UT Recycling is making huge strides on campus to reduce the amount of organic waste being transported to landfills. This problem is being combatted through the method of composting, which is actively done by UT Recycling. Composting takes the organic material and turns it into a valuable nutrient-rich soil additive. The problem at hand is that once organic materials are deposited in landfills, the bacteria will start breaking it down, releasing methane gas. Methane is a greenhouse gas with 20 times more greenhouse potential than carbon dioxide, making it very hazardous to our health.
Food waste is collected from all campus dining locations, along with select buildings, and is then taken to our composting facility located right off Cherokee Trail. Once there, the food waste is combined with wood chips and is then separated into long piles called windrows. The windrows allow the wastes to biodegrade aerobically, which is much 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 will hopefully make it to your plate at a UT Dining location. Some compost may be used for erosion control on campus. Compost may also be mixed with fill dirt to create better topsoil, which in turn 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 here at the University of Tennessee. 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.