Composting facility planned near downtown Chattanooga for yard, food waste

Atlas Organics photo / A composting facility similar to this one is planned for Chattanooga on East 23rd Street. Atlas Organics is proposing to compost yard and food waste.

A South Carolina company is planning to build a composting facility on a 5.5-acre tract just outside downtown Chattanooga that's slated to start operation by mid-2023.

Atlas Organics is seeking a permit from the Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation for the location at 1045 E. 23rd St.

Megan Turner of the Spartanburg, South Carolina, company said Wednesday that Atlas plans to compost yard and food waste. The facility also will offer a retail operation to sell the compost, she said in a telephone interview.

"Anybody can buy some," Turner said, adding that landscapers are common purchasers of its soil amendment as well as residents. "People can buy compost directly from us."


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Turner said Atlas' operation will keep odors contained with proper management at the planned facility.

The location, adjacent to Interstate 24 between Howard School and Montague Park, will sit on what's now vacant property, but top soil was sold there in the past, she said.

"We've got a whole team of engineers which build the site," Turner said. About one to three employees will work at the facility at any point in time, she said.

  photo  Atlas Organics image / A rendering of a proposed composting facility in Chattanooga by Atlas Organics submitted to the state shows the site's layout. The facility is planned for a location on East 23rd Street near Interstate 24.

Leslie Rogers, Altas' director of sales and marketing, said during a public hearing Tuesday that while the tract is more than 5 acres, the composting area will take up about half the parcel.

Rogers said Atlas, founded in 2015, now operates 14 facilities in eight states, including one in Memphis. The company has 224 employees, she said.

"Food waste is responsible for about 6% of total global greenhouse emissions," Rogers said.

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The yard waste typically comes from landscapers, homes and public works entities, according to the company, while the food waste is brought in from private hauling operations.

"It's a way for the community to access commercial composting," Rogers said.

According to TDEC, officials have made a tentative decision to approve the Atlas permit to construct the facility. But there is a 45-day comment period ending Jan. 4, before a final decision is taken, the department said. No one from the general public spoke for or against the permit at the hearing.

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Turner said Atlas already has a small-scale operation at Crabtree Farms off Rossville Boulevard in Chattanooga. That composting of yard and food waste began in 2018, according to the company.

Turner said one of Atlas Organic's founders, Joseph McMillin, has family ties to Chattanooga and that's how the city came to the company's attention. She said she didn't know the dollar investment in the project.

Turner said building the compost facility could start early next year if Atlas receives approval.

"We'll be starting out the process of making compost," she said. "It takes a little while."

Contact Mike Pare at or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.