Reduce, Reuse, Recycle

Chicago launches food scraps drop-off program

Mayor Brandon Johnson announces 15 sites across Chicago for residents to drop off food scraps

4 compost bins in Chicago's food scrap drop-off program
City of Chicago | Public Domain
Compost bins for Chicago's Food Scrap Drop-Off program

The City of Chicago launched its first ever Food Scraps Drop-off Program on Monday, October 16th. Mayor Brandon Johnson, along with the Department of Street and Sanitation (DSS), announced the new composting initiative which places 15 new food scraps drop-off sites throughout Chicago. 

“As we bring composting options to all Chicago residents, we can reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions that occur when organic food material decomposes in a landfill, return organic materials to the earth, and most importantly, create healthier communities across our great city.” – Mayor Brandon Johnson

Food scraps only materials accepted

The new collection system will only accept food scraps and not the entire range of compostable materials, at least in the initial phase. The range of food scraps accepted is quite broad, however, including everything from coffee grounds to meat bones and cooked food. Users will not be able to use the compost bins for disposing of any liquids, compostable packaging, napkins or other compostable non-food materials.

By keeping the list of acceptable items short and easy to understand, the city will be able to reduce the potential for contamination. For the program to reach its full potential of diverting all of these compostable materials from landfills, though, the city should expand to accept the broader range of compostable materials once the program is more established.

These 15 composting sites are a great start, but the city will need to expand substantially in order to achieve a vision of zero food waste sent to landfills from Chicago. The best way to encourage that expansion is to sign up and participate in the initial phase, showing the city that there is demand for more composting.

How to participate

  1. Find your nearest drop-off site using the interactive map on the program’s page.
  2. Complete the sign-up form indicating your interest. The city will be able to use the addresses for those who sign up to determine where to offer more drop-off sites to meet demand.
  3. Follow through! Collect your food scraps & actually bring them to your drop-off site. Sites will be open daily 7 am – 7 pm. 
    1. Pro Tip: If you don’t live as close to your site as you would like and you need to go longer between drop-offs, collect your food scraps in a container that you keep in your freezer. This will prevent any unwanted odors in your kitchen.

The Department of Streets and Sanitation will monitor the drop-off sites to ensure there are no issues with sanitation. DSS will also be in charge of picking up the food scraps and transporting them to the Harbor View Composting Facility, Chicago’s only EPA-permitted composting facility, for processing.

According to the DSS, as of November 6 there have already been over 2500 sign-ups to the new program with more expected following the outreach at local pumpkin smashing events.

Miri Villerius
Miri Villerius

Former End Food Waste Campaign, Associate, U.S. PIRG Education Fund

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