Compost FAQs

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Compost Main Page

At this time, the compost that is made from the food scraps that are dropped off is not available to the public.

(Please see “Where does the compost made from my food scraps go?” shown below. Please contact a local nursery or landscaping company for any finished compost needs!)

What is compost? 

Compost is created when organic materials such as food waste and plant matter undergo decomposition. A successful compost system is achieved by the right combination of moisture, oxygen, temperature, and organic materials (carbon/"browns" and nitrogen/"greens"). When these conditions are properly balanced, soil microbes can efficiently decompose organic material and reach a temperature high enough to kill unwanted pathogens and bacteria -- resulting in a healthy, nutrient-rich compost. This compost is then used to help grow healthy vegetables, fruits, and ornamental plants.

Why compost? 

Since most food waste decomposes easily under the right conditions, placing it in a landfill is an unnecessary waste of space and money. More importantly, food waste that breaks down without oxygen ("anaerobically") in a landfill produces methane, a very powerful greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. When food scraps are diverted from the landfill and used to make compost, however, greenhouse gases are minimized and the food scraps' nutrients can enrich the soil and produce healthy food.

I want to start using the food scraps drop-off; what are my first steps?

Review what food scraps are accepted here and then take the quick quiz to get the lock combination that will be used to access the bins at the drop-off location.

Why do I have to take a quiz to access the drop off bins?

Avoiding contamination is critical to the success of this project. The quiz ensures that participants carefully review which food scraps are accepted in the drop-off bins. Proper use of the drop-off bins will allow this project to continue and potentially expand in the future. Please do not share the combination padlock code.

What do I collect my food scraps in?

Food scraps can be collected in any lidded container! If you have a lot of food waste, an inexpensive, lidded, 5-gallon bucket can be used and placed in your garage, on the porch, or near your outdoor trash. We advise against storing scraps in plastic bags (even ones labeled as compostable) as you will need to remove the scraps from the bags to dump in the drop-off bins.

Where can I store my food scraps?

Depending on the amount of space in your home, your food scraps can go in a multitude of places! It is recommended to store them in a dark, cool place so as to minimize smell. They can be stored in the cabinet under the kitchen sink, in your freezer if you have room, or on your countertops away from where you do your food prep. 

How often should I drop off my food scraps?

In order to avoid collected food scraps from becoming too fragrant, we recommend dropping off food scraps once every 7-10 days.

Where are the food scrap drop-off locations?

There are currently 4 drop-off locations. Three of these sites are located at a City of Knoxville Recycling Drop-Off Center and the other is located at the Knoxville Saturday Farmers' Markets, managed by Nourish Knoxville. Use the green bins at the designated food scrap drop-off area, next to the message board. We hope to expand our locations over time.
  • Downtown (Old City): 227 Willow Ave
  • East (across from Chilhowee Park): 210 Alice St
  • South: 225 W. Moody Ave
  • Winter Saturday Farmers' Market: located at the market's info booth
  • Summer Saturday Farmers' Market: located at the Market Square stage

How do I bring food scraps to the drop-off locations?

Bring them in whatever container you store them in! They can then be dumped out of their container into the drop-off bins. Please note there are no trash cans at these sites and any trash needs to be brought back home with you. We recommend using containers in order to prevent plastic bag waste. 

Where will the food scraps that I drop off go?

The food scraps collected at our 3 recycling drop-off centers and Saturday farmers' markets will be transported to Beardsley Community Farm, BattleField Farms, or the Richard Brown Community Garden by Green Heron, a comprehensive compost service. There, they will be added to a solar-powered Aerated Static Bin (ASB) composter which was designed and built by City Possum Farm.

Can I bring my food scraps directly to one of the community farms?

No. Please only bring your food scraps to the designated public food scrap drop-off sites listed here. There is a process our team goes through at the community farms to properly maintain the compost piles, ensuring the good health and efficiency required to continue our compost project.

Where does the compost made from my food scraps go?

After several weeks in the composter, the food scraps will break down into rich soil and be used to grow food at each of the farms that host a composter, supporting the Knoxville community. 

Why can't I drop off ALL of my food scraps and organic materials?

Food scraps like meat, cheese, bread, oils/fats, and cooked foods can be successfully composted at industrial composting facilities, which produce a lot of heat and break down materials very efficiently. The Knoxville Compost Project, however, follows a community composting model, which operates at a much smaller scale than an industrial composting facility. Limiting the types of accepted food waste ensures they will break down quickly and won't produce nuisance smells that might attract rodents and make management of the compost challenging for the farmers.

What are my other options for composting and how can I learn more?

Do you have a backyard? Backyard composting is the most sustainable way to compost because it doesn't require any transportation, plus it produces a rich soil amendment to use in your garden. On-site residential compost bins for personal use are allowed in all districts if they comply with these instructions. Visit the Backyard Compost page for more guidance.

Don’t have much backyard space or live in an apartment? Check out these Vermicomposting instructions.

The University of Tennessee Compost Facility is a collection and research site for food waste and organic material managed by the UT Office of Sustainability. The Compost Facility offers educational tours and information available to anyone who is interested in learning about the composting process first-hand. However, this facility only accepts materials produced by the University and does not accept materials from the public. 


UT Knox County Extension Office 

UT Gardens - Resources & Occasional Composting Classes 

UT Master Gardeners - Organic Gardening & Compost 

Keep Knoxville Beautiful - Composting: Heaps of Fun 

Ijams - Living Clean & Green Compost Diagram 

Borderland Tees' Butterfly Garden 

Beardsley Farm & CSA 

Living Earth - Compost & Soils 

Hines Fine Soils - Compost & Soils 

ShareWaste - Compost Connection Service