Scraping the Waste

IFSC Guest Blog Series by Andi Dierich, Environmental Coordinator for DuPage County, IL

North Central College (NCC) is a picturesque school in in the heart of downtown Naperville, Illinois. Although one of many colleges in the Chicagoland region, NCC stands out for their progressive push in the realm of sustainability. Beyond the permeable pavers, design awards for sustainability, community gardens and consistent ranking among the "top green colleges in North America," North Central College has a successful and continually growing food scrap composting program.

Creating the savingsWaste Management compost bins

In the fall of 2011, NCC received a grant through the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO), to begin a composting program in their central dining hall, Kaufman. The grant was a direct result of a 2011 waste audit that captured the pitching of nearly 206 pounds of food scraps daily. Not only was the food going to waste, but it was also estimated that the 3,300 gallons of water were used a day for the function of running the garbage disposal.

The potential savings of up to nearly $10,000 annually, the majority of the savings coming from the ditching the garbage disposals, was enough to move the program forward. Five years later IFSC wanted to check back in on one of the founding We Compost program members and see how things had developed.

Brittany Graham, the Sustainability Coordinator at NCC, was able to share several changes to the program including the shift from using an 8 yard trash compactor to a 2 yard trash dumpster and typical waste totes used for the food scraps. The ease of using the totes was a drastic change and better assisted in the management and amount of time dining staff, which oversee and run the food scrap collection, spends in dealing with the waste. Creative solutions included; resizing bins, adjusting the location of the collection units and adding lids were helpful touches to maintain a more visually appealing and functional scrap collection area. Other changes were made to reduce contamination by using re-usable flatware and compostable paper products. Due to overall success of the   Kaufman Dining food scrap collection the program was extended to a second food service location on campus. The new location, the White Activities Center student union, is different from the dining hall in that it has a unique set of challenges.

New locations, new challengesthree bin station

The student union is home to three different chain fast food restaurants. Each chain uses their own logoed serving products. Some products are compostable, others disposable and many items are recyclable. Two stations are set-up in the Union to provide students with the ability to compost, pitch their waste and recycle. Detailed graphics have been placed above each bin to help direct students in their decisions. In the future, to avoid a potential contamination problem, Ms. Graham hopes that she can work with the chain restaurants to begin all using similar products that are compostable. 

Looking to start a compost program at your location?

  • Complete a waste audit; be sure to include all things waste like the items that go down a garbage disposal!
  • Identify roadblocks or potential contamination sources and ways to solve them. Note: non-compostable or reusable material means that there is still a need for a waste receptacle.
  • Identify and include staff in the planning process that will maintain and be responsible for collection and cleaning food scrap receptacles.
  • Ensure lots of educational and instructional information is available to the users of the   food scraping program.
  • Track your success! There is nothing better than being able to state how much food is composted verses actual waste.

DYK: North Central College is a Gold Partner in the We Compost program.

Gold Partner businesses demonstrate the highest level of commitment to food scrap diversion by composting both pre-consumer and post-consumer food scrap. These businesses compost all kitchen trimmings during food preparation AND compost leftover plate scraps after a dish is served to students, faculty, staff, or guests. These businesses may additionally endeavor to analyze supply vs. waste and modify procedures to reduce food waste by ordering less or differently.

Get the Key to a Beautiful Lawn This Fall!

IFSC Guest Blog Series by Sara Ryan, St. Louis Composting

Feeding plants and your lawn a nutritious diet of compost throughout the year is the key to the best lawn on the block! Top dressing your lawn with compost in autumn is key to making it theKeyhole with image of lawn greenest on the block come spring. Top dressing, an industry secret among ground crews at golf courses, involves the direct application of a layer of compost and/or other organic material to grass. It's plain to see that with the help of St. Louis Composting and the Ecolawn Top Dresser, compost top dressing can become the core of your natural lawn care program.

This annual application of nutrient-rich organic material promotes healthy root structure by:

  • infusing soil with beneficial microbes and essential minerals
  • increasing soil aeration
  • improving drought resistance
  • lessening soil compaction

Top Dressing using STA-Certified Field and Turf Enhancer and the Ecolawn Top Dresser from St. Louis Composting improves soil structure. The addition of our Field and Turf Enhancer allows the soil to be more porous while furthering its water retention by up to 30% more and the development of new roots. By applying our compost with the Ecolawn Top Dresser you will stimulate the microbial activity in the soil which is particularly important for the health of the lawn.

Step-by-Step Guide to Top Dressing:

  • Core aerate the lawn, concentrating on the most heavily trafficked sections.
  • Apply a ½ inch layer of compost, using the Ecolawn Top Dresser.
  • Smooth the surface using a rake or weighted drag mat to break down soil plugs and backfill holes.
  • Spread grass seed, lightly rake, and water – making sure all seeds are covered with soil/compost layer to guard against winter damage.
  • Water as needed, keeping the soil moist until seeds germinate.

ecolawn top dresserThe Ecolawn Top Dresser is a multi-purpose self-propelled applicator. It's easy-to-use design will help you carry out customized top dressing applications such as restoring your existing lawn or dressing your newly seeded areas. Using the Ecolawn Top Dresser and STA-Certified Field and Turf Enhancer is the first step you can take to create a professional, complete and ecological maintenance program for your lawn. Top dressing corrects several problems at their source and allows for healthy soil and grass. It will help to promote healthy root structure by infusing soil with beneficial microbes and minerals, increasing soil aeration, relieving compaction problems and improving drought resistance.

Contact St. Louis Composting for additional information and to rent the Ecolawn Top Dresser today!
Top Dress is $85 to rent for a full day and $50 for half a day.

Food Recovery and Food Scrap Diversion at Northern Illinois Food Bank

IFSC Guest Blog Series by Jeannine Kannegiesser, Northern Illinois Food Bank

Last year, Northern Illinois Food Bank distributed 57 million meals throughout 13 northern Illinois counties, serving 71,500 people weekly through collaborations with 800 member feeding programs. Food manufacturers, distributors, and retailers donated 80 percent of the food distributed, including fresh produce and meat, which is picked up weekly through the Retail Recovery Program. Much of this donated food would have gone to waste if not for the food bank’s partnerships with retailers whose employees set aside food for our hungry neighbors

How the Food Bank Reduces Food Waste
Northern Illinois Food Bank is proud to be facilitating food donations to feed people in our communities. Food safety is a priority for the Food Bank. During food sorting shifts, volunteers remove items that are past their prime to ensure that network members receive high-quality, fresh product that can be distributed in a timely manner. The Food Bank donates a portion of these past-prime items to farmers for use in animal feed (bread and meat).  Prior to this year, there was no reliable diversion strategy in place for produce waste.

Potato sorting is part of the Food Bank’s efforts to ensure fresh and safe food for those who rely on food assistance from member feeding programs. Past-prime potatoes now can be diverted from the landfill.

With the opening of a new Recycling Area this past summer, Northern Illinois Food Bank initiated a food scrap diversion program that diverted 34 tons of food scrap from the landfill during its first two months in operation. During those same two months, the Food Bank provided nearly 6,000 tons of food for those in need – the equivalent of 9.75 million meals. The Food Bank collects food scrap in a composting compactor instead of a landfill dumpster and a hauler transports food scrap to a commercial composting facility where it is transformed into food scrap enriched compost, a high quality soil amendment that enriches soil, retains moisture, and reduces erosion.

The composting compactor has a cart-tipper to ease the transfer of heavy loads of food scrap into the collection chamber.

Get Involved with Northern Illinois Food Bank
The Food Bank is grateful to more than 400 food donors making a significant contribution to the hunger solution in northern Illinois.  Food growers, manufacturers, or retailers interested in donating to Northern Illinois Food Bank are invited to contact the food sourcing team at the West Suburban Center in Geneva at 630-443-6910 or learn more by visiting

The Food Bank’s organizational goal is to distribute 75 million meals annually to provide every meal, every day, for every hungry neighbor by 2020. The Food Bank relies on strong volunteer involvement for nearly every aspect of our work sorting and repacking food for distribution. Register for a volunteer shift today or learn more about our Skills Based Volunteer program at

Those in need of food assistance can search for a local food distribution site through an interactive map at

Additional Info

Jeannine Kannegiesser
Development Officer/Corporations & Foundations
Northern Illinois Food Bank
273 Dearborn Court
Geneva, IL 60134
630-443-6910 ext. 118
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


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