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Composting is a process in which organic waste is broken down into a rich, soil additive under controlled conditions. Compost can be used to promote plant growth while also reducing landfill waste by recycling organic materials back into the soil.  Vanderbilt University currently has a composting operation on campus called the Natchez Triangle Leaf Compost Pile.

The Natchez Trace Leaf Compost Pile

Vanderbilt’s scenic campus contains more than 7,500 trees, which produce a sizable amount of leaves each year. The Plant Operations Grounds Department at Vanderbilt collects leaf and other grounds-keeping waste from campus to compost at an on-site location off of Natchez Trace resulting in about 9,000 cubic feet of compost annually. The mature leaf litter compost is later used to fertilize Vanderbilt grounds. Plant Operations staff regularly turn the leaf waste pile with a front-end loader to allow maximum exposure to oxygen.  Spreading compost helps to revitalize plants and trees in urban settings. Read more about how Vanderbilt uses its abundance of leaves to nurture and protect the trees on campus here.

Why doesn’t Vanderbilt compost food waste on a scale larger than a demonstration site?

Due to Vanderbilt’s location within the metropolitan Nashville area, the university is not permitted to compost food waste, only landscaping waste. Metropolitan Nashville health department regulations require institutions who want to compost food waste to use an industrial compost facility; they are not allowed to compost food waste on a scale larger than “backyard-size.” No such operating, compliant facility is located within a reasonable radius of Nashville at this time.