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A student worker with the Office of Sustainability brings food waste from campus dining halls to the UT compost site to be turned into a nutrient-rich soil additive

UT has committed to diverting half of its waste from landfills by 2030 as part of a larger goal of becoming a zero waste institution. This will be a significant increase in the diversion rate; the 2018 rate was 33 percent.

Hundreds of recycling bins are placed around Neyland Stadium for Zero Waste Game Day

Reducing the amount of waste UT sends to the landfill could save up to $90,000 in waste collection and disposal fees, based on current disposal rates. The university also earns revenue for recyclable items. In fiscal year 2019, UT earned nearly 90,000 dollars from paper, cardboard, scrap metal, shipping pallets and used cooking oil.

The Office of Sustainability will spearhead the effort through a combination of recycling, composting, and reuse programs, including further expansion of the university’s already robust composting operation and more environmentally preferable purchasing practices.

Office of Sustainability staff help students sort their waste at a zero waste event on the Tennessee Terrace in Neyland Stadium

“We are lucky to be able to work and learn in one of the most beautiful parts of the country, and I am proud of our commitment to ensuring these same opportunities exist for future generations,” said Chancellor Donde Plowman. “It’s important to us that we leave our campus and our community better than we found it.”

“Achieving zero waste will require a community-wide effort, but the good news is that there are easy changes everybody can make,” said Jay Price, UT’s sustainability manager.

Waste audits of select campus buildings conducted by the Office of Sustainability have found that user error is a significant contributor to the landfill waste stream. Placing your bottles, cans, and paper in their designated recycling bin or opting for reusable items like a water bottle, coffee mug, or utensil set can make a difference.

UT’s current waste reduction and diversion efforts are available online.



Brian Canever (865-974-0937,

Annalisa Tarizzo (865-424-0204,