Oct 16, 2023 - Climate

Chicago rolls out new composting program with 15 drop-off sites

Chicago green bins. Photo courtesy of City of Chicago.

Mayor Brandon Johnson launched Chicago's first citywide food scrap drop-off program Monday.

Why it matters: One UIC analysis suggests that nearly 20% of the city's collected residential waste by weight is organic material that can be processed into compost to enrich soil, rather than sitting in landfills where it creates more methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

How it works: Residents sign up for a drop-off location at one of 15 sites across the city. After watching an instructional video, registered residents can bring eligible food scraps in sealed containers to their drop-off site at no cost.

  • Collected scraps will then be sent to the Whole Earth Compost facility in the South Deering neighborhood.

What they're saying: "Diverting food scraps for composting is one of the easiest and most impactful ways for individuals and cities to address the climate crisis," Johnson said in a statement Monday.

  • "As we bring composting options to all Chicago residents, we can reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions … and most importantly, create healthier communities across our great city."

Context: The citywide program follows a pilot officials started in six community gardens last year.

The big picture: A small but growing number of cities are collecting organic waste, including Evanston and Oak Park. New York City recently passed a mandatory composting law that could usher in an era when organic waste collection becomes commonplace in U.S., Axios' Jennifer A. Kingson reports.

  • It remains unclear whether Chicago plans to expand to an organic waste pick-up program in the future.

What we're watching: Chicago Streets and Sanitation officials didn't share a goal for food scrap diversion this year, but they tell Axios they'll be monitoring sign-ups and other metrics as awareness of the drop-off program grows.


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