‘Green leftovers’: Food-Scrap Recycling Is Gaining Ground

By Barbara Brotman
Chicago Tribune.

Karen Rozmus stood in front of a room full of municipal and county officials and experts on solid waste disposal and talked about my cantaloupe rinds.

Not my cantaloupe rinds specifically. But the food scraps of the 725 households in Oak Park, Ill. participating in the village’s food scrap composting program, one of which is mine.

I listened proudly at the recent Transforming Waste in Chicagoland symposium, organized by the nonprofit Delta Institute, as Rozmus, Oak Park’s environmental services manager, spoke about CompostAble, the only such public program operating in the state.

Participating Oak Park residents pay $14 a month and get a small pail for kitchen scraps, a starting supply of compostable plastic bags and a 96-gallon cart for organics, the food scraps plus yard waste.

We can put far more in the pails than we could in a backyard compost pile, not just vegetable scraps, but meat, bones, dairy products and compostable paper and utensils.

Then we send it out as if it were dry cleaning.

The village’s trash hauler, Waste Management, picks it up and takes it to a facility in Romeoville, Ill., where it is ground up, put into crop rows called windrows, turned regularly for aeration and transformed into compost.

And twice a year, the village hauls back some finished compost and invites program participants to help themselves.

I peered at the photos that Rozmus, who created Oak Park’s program, showed of a windrow turner, the massive machine that aerates its compost piles, making its way down a long row.

Were my apple cores in there? My overripe bananas? Was this the final resting place of our leftover Thai food?

It is an honorable place. My little under-sink pail, and no, it doesn’t smell, is apparently doing serious environmental good.

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