The Chicago Public Schools (CPS) Commercial Composting and Recycling Program is a partnership between Seven Generations Ahead, CPS, and CPS’ hauler Lakeshore Recycling Systems. The program started as a pilot in 5 schools in the 2014-2015 school year. The program is now in 14 schools.

The program is generously funded by Peoples Gas. THANK YOU!


10,328 students composting and recycling, educated on How and Why

5,353 lunch trays composted per day

1,948 pounds of food scraps, napkins, and lunch trays composted per day

3,798 pounds of materials kept out of landfills per day

82 percent of all cafeteria and kitchen discards diverted from landfills

6,511 milk cartons recycled per day

232 pounds of good food recovered per day

376 MTCO2E/year of greenhouse gas emissions avoided through food recovery, recycling, and composting. That’s equivalent to the emissions of burning 42,325 gallons of gasoline per year.

The Process

Engage a Zero Waste Team at each school

SGA brings together key people in each school (administration, building engineer, custodian, dining manager, teachers, and students) to plan waste reduction strategies, education, and implementation.

Waste audits

SGA (often with students) conducts waste audits of cafeteria and kitchen (baseline and launch day).


SGA provides guidance with the operational changes needed, including determining the number and placement of sorting stations, and coordinating compostable bags and bins and hauling service.


SGA provides customized school-wide education and engagement prior to program, including school-wide assemblies, Zero Waste Ambassador student workshops, planning with and training for custodians, cafeteria supervisors of students, and kitchen staff.