Seven Generations Ahead (SGA) and partners have been working at the forefront to develop a robust food scrap composting industry in Illinois. After a half-day, Chicago region GreenTown forum on food scrap composting programs and policies in Highland Park, Ill., in 2012, SGA and partners founded the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition (IFSC). In 2015, SGA prepared and submitted the report, “Food Scrap Composting Challenges and Solutions in Illinois,” to the state’s General Assembly on behalf of IFSC.
Now, with the IFSC board and other IFSC partners, SGA is leading a project called “Building Illinois’ Local Food Shed Through Advancing Food Scrap Composting,” with funding from Land, Food: Opportunity – a partnership of The Chicago Community Trust, the Kinship Foundation and the Searle Funds.
The project’s long-term goal is to support the growth of a local, sustainable food production through development of a viable food scrap compositing industry. Short-term goals include educating decision makers on the benefits of composting (its role in sustainable food production), creating strategies to build the industry, developing large-scale institutional pilot models, and laying the groundwork for food scrap collection routes.
Another component of the project is the We Compost Program. We Compost was initiated by Loyola University with Chicago Community Trust funding, with the goal of certifying and recognizing businesses and institutions that participate in a commercial compost programs. As part of the grant, the program will educate 300 new restaurants and food establishments on composting practices. SGA staff, interns and project partner Bright Beat, a project management and sustainability consulting firm, have been developing and implementing an education and outreach campaign for restaurants, grocers and caterers in Logan Square that includes:
- Development of outreach and educational materials for this targeted pilot program.
- Identification, mapping and tracking of over 100 restaurants, caterers and grocers in Logan Square neighborhoods.
- In-person, on-site outreach to over 100 locations on 3 different days
- Educational materials delivered to over 80 establishments—from national chains to Michelin Star restaurants.
Another project component calls for disseminating the “Economic Impact and Market Study Report: Elements of the Case for Advancing Food Scrap Composting Industry and the Link to Building Illinois' Local Food Economy,” prepared by Skumatz Economic Research Associates (SERA). The report identified the problems associated with landfilling organics, food scraps in particular, and recommend solutions emphasizing the development of the Illinois sustainable food industry.
The report indicates that three targeted organic materials—food scraps, compostable yard waste (not including woody materials), and compostable paper—represent significant recoverable resources. Diverting the three target materials would reduce 22 percent of tons disposed, and 16 percent of the MTCO2e (Metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year emitted) available from all the non-recovered recyclables and organics disposed annually in Illinois. It also projects that if 65 percent of Illinois’ compostable material were diverted for compost production, $290 million in economic output could be created for the state including 3,185 new jobs.
Through the efforts of SGA project partner the Illinois Environmental Council (IEC), the report was disseminated to 41 Illinois State Assembly members, 53 Illinois Green Caucus members and 80 other decision makers throughout Illinois. SGA and IEC continue to collaborate on educating Illinois leaders and lawmakers – through workshops, lunch and learns and tours - on successful policies, strategies and programs in other states that can be replicated in Illinois and provide evidence of the viability of food scrap composting as a vehicle for economic opportunity and development.