CynthiaVNearly 112 tons of food scraps have been diverted from landfills since Rush Oak Park Hospital (ROPH) began itsfood scrap diversion and composting program three years ago, Cynthia Vasquez, the hospital’s Director of Volunteer services and Chair of the ROPH Green Team, reports. Between 2013 and 2015, the amount nearly doubled, jumping from 24.42 tons to 46.56 tons each year.

During an April 1 open house of the food scrap composting program at the hospital, Vasquez shared this data along with the best practices that helped achieved such results. The program, designed to update institutional leaders, looked at the collaboration, coordination and communication that have gone in to the composting operation at Rush and also included a tour of the kitchen and waste facility.

In the beginning, Rush partnered with PlanItGreen and Seven Generations Ahead to create a program tailored to the hospital’s specific layout and size. Next, the Village of Oak Park’s waste manager provided research information to guide the implementation. Other considerations along the way included working with a waste vendor to streamline logistics, staff training and monitoring, and maintaining infection control standards.

And, what is the source of all these food scraps? Patient trays, the hospital’s (I took out the word “huge”, since weare a pretty small facility, institutional wise) institutional kitchen and the cafeteria. The scraps destined for composting are taken to the loading dock, where they’re hauled away to a South Side composting facility and turned into compost that is sold at a discount to local landscapers and the public.

“Food scrap composting has come a long way in Illinois,” noted Jen Nelson, Zero Waste Program Manager for Seven Generations Ahead, but the need to become even more committed to the practice is critical because the number of open landfills in Cook County is now zero.


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-Cassandra West