Compost Cats

If you are interested in joining the Compost Cats Bucket Program, please fill out our Interest Form. Learn more about the Program below or email compostcats@arizona.edu.

Compost Cats Bucket Program

The University of Arizona Compost Cats Bucket Program is a new, residentially-focused food scrap collection and composting program that serves campus and community members. Bucket Program participants collect their household food scraps in a bucket provided by Compost Cats then bring them to the University of Arizona Community Garden, located at 1400 E. Mabel St., once a week. The food scraps are turned into compost by our Student Compost Specialists and can then be used in the Community Garden or donated to local parks and school gardens.

Composting household food waste is a great way for individuals to reduce their environmental impact and mitigate climate change. Finished compost can also be used to alleviate food insecurity in our community by helping local gardens grow fresh produce. Since Compost Cats launched the program in the Fall 2020, we have diverted over 8,000 lbs of food scraps from the landfill!

Person weighing compostable materials including three pumpkins stacked on top of a green bucket.

How Does the Program Work?

  1. Fill out our Interest Form or come see us at the University of Arizona Community Garden during one of our designated drop-off times (see #6).
  2. Read our User Agreement prior to coming out to speed up the onboarding process.
  3. Fill out our User Agreement and pay applicable onboarding/service fees (see pricing). 
  4. Pick up your 2-gallon or 5-gallon bucket, or start using your own container. You will also receive a list of compostable items that are accepted (eggshells, coffee grounds, grains, baked goods, fruit and vegetable scraps, etc.) and prohibited items (large amounts of meat and dairy, paper products, bioplastics, etc.). 
  5. Throughout the week, fill up your bucket with food scraps.
  6. Bring your bucket back to the Community Garden at a designated drop-off time, either on Monday evenings (5-7pm) or Saturday mornings (8-10am). The Community Garden is located near the Highland Parking Garage, at 1400 E. Mabel St. 
  7. Our Student Compost Specialists will weigh your food waste, check it for contamination, and then turn it into compost!
Cycling graphic with fruits and veggies pointing toward a bucket pointing toward a plant growing out of dirt and back to the fruits and veggies.

Bucket Program Pricing

As of August 9, 2021, the Compost Cats Bucket Program will charge all Users a $12 monthly service fee. University of Arizona students are not required to pay this monthly rate to receive compost services. Note that the monthly service fee remains unchanged regardless of how frequently or infrequently a User takes advantage of the service. All fees are also nonrefundable.

Non-student Users that enroll for a full year are eligible for one free month ($132 total) if they pay the entire amount due upfront. 

Users wishing to set up recurring payments or to pay in installments will be provided a link to do so online. 

Users that sign up as a student of the University may have their enrollment checked and verified at random.  

All Users, including students, will pay a one-time, non-refundable onboarding fee that covers the cost of their onboarding. Users may choose the container/bucket that they will use for the duration of their membership. 

Option One-Time Onboarding Fee
2-Gallon Bucket $20
5-Gallon Bucket $30
Own Container $20

Card is preferred and we currently accept Visa, MasterCard, and Discover. We do not currently accept American Express. Cash and checks are also accepted. If using cash, exact change is required as we cannot provide change. Please make checks out to “University of Arizona” and put “Compost Cats Bucket Program” in the memo line. 

About Compost Cats

Millions of tons of waste enter Tucson’s landfills each year, and one-third is composed of organic materials that could be diverted and transformed via composting. Started in 2011, Compost Cats was the only organization in Southern Arizona accepting large volumes of food scraps, manure, brush and other landscaping materials. From 2011 to 2018, Compost Cats diverted over 20 million pounds of organics from local landfills, making it an invaluable component to waste management and broader sustainability efforts at the University of Arizona and across the region.

In late 2018, Compost Cats transitioned out of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Cooperative Extension and into the Office of Sustainability. Since this transition, we have been busily realigning the program with the University’s strengths in education, outreach, and research.

Compost Pile

What is Compost?

Composting is the natural process of transforming organic material such as leaves and vegetable scraps in an oxygen-rich environment into a nourishing soil amendment that gardeners fondly nickname “Black Gold.” Compost is rich in nutrients, and it promotes soil microbes that aid plant growth.

Compost energizes the soil food web, which is made up of microscopic bacteria and fungi, along with earthworms, crickets, and many other life forms. Many fungi form symbiotic, or mutually beneficial, partnerships with plant roots, making it possible for plants to feed themselves more efficiently. Research shows that compost enhances the ability of many plants to stand up to common diseases and, in the case of edible plants, may improve their flavor and nutrition, too. Compost also helps the soil retain moisture. Through composting, you enhance your garden’s ability to grow healthy plants, while simultaneously reducing your volume of trash.

Why Compost?

Composting can help avoid the generation of harmful new greenhouse gases like methane, which stems from the decomposition of organic waste in landfills. Greenhouse gases, including methane and carbon dioxide, trap heat in the atmosphere and are directly responsible for the current climate crisis. Composting also promotes the sequestration of carbon in soils - that is, the long-term capture of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and its subsequent storage in soil, plants, and geologic formations, where it is less harmful. In this way, the composting practices of Compost Cats demonstrate a cradle-to-cradle philosophy, wherein nothing is wasted. Former food scraps and organic debris that once would have been discarded can now become nourishing fodder for the growth of new food sources and beneficial vegetative ground cover. And of course, compost is great for local gardens

Additionally, all landfills have a lifespan, and many are rapidly approaching capacity. By diverting a portion of the current organic inputs entering local landfills, Compost Cats is helping to keep them from filling up as quickly, extending the lives of these landfills significantly and reducing the need for new ones. Because landfills are often situated in or near marginalized communities, these communities can experience a disproportionately negative impact on local public health, safety, and environmental quality. Through waste diversion and materials cycling, Compost Cats helps uphold environmental and social justice, ensure equitable access to natural resources, and improve wellness for all.

Food Security & Experiential Learning

As critical as waste interception and diversion are to Compost Cats’ mission, the organization’s goals have also grown considerably beyond these efforts. Compost Cat’s scope of work now includes initiatives that enhance food security in Southern Arizona, expand student workforce development, and elevate environmental justice education and programming. According to the Community Food Bank of Southern Arizona, as of 2019 (prior to the COVID-19 pandemic), almost 19% of Tucson’s population lived in poverty, and 15.4% of our community was food insecure. Food insecurity is defined by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as a lack of access to adequate and nutritionally sound food for a healthy, active life, due to economic and/or social conditions. Over the last few years, Compost Cats has been increasingly involved in the redistribution of still-edible foods to groups like the Community Food Bank and the University of Arizona Campus Pantry.

Through participation in the Compost Cats program, student employees are afforded unparalleled career-based, experiential learning opportunities, and are given the chance to interact with a wide array of stakeholders through innovative partnerships with local non-profits, government agencies, and Tribal entities. Increasingly, Compost Cats students serve as ambassadors for service, engagement, and collaborative leadership throughout the Southwest. More than 100 students have been employed by Compost Cats over the past nine years, and have built a valued, productive, and expanding program through creative community partnerships and innovative thinking.

It is the Office of Sustainability’s goal for Compost Cats to continue its enduring environmental and social legacy in Southern Arizona. For more information about Compost Cats, and to stay updated on the latest happenings, please visit the Compost Cats Facebook or Instagram. A new website is in the works!

Madison Padgett operating a tractor behind a pile of compost.

Looking to Buy Compost?

Compost Cats is not offering compost for sale for the foreseeable future. Consider Tank's Green Stuff for bulk compost or visit your local nursery/plant store for smaller volumes. Buy local when possible! 

To request more information on Compost Cats, please contact Dr. Ilse Rojas at rojasi@arizona.edu, or call 520-621-5653.

Interested in supporting Compost Cats? Donate here or please contact Trevor Ledbetter, Director for the Office of Sustainability, at tledbetter@arizona.edu, or call 520-621-1760.

Compost Cats is proudly supported in part by the Kroger Company’s Zero Hunger Zero Waste Initiative for 2020-2021.

Zero Hunger Zero Waste logo