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Green Compost Bin

Curbside Composting

Public Works

Cambridge Composting began citywide food waste pickup in 2018 and now collects 40 tons of food waste per week from residential buildings, drop-off locations, religious communities, schools, restaurants, food pantries and markets. After collection, Cambridge’s food waste is converted into clean energy.

Why keep food waste out of the trash?

Because food scraps make up 40% of household trash, there’s a substantial impact to separating it from the trash. By keeping food out of the trash, we can:

• Control Rodents.
Placing food into locking compost carts is better than trash carts for controlling rodents.

• Reduce trash. We are running out of places to put it.

• Protect the climate. Food in the trash contributes to climate change.  

Composting is easy!

How do I get started?

If your building already has a curbside cart or if you’d like to drop off your food scraps: Pick up a kitchen compost bin (comes with compost bags and instructions) at Cambridge Public Works.

If you’d like DPW to deliver your kitchen compost bin: Order your kitchen bin here.

If you live in a building that doesn’t have composting: recycle@cambridgema.govto let us know you’d like to get your building started.

“I love how easy it is to compost in Cambridge and when I started, I was amazed at how much of my overall trash was compostable. Our little green compost box is one of the most popular items in our kitchen! Creating a more sustainable future is really about the intersection of government policy and individual action, and this program is a perfect example where we can come together as a community to make a difference.” – Yi-An Huang, Cambridge City Manager

How do I get more compost bags?

In each kitchen bin is a starter set of compost bags, an instruction booklet, and a list of stores that sell compost bags. You are welcome to reuse compostable produce bags for your kitchen bin, or use paper bags to line the kitchen bin, the curbside cart or both. Compost bag giveaway events are scheduled every few months throughout the year. For dates and locations, sign up for our monthly Recycling Newsletter. We understand that compost bags are expensive, however you will not need to purchase as many trash bags.


To go back to the main waste collections webpage, click here.


What goes in the bin?

All food scraps including:
• Fruits & Vegetables
• Meat, Bones & Shells
• Dairy
• Bread & Grains
• Tea Bags
• Coffee Grounds & Filters
• Napkins & Paper Towels
• Cut Flowers
• Compostable paper items (ONLY if there is a BPI-certified compostable logo. If you’re unsure, throw the item in the trash)

What should not go into the compost cart?

•Pet waste or Diapers (even if they are ‘compostable’)
•Yard Waste
•Plastic Bags
•Compostable plastics (compostable bags are OK, though)

What do I do if my cart went missing or broken?

Fill out this form to request a new cart or swap out a broken one.

My building already has a curbside cart. How do I start composting?

If you just need an indoor kitchen countertop bin, feel free to stop by DPW to get one. Inside the bin you will find 3 rolls of compost bags and instructions.

DPW is open Monday: 8:30am-8:00pm

Tuesday-Thursday: 8:30am-5:00pm

Friday: 8:30am-12 noon

If you would like DPW to deliver it to you, request a kitchen bin here.

Won’t composting attract rodents or other animals?

What attracts critters is easy access to food. With composting, residents keep rodents out of the trash by moving food scraps into thicker, more secure carts with locking lids.
Note: If you are having trouble with rodents, we may be able to help. Email us at Recycle@CambridgeMa.Gov.

Should I be concerned about odors?

Compost carts are made of extra-thick plastic, which keeps odors from escaping. Rinsing kitchen bins and carts as needed and putting carts out on the curb for weekly collection (even if they are not full) should keep odors to a minimum. In the summer, you may choose to line your compost cart with a large compostable bag or keep food scraps in the freezer until just before collection. 

Do you have any tips for keeping bins and carts clean, dry and odor free?

• Drain liquids before putting food scraps in your kitchen bin.
• Include soiled paper towels and napkins to help absorb liquids.
• Change your compost bag every 3-4 days.
• Rinse your bin and let it dry before using a new compost bag.
• Keep food scraps in freezer until just before pickup.
• Wrap meat, poultry, and fish in newspaper.
• To get rid of summertime fruit flies, set a trap. Place a small bottle of cider vinegar, with a few drops of dish soap added to it, near your kitchen bin.
• Place your cart out on the curb every week, even if it is not full.
• If there is liquid at the bottom of your cart, dump it onto grass or soil.
• In the summer, line your compost cart with a paper or compostable bag.

Won’t composting create extra work?

Not necessarily. With composting you are just moving food scraps into a different bin. Although you will take the contents of your kitchen bin out 2-3 times per week, you won’t need to take out the trash as often. 

How much does the program cost?

Like recycling, program materials (kitchen bins, curbside carts, and starter sets of compost bags) and weekly collection are provided free of charge. Compostable bags to line kitchen bins cost between $10-$30 per household per year, although this cost is offset by using fewer trash bags.

The City is working with local stores and manufacturers to offer cost savings on compost bags to Cambridge residents. You are welcome to reuse compostable produce bags for your kitchen bin or use paper bags to line the kitchen bin, the curbside cart, or both.

I backyard compost or use an in-sink garbage disposal. Should I curbside compost instead?

To reduce the risk of costly sewer backups, we strongly urge residents to switch from in-sink disposals and use the curbside compost program.

Backyard composting is great! You may decide you want to use curbside collection for certain items (eggshells, meat, bones, and dairy) or to use in the winter. If your backyard compost bin begins to attract rodents, we strongly suggest switching to using the City’s curbside compost program.

After DPW picks up food scraps, where does it go?

DPW brings food scraps to the CORe facility in Charlestown where it is blended into a slurry. The slurry then goes into an anaerobic digestion to make clean energy. For a more detailed account on this process, please check out Where do food scraps from Cambridge go.

I already compost. What else can I do?

Help us get more people composting.

  • To find out about recycling and composting events, sign up for our monthly Recycling Newsletter.
  • Let neighbors and friends know that you compost.
  • Share a photo of your kitchen bin on social media
  • Help another Cambridge resident get compost materials.
  • Share with us your outreach ideas.

Reduce your food waste.

  • Keep your refrigerator clean and organized so you know what you have before you shop.
  • Store leftovers in clear containers so you can see what’s in them.
  • Properly store food.
  • Use a shopping list.
  • Use your freezer.

I am moving out of Cambridge. What should I do with my compost cart?

Just like recycling carts, compost carts are intended to be used by current residents and should remain onsite. If you do not share your compost cart, please empty it and rinse it out when you move. 
Page was posted on 1/30/2018 9:57 AM
Page was last modified on 6/17/2024 3:29 PM
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