By Cheryl Green for SUST 240
Residents of Oak Park were unclear on just how much food and waste their families tossed out until they joined the village’s food waste and soiled paper collection pilot program which started back in April of 2012.
The Village of Oak Park has a food scrap composting program for residents throughout the community to ensure Oak Park reaches its goal in decreasing the amount of organic refuse sent to landfills. Those who participate in the program receive a special cart for organics, which is comparable in volume to three bags or containers of yard waste collected in their current programs.
Beye Elementary School has shown this program to be very successful with a 97% compostable rate. Beye has reduced their solid waste down to 3%. This is astounding. With the success of the pilot program starting back in April of 2012, Oak Park has expanded the program to single family residents and five-flat households. The program is a subscription-based program that costs residents $14 per month.
Materials such as grass clippings, garden vegetation, leaves, food scraps (including meat, bread, vegetables, table scraps, dairy, ground coffee, pasta), unsoiled or food-soiled paper products (such as paper towels, paper bags, used food boxes, napkins, paper cups, and newspaper), and food packaging are all acceptable compostable materials. As the Village of Oak Park notes:
The MOST IMPORTANT THING to know about this program is that it is not like your standard backyard composting. This program takes and composts: (soiled or clean) paper, (soiled or clean) paper napkins, (soiled or clean) pizza boxes (!!!), (soiled) cardboard. It takes ALL food waste even the darn leftovers that you can’t put in the backyard compost pile. It is basically what Berkeley and San Francisco and many European cities have been doing for a long time.
When recycling hard to dispose of waste such as paint and paint cans, the Village of Oak Park has the occasional paint exchange days. For other items such as household batteries, car batteries, and other difficult electronics disposals or large furniture items, there are options that exist where residents can donate using local churches and recycling groups such as FreeCycle.org.
Each week during the Fall 2013 semester, students in the SUST 240 Waste Schaumburg class at Roosevelt University will contribute blog posts to the Schaumburg’s Sustainable Future website. Also see this discussion of food waste here in previous articles on this blog and in this section of the website.