Almost two years since Oak Park took its food scrap composting village wide, 950 households, nine schools, six churches, two Park FoodScraping JulieMollerJulie Moller of the River Forest Sustainability CommitteeDistrict facilities, the Oak Park River Forest Food Pantry, Farmers Market and various special events participate in the program.

In River Forest, where residential curbside composting started Aug. 1 of this year, 170 households have signed up for the service, says Julie Moller, a member of the River Forest Sustainability Committee that worked to add food scrap pickups to the regular waste contract with Roy Strom Refuse Removal Service.

Both village composting programs collect yard waste, food scraps and food-soiled paper to be “recycled” into compost instead of going into the garbage. Getting residents to set aside food scraps specifically for composting is catching on in both villages, where the goal is to decrease the amount of organic waste sent to landfills, which is part of PlanItGreen’s ongoing implementation of the Environmental Sustainability Plan for Oak Park and River Forest.

Still, it’s a matter of getting the word out to let residents know that curbside composting has come to River Forest, Julie says. “We promote it through green block parties. A representative will come and talk about the program and compost at the block party.” One-year subscriptions to the service also were raffled off at block parties that reached 27 neighborhoods, Julie says. Letting residents know that composting relieves them of buying brown paper bags and stickers for yard waste is another selling point, she explains. “It’s a good deal and it’s year round.”

The program is offered on a voluntary, subscription basis. Subscription costs are $18 per month for a one-year contract, equivalent to about the cost of one yard waste sticker and bag per week.

Karen Rozmus, Oak Park’s environmental services manager, says the 950 households that participate in the village’s food scrap composting program, named CompostAble, represents about 10 percent of households. Right now, a handful of multi-family buildings also participate. As people continue to sign up, Karen hopes to see the number rise above 1,100 next year. The cost for weekly food scrap collection in Oak Park is $14 per month.

Waste Management does Oak Park’s waste pickups. It hauls the village’s food scraps to Land & Lakes, Willow Ranch Compost Waste Facility in Romeoville, the first facility in the region to obtain permission from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to accept food scraps with yard waste. Between December 2014 and April 2015, Oak Park household diverted more than 244,000 pounds of food scraps from landfills.

Participants in the program often write Karen to tell her how it’s going.

“We are producing less garbage and could probably use a smaller can,” Oak Parker Michelle Dybal wrote. “Previously, we were putting all produce and meat scraps down our garbage disposal. Now we hardly ever run it. I think we are saving a lot of water and electricity by composting instead of running the disposal. It has been easy to compost and we feel good about it. The kids are really into it, too. It is a great way for the younger generation to see that you can do this.”


And, the bottom-line for residents who do food scrap composting in either village is that they can pick up finished compost in the spring and fall.

For more information about Curbside Composting in River Forest and to sign up, visit: https://www.vrf.us/curbside-composting.

For more information about Oak Park’s CompostAble program, contact Karen Rozmus at 708.358.5700 or .

—Cassandra West

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