Composting for Municipal, County & State officials

Municipal, county, and state officials play important roles in supporting and encouraging composting in Illinois.  A municipal residential composting program allows residents to divert food scraps and yard waste from their landfill bins to separate containers or bags that they either drop off at a local site or haulers pick up at their curb.  Haulers then transport the material to compost facilities where the organic waste is decomposed. 


Residential composting programs

Food scrap composting can be an added service with a fee, or it can be built into your existing hauling service for yard waste and, in some cases, incur no additional charge for the community or residents.

There are five common types of residential commercial composting programs:

  • Seasonal Residential Ride-Along With Yard Waste
  • Residential Year-Round Compost (Third Bin)
  • Bucket Exchange (supplement to seasonal program)
  • Municipal Drop-Off
  • Drop-Off Events
Municipal procurement and use of compost

Municipalities can play a vital role in increasing demand for finished compost and mulch.

It is important to inquire with local suppliers before you write up compost specifications for purchases. Then, based on the information they provide, you may adjust your specification to tailor your needs. When considering the physical or chemical properties to include in your specification, you must have your end use in mind. These properties will depend on the compost end use. It is vital to keep things simple and only specify a characteristic if it impacts your intended use. Some suppliers will provide recommended end-use rates and information, based on essential characteristics, to add to your specification and aid in the right end use decisions.

Municipalities are encouraged to request pricing for compost-amended soil on any projects in need of landscaping. This will help to create a demand for finished compost and provide a beneficial use for the compost created from your food scraps and yard waste. Switching to compost-amended soil is a way to improve the quality of soil, better retain water and get the most out of municipal landscaping.


Counties should evaluate the feasibility of encouraging residents to compost food scraps in their home, in their backyard, or through community-scale composting programs.  Understanding the infrastructure, policies, and opportunities on a county level can support coordinated efforts, maximize impact, and encourage development of composting capacity.

County waste diversion goals include food scrap composting

According to the Illinois Environmental Council, an IFSCC member, “Many recycling and composting education programs are done at the county level. Many curbside recycling programs are over two decades old and require review, including reconsideration of educational programs and the effectiveness of a statewide program. “

IFSCC RECOMMENDATION:   Incorporate goals for organics diversion from landfill and composting into county solid waste plans.

The Illinois Solid Waste Planning and Recycling Act (415 ILCS 15/1 et seq.) was approved on August 23, 1988, and requires all Illinois counties to plan for the management of solid waste generated within the county for a 20-year planning period. Counties typically update their plans every five years. The plan must describe the current and proposed facilities for the management of the waste stream and evaluate the proposed solid waste facilities and programs. Finally, the plan must include a recycling program designed to recycle 25% of the waste generated within the County by its fifth year.


IFSCC Member Will County: The Recycling Program Specialist assists municipalities, townships and school districts with bidding and contract documents addressing solid waste, recycling and landscape waste collection needs. This position assists units of local government with promotional materials, with a goal of consistent education on acceptable items, as well as unacceptable items and alternatives.

County support of food scrap composting in municipalities

At the County level, it is important to know which municipalities in your county offer food scrap composting and how; which haulers operating in your county have, or want to have, routes hauling food scraps; which compost processors operate in and near your county and whether or not they accept food scraps.

IFSCC Recommendations: These include countywide educational efforts on in-home, backyard, and community-scale composting through the county website, providing educational materials, and training.

  • Provide compost training workshops and demonstrations on best practices for backyard and community-scale composting.
  • Share information on types of compost bins for composting food scraps.
  • Review existing requirements and restrictions pertaining to backyard/community-scale composting.
  • Recommend regulatory changes to County zoning and applicable County codes to clarify and support activities to include food scraps.
  • Implement regulatory changes or modifications to promote and encourage proper backyard and community-scale composting activities.
  • Collaborate with community-based stakeholders (i.e., planning commissions, park districts, schools, residents, multi-family properties, and businesses or organizations) to establish composting demonstration projects throughout the County.

IFSCC Member Snapshot:  In 2015 McHenry County utilized IL Statute P.A. 091-111 (which allows Counties to enter into agreements with municipalities, private entities and citizens for refuse service and recycling services) to create an ordinance and bid a contract for comprehensive collection services for specific unincorporated areas of the County.

County procurement and use of compost


Illinois diversion goals, organics bans, and more

Illinois Environmental Council (IEC) environmental priorities related to waste in Illinois:

In 1986, the Solid Waste Management Fund established the first state goal for reducing landfill use. Passed in 1988, the Solid Waste Planning and Recycling Act encourages long-range waste planning. These laws ban tires, used oil, white goods (like refrigerators and A/C units), landscape waste, electronics, as well as partially banning asphalt roofing shingles, from landfills. The state goal for each county is to recycle 25% of recyclable materials.

While yard waste is banned from landfills, there are few opportunities to compost other organic material, like food scraps, which are estimated to account for nearly 20% of Illinois’ waste stream. This is in part due to the siting permit for commercial food scrap composting being prohibitively expensive for small business owners until the General Assembly recently reduced the cost. Since then a dozen sites began accepting food scraps. In total, 24 communities implemented residential municipal composting pick-up and strong state goals could increase this number.

IEC identified the following needs for Illinois to support waste diversion and composting:

Priority Need: State facilities should lead the way on recycling, composting, waste reduction, and diversion, and coordinate increased purchasing of Illinois-manufactured, post-consumer recycled products or end use compost for state projects.

Priority Need: Illinois’ recycling planning mechanism, with county by county support, should be updated in favor of a statewide plan that includes waste reduction, recycling, and composting.


Many states have revised, or are in the process of revising, their permitting regulations for yard waste composting facilities to allow for the inclusion of food scraps. Some states have developed landfill diversion goals and regulatory processes to increase recycling, eliminate waste, and divert organic material from landfills toward the higher end uses of compost or biogas. Over 20 states have yard waste disposal bans (including Illinois), and a small handful of states have enacted ordinances that ban organics, including food scraps, from entering landfills. According to the US Composting Council, 25 states have a mandatory ban or separate collection program for yard waste while five states have mandatory legislation for food scraps.

Massachusetts, Ohio, Oregon and Washington are examples of states with revised composting rules to create distinct categories for source separated organics that include food waste. The permitting and site approval process in this tier is designed to be more streamlined and less costly. One reason for the lack of more facilities accepting food scraps is an inadequate regulatory structure to facilitate the development of new operations.

Disposal bans and mandates with penalties imposed for noncompliance are very effective tools to establish organics diversion programs. Other public policy tools include local government incentives, grants and low-interest loans, streamlined state permitting for composting facilities to compost other organic waste streams such as source separated food scraps, and initiatives to increase compost purchases such as compost procurement by state Departments of Transportation.

Illinois policy supporting food waste reduction and composting

Since 1990 the State of Illinois has banned landscape materials, such as grass clippings, limbs, brush, and leaves from landfill disposal. Compost sites are permitted by the IEPA to accept these materials.

The following is Illinois legislation supporting and encouraging food scrap composting:

P.A. 097-0853 – Established a Task Force to investigate and provide recommendations for expanding waste reduction, recycling, reuse, and composting in Illinois that protects the environment, as well as public health, and promotes economic development. This resulted in a list of recommendations to the Governor in January 2015, among them a call for increased recycling goals, expansion of food scrap composting, and an increase in purchasing of recycled content and finished compost materials.

P.A. 096-0077 – Approved 2009, all State agencies are required to use, to the maximum extent feasible, compost material in all land maintenance activities that are to be paid for with public funds.

P.A. 096-0418 – Redefines the term “compost.” This act also eliminates food scrap from the definition of garbage. Defines “compostable material” and “food scrap.”

P.A. 096-0489 – This law allows the IEPA to determine a material that otherwise is required to be managed as waste may be managed as non-waste if that material was used beneficially and in a manner that is protective
of human health and the environment.

P.A. 098-0239 – Approved in 2013, EPA Urban Composting: exempts small, non-commercial, compost sites from some regulations.

P.A. 098-0484 – Approved in 2013, Farm Composting: Authorizes a person who is operating an on-farm landscape composting facility to accept food scrap, crop residue, livestock waste, agricultural landscape waste, uncontaminated wood waste, yard waste, and landscape waste for composting when meeting EPA requirements.

P.A. 099-0011 – Establishes one day compostable waste collection events requirements. Encourages pumpkin collections and may also be applicable to leaf and brush collections.

P.A 099-0034 – Requires all state agencies to report on their compost use and examine whether they could use additional end product compost in land maintenance activities. Such land maintenance activities include reduction of stormwater run-off and increased infiltration of moisture in land maintenance activities. This information must be reported to the General Assembly by December 15, 2015.

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