UT Recycling is making strides on campus to reduce organic waste transported to landfills, instead composting the material into a valuable nutrient-rich soil additive. Organic materials in landfills break down under anaerobic conditions, in which bacteria will produce methane gas more readily. Methane is a greenhouse gas with 20 times more greenhouse potential than carbon dioxide.
How Is It Done?
Food waste is collected from all campus dining locations and select buildings and taken to our composting facility off Cherokee Trail. Once there, the food waste is combined with wood chips and separated into long piles called windrows. The windrows allow the wastes to biodegrade aerobically, which is faster and reduces the potential for methane production. Periodically, the windrows are turned and watered to manage temperature and biodegredation.
Where Does It Go?
Most finished compost will be taken to the UT Organic Farm off of 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”).
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 on our site to ensure we do not adversely impact our surrounding environment.