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The University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s goal is to convert campus into a zero waste institution by diverting 90% (or more) of all waste from the landfill through reducing, reusing, recycling, and composting practices.

More Information About Waste Reduction


During the 2017 fiscal year, UT:

  • Recycled 1,634.63 tons of material
  • Composted 1,571.99 tons of material
  • Diverted 57.28% of construction and demolition materials from landfill/incineration through recycling, donation, and other forms of recovery
  • Donated or re-sold 26.64 tons of material


The Mug Project

Stainless steel mugs with Mug Project stickers.UT students, faculty, and staff can bring their own mug of 24 ounces or less and receive 99 cent drip coffee and fountain beverages, a savings of 40 cents or more. The program also offers 15 percent off specialty coffee beverages. More than 90 percent of Volunteer Dining locations are participating, including Starbucks, Einstein’s, Quiznos, and Subway.

If you drink coffee every day, you can save up to $200 a semester by using the Mug Project.

Campus Composting

Compost iconMost finished compost will be taken to the UT Organic Farm by Alcoa Highway. The compost will be used as a soil amendment to fertilize their crops, which hopefully one day will make it to your plate at a UT Dining location. Some compost may be used for erosion control on campus. Some may be used to mix with fill dirt to create better topsoil. Some of it may even be used at the Anthropological Research Facility (the “Body Farm”).

Learn more about composting

Game Day Recycling

Recycling iconUT Athletics works in partnership with UT Recycling, Aramark, and Good Sports Always Recycle to make Neyland Stadium a zero waste facility. Last season, UT Recycling diverted 50 percent of all recyclables and compost from the landfill on game days.

Learn more about Zero Waste Game Day


UT takes part in the nationwide RecycleMania Tournament every spring, hosting competitions between residence halls for the amount of material recycled and composted as well as the number of students involved in the efforts.

Learn more about RecycleMania

Why Recycle?

Find out what we recycle and where we do it.



Aluminum can iconThrowing away a single can is like pouring out six ounces of gasoline. Creating a can from recycled aluminum uses 95 percent less energy than creating one from virgin materials.

An aluminum can has no limit to how many times it can be recycled, and the average life cycle of a can is under 60 days.




Plastic bottle iconCreating new plastics accounts for seven percent of worldwide usage of fossil fuels.

The purpose of plastic containers is to be chemically inert to the material it contains, which makes them virtually non-biodegradable. Thus, plastics continue to pollute surface waters and break into smaller and smaller pieces. They eventually end up in the oceans, where large eddy currents collect and concentrate the debris, affecting sea life.


Cardboard iconAbout 90 percent of all products shipped worldwide are shipped in cardboard containers. As it is a paper product and there are a limited number of trees, recycling cardboard is not only lucrative but essential to maintaining an environmental equilibrium. Recycling cardboard saves 50 percent of greenhouse emissions compared with new cardboard.

Food Waste

Food waste iconOrganic materials in landfills break down under anaerobic conditions. In the absence of oxygen, bacteria will produce methane gas more readily. Methane is a greenhouse gas with 20 times more greenhouse potential than carbon dioxide. Also, organic materials take up valuable space in landfills. At the University of Tennessee, we compost green wastes and food wastes to create a nutrient-rich soil additive.

Steel Cans

Steel can iconMost people call them “tin cans,” but the containers your green beans come in are mostly made of steel. Recycling steel cans saves 74 percent of the energy used to produce them. A steel mill that uses recycled scrap reduces related water pollution, air pollution, and mining wastes by about 70 percent.



Small electronics iconElectronic waste is a rapidly growing constituent of the waste stream. It contains many valuable recoverable metals and toxic and hazardous materials.