Compost being stirred at compost farm.

The University Compost Facility was built in 2008 with the initial purpose of managing manure produced by the ISU Dairy Farm's 400+ milking cows. In the years since, however, the University Compost Facility has made an ongoing commitment to expand its relationships with other campus entities: ISU Dining began composting food waste from its catering services and residential dining facilities in 2009, while Jack Trice Stadium began composting food waste from its suites in 2010. Although manure still accounts for nearly 80% of the site's incoming material, the University Compost Facility currently has the capacity to receive up to 10,000 tons per year of animal bedding, landscaping waste, food waste and biomass research waste from ISU Campus Services, Reiman Gardens, Animal Science Farms, Research and Demonstration Farms, ISU Dining, and Biocentury Research Farm.

After initial collection, nitrogen-rich manure and food waste are mixed together with carbon-rich corn stover and yard waste, which is then formed into piles that are turned and aerated periodically to promote decomposition and minimize odor. To reduce the risk of runoff and leaching, finished compost is cured and stored under the cover of large hoop barns.  Using this process, campus waste usually takes four months to transform into compost. The resulting product is used for agricultural research and landscaping projects, exemplifying a full-circle model of sustainability that meets 100% of Iowa State's compost needs. In 2019, for example, the site converted 9,275 tons of waste into 3,970 tons of material used exclusively for campus purposes.

As part of the ISU Research and Demonstration Farms, the University Compost Facility produces an annual report on its progress and accomplishments. Although only those affiliated with ISU can bring materials into or out of the site, tours are available to the general public. Please send questions or comments to site manager Steve Jonas at

"We recycle a lot of waste that would end up in a landfill or just pile up somewhere. Eventually that waste turns into something beneficial that can help make our campus better."

-Steve Jonas, University Compost Facility Manager