dining hall.  

It is an independent living situation, so the Sustainability Office is looking to help make the transition into a more sustainable lifestyle that they can carry throughout their lives. 

For students looking to get more involved on campus, Shining Waters goes weekly to the lakeshore to collect waste, but also for students to understand how to pick up garbage or trash on the walk to class.  

Shining Waters is a program on campus that goes down to the lakeshore every week to pick up excess waste and garbage. The program also picks up trash on campus while volunteers are on the way to the water.

For more information about SUNY Oswego’s composting program and other sustainability programs on campus, visit