We are making huge strides on campus to reduce the amount of organic waste in landfills. One method we’re using is composting, a process that turns organic material into a valuable nutrient-rich soil additive which can be used to fertilize campus gardens and green spaces.
In 2018, UT Recycling composted more than 1,100 tons of food and landscaping waste.
How Does It Work?
Food waste is collected from all campus dining locations and select buildings on campus. Then we take it to our composting facility located off Cherokee Trail. At the compost site, the food waste is combined with wood chips and separated into long piles called windrows.
The windrows allow waste to biodegrade aerobically, meaning it breaks down with the help of bacteria that use oxygen to survive. This is a relatively quick method that also reduces the amount of methane—a harmful greenhouse gas—that is produced during the process. Periodically, the windrows are turned and watered to manage temperature and biodegredation.
Where Does It Go?
Most finished compost is taken to the UT Organic Farm, where it’s used as a soil additive to fertilize crops. Produce from the Organic Farm then hopefully makes it to your plate at a UT Dining location!
Some compost may be used for erosion control on campus or mixed with fill dirt to create better topsoil, which helps plant growth and development. Alternatively, some of it may even be used at the Anthropological Research Facility, the “Body Farm”.
We are constantly trying to improve, streamline, and expand our composting operation. We are working more closely with campus dining to collect as much food waste as possible, making improvements to our windrow watering system, and taking measures to make sure our site is as environmentally friendly as possible.