Recycling Tip: How To Recycle Food Scraps! (It's Changing in Illinois)

Recycling Tip: How To Recycle Food Scraps! (It’s Changing in Illinois)

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

Hey, Jennifer Jarland! How Can I Recycle My Food Scraps Instead of Wasting Them?

A: Glad you asked! It’s perfect timing because May 7 through May 13 is International Compost Awareness Week!

About 38 million tons of food waste is generated in this country annually — that’s more than 20 percent of the total trash. And it is about one-third of food produced. Estimates say that only about 5 percent is diverted from landfills.

But that is changing!

In Illinois specifically, 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.

There are a lot of people working on this problem, and much food recovery work being done. More than 350 communities have curbside food scrap collection across America. Five states — Connecticut, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and California — have food scrap landfill bans in place.

While there are a growing number of municipal residential food scrap collection programs across the U.S., many regions, including ours, have initially focused on large-volume commercial sources for this material. Businesses — larger food scrap producers like groceries and restaurants — are a logical place to start to build the infrastructure for a voluntary program.

Why Compost?

It Reduces the Waste Stream and Methane. Food scraps and yard waste make up 20 percent to 30 percent of the waste stream, and these organic materials are highly recyclable! Food scraps are full of nutrients that can best be recycled by returning them to the soil by composting. Making compost keeps these materials out of landfills, where they take up precious space and release methane, a greenhouse gas more potent than carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

It Benefits Your Garden. Composting improves soil structure, increasing the soil’s ability to hold both water and air, improving soil fertility, and stimulating healthy root development in plants.

It Saves Money. Adding compost to your garden can reduce or eliminate the need to buy chemical fertilizers or compost. If you pay for yard waste collection bags or stickers, composting will cut your costs.

It’s Easy. You can buy or build a backyard compost bin and start recycling food scraps, leaves, grass, and other leafy yard trimmings. You just need the bin, the space, and some dry ingredients to add to the food scraps. See this great online Backyard Composting Guide produced by the EPA for a simple how-to explanation.

Get a Soil Saver Bin

Just a reminder that Kane County provides affordable Soil Saver Compost bins at the subsidized price of $65 each (they are $100-$120 retail), at the University of Illinois Extension Office at 535 S. Randall Road in St. Charles. These bins are made from 100% recycled plastic, last for over 20 years, have a lock down top for wind and critters, and are easy to use due to the square open top.

Residential Composting

There is a lot happening on a state level to promote commercial composting collection programs for restaurants, institutions and grocery stores. All of this commercial participation leads to an increase in infrastructure, which helps to support the growing number of residential compost collection programs starting in the region.

There are now more than 20 residential curbside food scrap collection programs in the Chicago Region, due in part to the work of the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition. There are 14 towns in Lake County, five in Cook, and three in DuPage County.

This year, Mill Creek Special Service Area will be the first Kane County community to pilot a mixed organics (yard waste + food scrap) program in Kane County, pending board approval on May 9, 2017. See article on that here.

More information can be found at these links for food scraps and yard waste on the county website. For more information on the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition and the work they are doing, see

Got questions? Contact Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland at 630-208-3841 or

SOURCE: Kane County Recycles news release

Read the ‘Recycling Tips’ Series!