Keep Sevier Beautiful: Living Green in Tennessee

by Amelia Old
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Keep Sevier Beautiful

One of the most progressive composting facilities in the world can be found in Tennessee. The largest mixed co-composting facility in the nation is the Sevier Solid Waste Composting Facility. It serves the City of Gatlinburg, Sevierville and Pigeon Forge, Sevier County, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Over the summer, during a trip to Pigeon Forge, my children and I had the opportunity to visit the facility. One of the best ways to teach our children about living a more green life is by showing them the process of composting and recycling. It’s important for them to understand what happens after the trash leaves our home. It’s more than just separating materials into two trash bins. Visiting the facility was a great educational opportunity but also a great way to show them a phenomenal project right here in the United States.


This area is home to two major tourist destinations: Gatlinburg and Pigeon Forge which are on the edge of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. With over 11.3 million visitors a year, I can all only imagine how much trash actually is accumulated. But according to the Sevier Solid Waste (SSWI) website, they produce over 70,000 tons of compost each year.

So, how does the process work?

You won’t find recycling bins at places such as Dollywood as SSWI does not require people to separate their trash from recycling. All waste is transported the same way. This makes sense because with the millions of visitors, it would be nearly impossible to make them aware of local recycling rules. Much less force visitors to follow those rules.

The garbage is then combined with bio-solids and placed in aerobic digesters which are large rotating composting drums. This process last for three days and during this time all waste such as food, paper, and cardboard become compost.  The materials are then placed in buildings where it can be further composted. This last for 28 days and then the compost is sifted to remove any inorganic or recyclable items. During my tour, I was told each day they process enough material to fill up a 747 Boeing Jet!

After the final screening, the compost is used on local farms and erosion control. About 70% of incoming waste goes to composting and recycling which minimizes the amount that ends up in landfills. In the late 90s, the landfill stretched over 5 acres. Because of their program, it has decreased to only 1/2 an acre. Proof this program works! In the near future, the recycle rates in Sevier County are expected to be higher than major cities such as Los Angeles.

There’s no doubt Sevier Solid Waste Inc. are working hard to ‘Keep Sevier Beautiful’. Not only do they compost all organic materials but they also recycle cardboard. More details can be found HERE.

When visiting Pigeon Forge, the Great Smoky Mountains, and surrounding areas I highly recommend setting up a tour with SSWI. It will give you peace of mind knowing this destination is committed to living a more green life and protecting the lands you love so much.


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