UA Compost Cats Plan to Expand After Move to New Facility

May 9, 2019

UA Compost Cats Plan to Expand After Move to New Facility

TUCSON, Ariz. — The University of Arizona's student-operated Compost Cats program recently stopped accepting all materials at their current site, the San Xavier Cooperative Farm on the Tohono O'odham Nation, to begin moving to a location that will facilitate future growth.

Compost Cats, which is part of the UA Office of Sustainability, is partnered with the City of Tucson to operate the FoodCycle Program – a voluntary, full-service compost program for commercial businesses and restaurants, in which food scraps are collected by the City and given to Compost Cats for processing.

Compost Cats is the only organization of its kind in Southern Arizona to divert food waste, manure and other organic material from businesses and homes that would otherwise be tossed into local landfills and transform the waste material into high-quality compost for local agriculture and landscaping.

"I want to be clear," said UA Office of Sustainability director Trevor Ledbetter, "Compost Cats has a very bright future and a growing partnership with the City of Tucson."

The move will facilitate such growth.

"At the San Xavier Co-Op, we have approximately three acres of land and process 2,500 tons of organic materials a year," Ledbetter said. "We've outgrown the land and we don't have reliable access to the resources or the space we need."

The program has barely grown, he said, because of these restraints.  

Ledbetter is currently working with the City of Tucson's Environmental Services department to choose a new site, which could be Los Reales Landfill, where the program would receive reliable access to water, more space and additional infrastructure on the scale Compost Cats requires.

Additionally, more than 80 percent of what flows into Tucson's landfills is compostable or recyclable, according to Tucson's Environmental Services Department.

With more resources, Ledbetter hopes to recruit more businesses into the FoodCycle program, which provides most of Compost Cats' organic material. He envisions processing up to 50,000 tons of organic material a year.

To do so, Compost Cats is currently seeking donations, both financial and in-kind. As the program looks to scale up, larger, more specialized equipment will be necessary and the funding for this is not yet fully secured. The program's restart date is contingent on its ability to garner the necessary donations, but Ledbetter hopes to be up and running again in mid-to-late fall.

Trevor Ledbetter
UA Office of Sustainability

Media contact:
Mikayla Mace
University Communications

The University of Arizona, the state's super land-grant university with two medical schools, is one of the nation's top 50 public universities, according to U.S. News & World Report. Established in 1885, the UA is widely recognized as a student-centric university and is a designated Hispanic Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. The UA ranked in the top 25 in 2018 in research expenditures among all public universities, according to the National Science Foundation, and is a leading R1 institution with $687 million in research expenditures. The UA advances the frontiers of interdisciplinary scholarship and entrepreneurial partnerships as a member of the Association of American Universities, the 62 leading public and private research universities. It benefits the state with an estimated economic impact of $4.1 billion annually.