IFSC Guest Blog Series by Melissa Markay, Environmental 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 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.

Republic Services bin. A blue wheeled toter with a lid and the Republic Services logo on the side.

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:

Table comparing bin size to cost per month. A 35 gallon bin cost $11.31/month; a 65 gallon bin cost $13.40; and a 95 gallon bin cost $17.40.

Rates 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 http://www.glenellyn.org/billing/Curbside%20Composting%20FAQ.pdf.

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 https://glenellynil.seamlessdocs.com/f/composting 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.