Recycling News: Mill Creek May Get Food Scrap Composting Pilot Program

Recycling News: Mill Creek May Get Food Scrap Composting Pilot Program

  • Editor’s Note: This article was submitted by Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland. You can reach her at 630-208-3841 or

Mill Creek residents may soon have the opportunity to include food scraps in with their yard waste through a free added service being offered by the current waste and recycling hauler, Advanced Disposal.

“The program will be completely voluntary, and people can participate if they so choose,” Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland said.

If approved by the County Board on May 9, Mill Creek will be the 23rd community in the Chicago region to participate in residential food scrap composting. Like many of the other communities that have the same sort of “ride-along” program, residents will be able to separate their food scraps from their garbage and layer them in with yard waste in the organics carts.

The pilot program is set to start in mid-May, pending County Board approval.

Why Is Composting Important?

The composting process breaks down organic material (basically anything that was once alive), turning it into a nutrient-rich soil amendment that looks like and smells like dirt.

Composting both yard waste and food scraps saves resources by reusing the materials for a better purpose rather than entombing the nutrients in a landfill, Jarland said.

Directing these materials to composting reduces methane release from landfills, and ultimately returns the nutrients to the planet’s badly depleted soils. Finished compost can be used instead of chemical fertilizers to enhance plant and vegetable growth, and when applied to garden beds it retains more water than regular dirt, so you can save on watering, as well.

Composting in your back yard is a great way to close the loop,” Jarland said. “But if you are not a big gardener or don’t have the space for a backyard bin, then curbside collection is the next best option.”

Why Is Composting Food Scraps Important?

About 38 million tons of food waste — more than 20 percent of all discarded trash — is generated in this country annually, representing about one-third of all food produced. Estimates say that only about 5 percent of that waste is diverted from landfills into composting operations.

In Illinois, food scraps comprise 13 percent of landfilled solid waste, according to the 2009 Illinois Commodity/Waste Generation and Characterization Study. The only other single material found in greater quantity in our landfills is recyclable paper at 15 percent of the total material landfilled. Why waste these materials when they can be recovered for reuse?

That is why materials management experts (solid waste and recycling coordinators) — locally, nationally and internationally — are now focusing on how to divert these valuable materials from landfills, and direct them to higher and better reuses. Check out the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition for more information on activities happening here in Illinois.

Why Mill Creek?

The Kane County Division of Environmental & Water Resources negotiates the hauler contract for the curbside trash, recycling, and yard waste collection program to secure the lowest prices for residents and ensure quality services.

This added “ride-along” service of adding food scraps to the yard-waste cart is being offered by Advanced Disposal free of cost. It will not increase traffic or cause any other issues, as the same truck that is picking up yard waste will be collecting the added food scrap, and the food scrap is the same material as always, just in a different cart.

Residents who have an organics cart will be allowed to simply layer the food scraps among the yard waste April through November.

Existing Costs For Various Levels of Trash, Recycling and Yard-Waste Service

The last contract was signed in 2015 and is a five-year contract with Advanced Disposal. Within the present program, there are three levels of service that each household may choose from.

  • Option 1 — One recycling cart that uses stickers for trash and yard waste. The price is the cost of stickers only.
  • Option 2 — Two carts: a recycling cart and a trash cart; residents use stickers for yard waste only. The price is a monthly subscription fee, plus the cost of stickers used. Sixty percent of Mill Creek resident already subscribe to this option.
  • Option 3 — Three carts: a recycling cart, a trash cart and an organics cart; no stickers are needed. The price is a monthly subscription fee flat rate, all inclusive, with no sticker cost. Four percent of Mill Creek residents presently subscribe to this option.

As you see from the chart, the cost difference to move from two carts to three carts is less than the cost of one sticker per month! So if you are interested in participating in this proposed food-scrap-collection pilot and you are in one of the nearly 1,500 homes that already have the two carts, you might consider paying under $3 per month to get that third cart and start adding your food scraps.

“The three cart option is a flat monthly rate and full service for all carts, and you don’t have to buy stickers or yard waste bags!” Jarland said.

Jarland says residents interested in the pilot program should stay tuned for more information which will be released pending the County Board meeting on May 9.