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How Composting Works at UT

Step 1: Waste Collected from Dining Halls

Compost bin in dining area

Food waste from dining halls/restaurants and plant material from greenhouses is collected in rolling bins ranging from 35-gallons to 95-gallons. In most locations, Facilities or Dining staff members collect organic waste into the compost bins.

Step 2: Waste Transferred to Compost Site

UT Recycling’s compost assistant empties organic material from the bins into our big bright orange compost truck.

Picking up compost from the bins to take to the pile.

Food waste/plant material is dumped at the compost site and covered/mixed with wood chips and leaves.

Dumping a truck full of compost onto the pile

Wood chips come from trees that have been cut down on or near campus. The leaves are all collected by Landscape Services on campus.

Turning the compost pile with a bulldozer

Step 3: Turning and Maturing

The mixture of food waste, plant material, wood chips, and leaves are formed into a long pile called a windrow.

A compost windrow

The windrow then goes through a turn cycle. During the turn cycle, the windrow is turned and mixed five times over the course of two weeks. This ensures that all the material in the windrow is exposed to the high heat and high microbial activity inside the windrow, where bacteria is working to break down the raw organic ingredients into mature soil.

Turning the compost windrow

After being turned, the windrow is left to mature for about 3 months. During this time, the ammonia and CO2 levels decrease in the compost, which makes it more suitable for growing plants later.

Step 4: Screening and Delivery

After the compost has reached maturity, it is put through a mechanical screen to remove any contamination, such as plastic bags or silverware, that may have been mixed in at the beginning. The finished, screened compost is then delivered to gardens and plant beds on campus and at university assisted community school gardens such as Inskip and Pond Gap Elementary schools to be used as a soil amendment.

Adding the compost to the Grow Lab garden
Compost helping the community.