Composting Policy for Johnson County Internal Operations

Adopted 4/4/2013

Johnson County requires food-related composting for most County-hosted events of 25 people or more. Keeping compostable items out of the landfill helps the County promote sustainability and set a good example.

This policy applies to all departments. This policy (1) defines compostable products; (2) describes when to use compostable materials/composting; 3) outlines who is responsible for supplies; and (4) explains how to coordinate with the Green Team/Physical Plant Department on qualifying events.

Whether or not your event requires compostable supplies/composting, the County encourages all departments to minimize waste when hosting events.

1. Compostables

Compostable items are different from recyclable items. Compostable items are solid that easily break down into carbon, water and biomass. In contrast, recyclables, such as a tin can, may not breakdown easily but can be transformed into another product.

What Should Be Composted

  • Food scraps
  • Napkins
  • Compostable plates, cups, and utensils
  • Lightweights paper plates and paper cups (not wax-coated, not Styrofoam)
  • Anything labeled "compostable"

What Cannot Be Composted

  • Items that go into single-stream recycling
  • Plates, cups and utensils that are plastic, Styrofoam or wax-coated
  • Items that must go in the trash such as foil, plastic wrap and grocery bags. (While these can be used to carry or cover food, they cannot be composted or recycled at Johnson County.)

2. When Should Composting Be Used?

First, please consider servicing foods that do not require plates or utensils. Many "finger foods" require only a napkin. If you serve food but do not use plates, cups, and utensils, your event does not require composting.

If you are using plates, cups, and utensils AND your event includes 25 or more people, you must use compostable supplies. (If you are serving soup or the like, you may use regular plastic spoons or silverware (if available), as compostable spoons melt in hot liquid). The following events are examples of events requiring compostable supplies/composting:

  • Employee appreciation or recognition event of more than 25 people
  • Chow Hounds
  • Lunch-and-Listen  or other employee education event of more than 25 people
  • Retirement or farewell party of more than 25 people
  • Department-hosted holiday party more than 25 people
  • Bike-to-Work week or Earth Day events
  • Office-based parties of 25+ for non-work events milestones, such as birthdays

Departments are encouraged to use compostable items for smaller events, as well.

If you use any compostable supplies purchased by the County, you must make a good faith effort to compost regardless of the size of your event.

3. How to Obtain Compostable Supplies

If your event has 25+ expected guest, purchase/obtain supplies before your event:

  • Purchase your own compostable items OR ask Human Resources (HR) for supplies. Typically, HR can provide supplies for countywide events open to all employees, but check with HR well before your event. If you need help finding products to purchase, contact the Green Team.
  • If your food provider offers supplies, ask them to give you compostable or lightweight paper products that can be composted (not Styrofoam, plastic or wax-coated). Most caterers do not provide compostable supplies, so you may need to forgo their non-compostable products and purchase your own for your event of 25+ guests.

4. How to Coordinate on Composting

  • Email the Green Team at [email protected] at least one week in advance of the event and provide the following information:
    • Date, time and location of event
    • Approximate number of attendees
    • If your event is sit-down, how many tables
    • Name of event organizer(s)
  • The Sustainability Assistant will submit a Work Order asking the Physical Plant Department to set up composting bins. The assistant also will place informational signs and tabletop reminders in the room on the day of your event or provide them in advance to your event organizer. (Due to the assistant's half-time schedule, s/he may not be able to set up the signage in person.)
  • During the event, the even organizer, or a designee, should spot check the compost bins for items that should instead go in the trash or recycling bins, and vice versa.
  • When the event ends, Physical Plant staff will take the bags of compostables to the compost site at the landfill, unless arrangements have been made for other staff to transport the bags.