DeKalb County Green Living Festival

IFSC Guest Blog Series by Michelle Gibson, Solid Waste Specialist for DeKalb County Health Department

Caring for the environment is not just for elite, well-educated people. Caring for the environment is everyone's duty. Environmental stewardship should unite people regardless of class, race, social economic status or education level. The Illinois Food Scrap Coalition seeks to elevate all efforts to promote environmental stewardship as it relates to composting food scraps. IFSC would like to highlight the DeKalb Green County Living Festival. This event is significant because it took place at the DeKalb County Health Department. The location is important because the Health Department's population encompasses the whole County. Everyone, at some point in their life, will need to visit the Health Department because of the wide range of services offered.  

DeKalb Green Living FestivalThe Green Living Festival's aim was to bring environmental stewardship to populations who otherwise, would not be exposed to it. Over half of the clientele at the Health Department receive government subsidized food assistance know as WIC (Women Infant and Children Supplemental Food Program). Low-income families don't always have environmental stewardship at the forefront of their mind. The intent of the festival was to introduce them to composting as well as other aspects of environmental stewardship. Families attended seminars and visited booths teaching them about environmental stewardship. Families were shown how they can be more involved in the food cycle, beyond shopping at the grocery store and discardiFood cycle diagramng food waste. They started by touring the community gardens located on the Health Department's campus.Community gardens are open to anyone and produce is offered for free to WIC clients. After picking out fresh produce, they were shown healthy recipe demonstrations from the food they picked up. In line with the major mission of IFSC, they were given a seminar on composting food scraps and using them to help in their own gardens. The families who did not wish to participate in the community garden program were offered buckets to collect food scraps. They can drop the buckets off at the community gardens and exchange them weekly. These food scraps will provide vital nutrients for the gardens.  Families also received tips on energy efficiency from Com Ed, Nicor and the Citizen's Utility Board. The DeKalb Public Library bought out children's books on environmental stewardship and healthy living. Other groups such as the YMCA, Adventure Works and Live Healthy DeKalb provided hands on kid's activities to promote physical activity and healthy eating. Families who attended this event left with lots of great information about composting food scraps, gardening and environmental stewardship.  Attendees at green living festival

Curbside Composting = Food Recycling

IFSC Guest Blog Series by Melissa Markay, Environemental Division Intern for DuPage County, IL

Throughout the United States roughly forty-percent of food generated annually is not eaten. The majority of this food waste is taken to landfills to rot, but what if there was a way to limit the food waste going to landfills? Composting is a natural solution that can reduce the waste filtered into landfills while producing an organic fertilizer as an end product. In Illinois there are several communities that have sought to incorporate food scrap collection in their refuse programs in order to make composting convenient for their residents. One community in DuPage County recently decided to begin a pilot composting program for their residents, and was generous enough to talk me through the process.

Setting up the Program

Glen Ellyn, a Chicago suburb located in DuPage County saw that there was potential in the composting industry, and decided to Republic Services Bin determine if composting was a feasible option for their municipality. The Village of Glen Ellyn worked with their waste contractor, Republic Services, to create a composting pilot program to coincide with their existing yard waste collection. In the spring of 2016, residents in incorporated Glen Ellyn that were already enrolled in the village's refuse program were offered an option to enlist in the pilot program. The voluntary aspect of the program allowed the cost of the program to only fall onto those who choose to participate, rather than the community at large.

Of the 7,400 homes located in Glen Ellyn, it was expected that roughly 75 homes would participate in the initial pilot program; however, 203 homes have enrolled in the composting program, exceeded expectations. This, initially, was a challenge due to the shortage of bins available, but the delay was only temporary and was resolved.

Program Logistics

The program runs seasonally with the yard waste collection program, therefore the compost is picked up on Mondays from April-November in conjunction with curbside yard waste. The program does NOT run year round, however, residents may choose to have their container picked up, cleaned, stored December-March, and then returned in the spring for an additional $16.50. Furthermore, residents may choose their bin size from the three available options; 35, 65, or 95 gal. Once these program basics were determined, Republic Services was able to calculate a per resident cost that would cover the bin rental as well as hauling and composting costs, the costs per bin are as follows:

Republic bin ratesRates were agreed upon by Republic Services and negotiated by the Village, in terms of what seemed appropriate compared to other program costs. The composting site, Midwest Compost LLC in Elgin, accepts the organic food scraps such as bread, vegetable, coffee grounds, dairy etc.; however, they do not accept items such as meat or sanitary products such as diapers. Therefore, Glen Ellyn has drawn up a list of what is and is not allowed to be composted, and posted it online, in order to limit the amount of contamination. Read the list at

Upon signing up, residents will receive a cart of their choosing, small kitchen container, and bio-degradable bags for the kitchen to make composting more convenient. Additionally, the composting program allows residents to have the added benefit of placing yard waste within the cart, without the need for additional stickers.

Future Outlook

The Village of Glen Ellyn has promoted the program through the village e-blast system and through their website, and may promote it further to help expand the program to not only include more residents, but hopefully schools in the near future. In order for this expansion, however, village representatives state that the variety of items accepted must first increase to include other food waste, such as meat. Additionally, in order for the program to become year round the demand for composting must increase so that the facility would be able to afford the additional operation costs. The Glen Ellyn refuse contract with Republic Services is up for negotiation in August of 2017, and the Village hopes to include composting within the contract, in some form.
Has this article sparked your interest? Composting in Glen Ellyn is easy! You can sign up online at or at the Civic Center in downtown Glen Ellyn at 535 Duane Street.

Special Thank you to Jennifer Umlauf and Albert Stonitsch of Glen Ellyn for assisting with this post.

The Waste Game: Getting Kids to Play Along

Written by Andi Dierich 

Just about every child in the Chicagoland Region has visited The Field Museum at some point in their academic life. The classic field trip to this natural history museum is filled with amazing sights of dinosaurs, gems, mummies and other ridiculously cool "things." After an exciting morning excursion, kids will sit down to eat. Slowly they will finish and pack discarded food and wrappers back into their bag. That bag will then make the journey to the blue and gray bins, recycling and waste bins to be exact. The children will go back to exploring the museum but our story remains in the cafeteria where big changes are now occurring even as this story is written!  

The History 

Delta Institute, a non-profit that builds both a resilient environment and economy through sustainable solutions, has been working with the Field Museum for the last 4 years. In 2013, The Field Museum underwent several changes by introducing two new restaurants, the Field Bistro and the Explorer Café, along with working towards LEED certification with the assistance of Delta Institute. As part of the LEED certification Delta Institute analyzed ways to reduce waste. Large generators such as food preparation and service were an easy way to tackle waste diversion. Changes such as weighing waste leaving the premises, and employing back-of-the-house and front-of-the-house recycling and composting programs were further assisted by moving to compostable food containers and flatware. This significantly increased the overall recycling stream from 10-15% to 40-50%! With the success of reducing waste through large generators, the Field Museum sought Delta Institute’s help with their smaller generators. One of those being the cafeteria for school and other groups, the Siragusa Center.  


The Problem

The Siragusa Center is a cafeteria area where kids bring their food in to eat, unlike the restaurants, this area is not managed by the food service provider. Waste in this area is harder to define and control due to the unregulated nature of what is brought in to eat. Rather than prescribe a solution for the Siragusa Center, by just adding a compost bin for example, Delta’s project team decided to take a closer look at waste stream, people, and behaviors that occur within the Siragusa Center. Initial observations included: 

  • Color-coded bins without further signage. A gray trash bin and a blue recycling bin.  
  • Users of the Center are school-age children from kindergarten all the way up to high school.  
  • The total interaction time with the Center was typically 30 minutes.  
  • Generally adults or chaperones assisted with waste determination.  
  • Students were frequently prompted to throw their materials into the trash. 
  • Nearly all materials went back into the original bag the food was packed in and tossed as a single unit.  

These initial observations highlighted the lack of communication and the confusion that resulted around the original waste set-up at the Center. In the baseline waste audit it was determined that only 14% of materials were being diverted from the waste bin, but the potential with the addition of compost bins was 70%. Lunch packaging items that groups appeared most confused about whether to recycle, compost or landfill included: plastics, plastic baggies, food containers with mixed components, and unopened or uneaten food.  

Working towards a Solution


From these initial observations, the project team developed six different options. These options were implemented individually and then evaluated for their effectiveness and design with the intent to implement the most successful treatment. The graphic below illustrates the various treatments that were applied with Treatment 1, the addition of a compost bin to the Center. This compost bin was color-coded similar to the waste and recycling but not specifically identified with extensive signage or other detail. Treatment 1 was created as the baseline for comparison to the other treatments, and Treatment 6 was the integration of all treatments together.

After each treatment was implemented the project team observed the behaviors of the group and completed a waste audit to analyze and quantify the amount of waste diverted. Although all treatments realized a greater waste diversion from the initial Treatment 1, where only 7% of material was diverted with a potential of 69% to be diverted, and only two individual treatments really stood out. The recommendation was thus implementing both of these strategies together to have maximum impact.  

What Worked


Treatments 2 and 5 were the most successful strategies to increase the recycling and composting. Treatment 2 involved handing a flyer out to adults that entered with students at the Center entrance. Although the project team did notice several adults disregard the communication flyer, they also noticed that there tended to be at least one adult with each group that prompted the kids to sort, and throw their leftover items into the appropriate bin. This resulted in a 30% diversion rate. Although usage issues still existed surrounding the bins, this produced significantly more waste reduction then just the color-coded bins alone.  The second highest diversion rate in an individual treatment was Treatment 5, which included signage and unique bin tops. This treatment realized a 22% waste diversion. The final treatment, Treatment 6, combined all strategies and had the greatest success of diverting 43% of materials. What was even more impressive was that the compost bin had a 98.6% pure stream!


  • Surprise, children in school settings actually follow direction from adults! We may think this to be a false statement, but when group leaders assisted and provided direction, children were more successful at recycling and composting.  
    • Lesson learned: utilize adults in school group settings! 
  • Signage and labeling are critical. There are several groups dedicated to creating a uniform look for recycling, waste and composting. Go with the flow and utilize the predominant color-coding scheme for recycling (blue) and composting (green), but realize some of the pre-made signage will not fit your facility or the typical consumption habits in the space. Be sure to tailor signage to what is most common in the space. 
    • Lesson learned: Signage isn’t one-size fits all but having visible simple designs with relatable items is key! 
  • Don’t depend on just one method to divert waste. Using combined methods truly makes a difference in the waste diverted and the quality of the separate streams.  
    • Lesson learned: Combine strategies for a better-rounded approach.  

Waste Game VIPs

  • Carter O'Brien, Sustainability Manager, Field Museum 
  • Kevin Dick, Director of Strategic Priorities, Delta Institute 
  • *Colleen McGinnis, Technical Associate, Delta Institute 
  • *Martin Brown, Technical Associate, Delta Institute 

* A special thank you to Martin Brown from the Project Team who provided details and information for this blog post and Colleen McGinnis for the graphics.


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