By Laura Miller Hill for SUST 240
The village of Oak Park is considered to be one of the most progressive and sustainable cities in Illinois. Oak Park residents and their leaders have adopted many sustainable policies and programs and even have their own sustainability plan, in conjunction with the town of River Forest, called PlanItGreen (pdf). Additionally, the village has set a goal of generating Zero Waste in their schools, and are considered a Green Power Partner by the Environmental Protection Agency. Now Oak Park can also add village-wide curbside composting to that impressive list.
In 2012, Oak Park instituted a curbside composting pilot program. The program was so successful that in April of this year the CompostAble Program was made available to every resident of Oak Park that resides in either a single-family or five-flat household. Facilitated by Waste Management Systems, the same big waste hauler that picks up their garbage and recycling, Oak Park residents now have a choice: throw their food scraps, paper products and compostable bags into the trash, or collect their compostable material (including yard waste) and pay their waste hauler to turn it into compost.
The cost of the program is $14 per cart per month and according to the Village of Oak Park’s website, includes a 96 gallon cart, an under-sink collection bucket, and a box of compostable bags for food scraps. The cost of this subscription service is equivalent to the cost of a single yard waste sticker per week, but subscribing to the service should help residents reduce their trash cart and yard waste fees.
According to the EPA, “When food waste is disposed of in a landfill it rots and becomes a significant source of methane-a potent greenhouse gas with 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide.” In recent years, curbside composting has become more popular due to the need to reduce the amount of waste that goes into landfills. Since this is a relatively inexpensive program, which can easily be added to a community’s yard waste service, why isn’t it a routine part of waste and recycling pick-up everywhere? Curbside composting in every city and town would make composting as easy as taking out the garbage and would not only reduce the amount of food waste in landfills, but would significantly reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions.
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.