Food makes up the largest portion of all residential trash at 17.5% of all landfilled trash according to the most recent statewide waste study. In the landfill, decomposing food waste produces methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. In Illinois, our commercial composting industry was primarily designed to handle yard waste, which has been banned from disposal in landfills since the early 1990's. However, recent changes to state law, described below, allow a limited amount of food scraps to be collected and composted with residential yard waste.
Current Residential Programs
In Kane County, the communities listed to the right have residential curbside pick-up for food scraps. These programs follow a "ride-along" model, so named because the food scraps ride along with yard waste to composting facilities. Generally, these programs all allow vegetable and fruit scraps, cooked grains and pasta, bread, non-liquid dairy, egg shells, paper napkins, paper towels, and coffee grounds to be mixed in with yard waste. At the current time, meat, oil and other liquids, plastic bags, plastic packaging, utensils and service wear are not allowable, even if they are marked as being compostable bags. Pet waste and diapers should absolutely not be put out for composting.
Some municipal programs allow food scraps to be put in stickered yard waste bags, while others require the rental of a dedicated organics tote. Please see your specific program link to the right for more details.
Organics totes hold more material than paper yard waste bags and eliminate problems like tearing, blowing over in the wind, and wildlife going after those tasty food scraps.
If you do not see your municipality or township listed to the right and you would like to compost food scraps, here's a couple of things you can do:
- Call the municipal department in charge of bidding the hauling contract (sometimes it's public works, sometimes administration), and request that they include ride-along food scrap collection in the next waste hauling bid or contract renewal negotiation.
- Call your waste hauler and see if you have the "off label" option to rent a yard waste tote in which you could mix yard waste and food scraps. Your Kane County Recycling Coordinator does not live in one of the communities listed, but has been able to rent a yard waste tote and mix in food scraps.
- Start a back yard compost.
- Drop food scrap off at a compost facility.
Commercial Food Scrap Composting
Large institutions that feed a lot of people such as hospitals, hotels and convention centers, grade schools and colleges, food pantries, commercial cafeterias, and restaurants contribute an out-sized amount of food to the waste stream. Our most recent hauler data indicates that roughly 20 commercial entities prevented 859 tons of food scrap from being landfilled in 2022. Two of these composting superstars, that are recognized through the Illinois Food Scrap and Composting Coalition We Compost Program, are the Northern Illinois Food Bank and the Q Center.
The Kane County Recycling Program encourages more County businesses and institutions to look into food waste reduction and composting. The IFSCC has great resources to help institutions and schools & universities get started. The Kane County Recycling Coordinator is also happy to help any business, school or institution navigate composting resources. Please contact (630) 208-3841 or email@example.com.
State Legislation on Food Scrap Composting
Public Act 96-0418 (effective 1/1/2010) was passed by the Illinois legislature in 2009, making it possible to add food scrap to a yard waste composting operation in Illinois without going through the state's lengthy and expensive siting process, provided that the food scraps constitute no more than 10% of the total volume handled at the facility. To date 10 of the 45 active compost facilities in Illinois are now permitted to accept food scrap along with yard waste.
Public Act 98-0239 (effective 8/9/2013) opened up new opportunities for farmers in urban and suburban areas to bring in material from off site for composting and also for community gardens to compost.
Public Act 98-0146 (effective 1/1/2014) allowed two landscape-waste transfer stations to pilot food scraps collection in combination with yard waste. The two test sites were: Midwest Compost in Bartlett & Waste Management in Stickney. These pilots, which were extended in 2015, aimed to show that this method of material collection, transfer, and processing could be done successfully. The law does not contain any tonnage limitations, but the processors will proceed with care and practicing sustainable materials management. The statute allows leeway for the sites to develop the best practice models as they go.
Public Act 99-0011 (effective 7/10/2015) allowed for community groups or local governments to register to conduct one-day collection events for organic materials such as food scraps or pumpkin composting after Halloween, rather than going through the overly stringent permitting process formerly required.
Public Act 102-1055 (effective 6/10/2022) describes specifications that permanent public drop off sites and one day public collection events for compostable materials must meet. It also describes the process through which planners/coordinators must seek approval through the County Recycling Coordinator for such drop off locations and events.