Waste and Resources Manager

Patience Melnik
400 Main St.
Knoxville, TN 37902

Report trash, recycling or cart issues to (865) 215-4311 or

Last item for navigation
  • Share on Facebook
  • Share on Twitter
  • Share via Email
Makenzie Read
Waste and Resources Coordinator


compostSince most food and yard waste are easily degradable under the correct conditions, placing them in a landfill unnecessarily wastes space and money. Compost enriches soils chemically and structurally, serving to improve lawns, gardens, and flower beds. Although the City of Knoxville does not currently offer a curbside composting program, there are ways to turn organic waste into rich compost at home. 

What is compost? 

Compost is a mixture of residues from organic materials that have undergone decomposition. 

Do you have your own backyard? 

Personal use, on-site compost bins are allowed in all districts and shall comply with the following  City Ordinance 

Do you have limited living space without a yard? 

Consider reaching out to a private composting business, local farm or community garden to see if they will take waste material. Composting with worms, vermicompost, can also be ideal for small spaces. 

What can I compost? 

Include materials such as: fruit and vegetable scraps, egg shells, flowers, leaf and brush material, small branches, wood chips, straw, grass clippings, shredded non-glossy paper and cardboard.

Avoid materials such as: meat, seafood, cheese, fatty foods, plants with pests and disease, anything with plastic or polymers, and dog, cat, and human manure.

How do I compost? 

Backyard Compost Directions 

Vermicompost Directions 

When is the compost ready and how do I use it? 

Ultimately, when the waste looks like crumbly, dark humus and you can no longer recognize what the original materials were, your compost is ready! To use your compost, strive to use a ratio of 5% compost to soil.  Compost can be directly incorporated into soil or applied to the surface for soil building benefits.

How should I collect items for composting?

A kitchen-approved food scrap bin can be any size, sealable container placed somewhere accessible such as the countertop, underneath the sink, in the refrigerator or freezer.

If you’re producing a lot of food waste, or collecting food scraps for an off-site compost heap, an inexpensive 5 gallon bucket with a sealing lid placed on a porch or near your outdoor trash is an ideal option to keep pests out and smells in. 

For leaf, brush, and other yard debris, simply pile these materials near your compost or set them loose and un-bagged at your curbside for disposal through the City's  Yard Waste Collection . On average more than 26,000 tons of loosely piled yard waste in Knoxville is sent to be turned into mulch and diverted from the landfill annually. Composting yard and food waste not only diverts valuable resources from the landfill, but also saves tax payer dollars. 


 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 

 Green Heron - Compost Service 

 ShareWaste - Compost Connection Service 


greens Make Your Own Backyard Compost

Compost follows a loose recipe of approximately 50-75% “brown”, carbon materials and 25-50% being “green”, nitrogen materials.

Carbon or "Brown" Material

Carbon, or brown material, consists of items such as: leaves, bark, brush material, wood-chips, twigs, cardboard and paper.

Nitrogen or "Green" Material
Nitrogen, or green material, consists of items such as: fruit and vegetable waste, grass clippings, cut flowers, coffee grounds, and eggshells.


The compost pile should be kept damp, not saturated and have the feel of a well wrung sponge. A handful of compost should yield one or two drops of liquid when tightly squeezed. A tarp can be used to conserve moisture and errant weed seeds. If the pile becomes too dry, simply add water or let a modest rain bypass the tarp.

Creating the Pile

compost bin1. Pick a location for your pile that is out of the way, yet convenient for you to be able to easily dispose of kitchen food scraps. The pile should be a minimum of 3'x 3' x 3' (length by width by height) and a maximum of 5’ x 5' in any dimension for ease of maintenance. Using a commercially available compost bin can help easily manage materials, moisture, and temperature. Check your local Knoxville garden supply stores to see various models and sizes.  

2. Using a digging fork, "turn over" the soil that will be beneath the pile. This will help expose a healthy supply of decomposing microorganisms to your pile. If creating the pile on compacted soil, scratch or rake as much dirt for exposure as possible. Adding some soil from your garden can also encourage microorganisms to colonize. 

3. Start your pile with a layer of carbon, or brown material. Next add a layer of green material. Continue alternating layers. Aim for a loose three parts brown to one part green layering every few inches.

4. Keep a garden hose handy as you build the pile and spray after every few layers to ensure the pile is uniformly moist.

5. Turning the pile is not necessary, but it will speed up the composting process.

compost pile 6. At some point you’ll want to stop adding new materials to let it decompose fully. This is why many people opt to have a few piles - one for new materials, one decomposing/aging, and another that is ready to be used. The time it takes between each stage is as unique as your compost pile - materials, heat and moisture all affect the speed. The hotter and more aerated a pile is the sooner compost can be ready within a handful of months. Slower, cooler, reduced material diversity can still provide excellent results, but may take years.

7. Finished compost has many benefits. As a mulch it conserves moisture, reduces erosion, buffers the surface from temperature extremes, adds nutrients, and suppresses weeds. Adding compost to soil as a soil enricher improves soil structure, increases its water holding capacity, and makes nutrients more available.


(There are no compost events scheduled at this time.)