Celebrate International Compost Awareness Week May 5-11, 2024

Poster for ICAW 2024, showing an illustration of a compost bin in an outdoor scene. The Earth is cradled among the compost in the bin and the bin is labelled "Nature's Climate Champion."

International Compost Awareness Week (ICAW) is celebrated annually during the first full week of May and is a time to learn more about composting organic wastes (e.g. landscape wastes and food scraps) as part of fostering healthier soil and reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), food waste is the “most common material sent to landfills nationwide, comprising 24.1 percent of municipal solid waste. When yard trimmings, wood and paper/paperboard are added to food, these organic materials comprise 51.4 percent of municipal solid waste in landfills.” Within landfills, organic materials decompose without the presence of oxygen (anaerobically), resulting in the generation of methane, which is a potent GHG. Reducing the generation of organic wastes and composting them when their generation can’t be avoided are important strategies for combating climate change. Hence the theme of this year’s ICAW: “COMPOST…Nature’s Climate Champion!”

According to the Compost Research & Education Foundation, this year’s theme highlights the role compost plays in fighting climate change. Besides reducing methane generation associated with landfilling organics, returning composted material to the soil ‘serves as a “carbon bank,” helping to store carbon thereby removing it from the atmosphere.’ Enriching soil with compost also reduces the use of synthetic fertilizers, thereby reducing the emissions associated with fertilizer manufacturing. Using compost can also increase our resilience to climate change impacts such as drought or extreme weather. For example, compost increases the capacity of soil to retain moisture, and compost makes soil more resistant to erosion by improving water infiltration, binding soil particles together, and slowing the flow of water through the soil. Thus, stormwater runoff is decreased.

For a list of in-person and virtual events to learn more about and celebrate composting, check out the Illinois Food Scrap & Composting Coalition (IFSCC) ICAW 2024 web page. New events are being added to the page daily, so check back often. If your organization is hosting a relevant event that you’d like to see promoted via IFSCC, submit information via this online form.

For information on getting started with home composting, check out the University of Illinois Extension Composting web pages. Extension also has great information on vermicomposting (using worms to process your organic waste), compost bins, troubleshooting, and answers to common questions.

For suggested children’s books related to composting and soil health, see the IFSCC’s curated list.

The IFSCC website also provides composting information for local governments and a recognition program for organizations and businesses that compost (on-site or via commercial composting services). You can also search for compost pick-up and processing services (available in limited areas of IL).

Happy composting!

ISTC is proud to be a 2024 Food Waste Prevention Week Partner

Proud to be a Food Waste Prevention Week Partner, April 1-7, 2024

Mark your calendars for Food Waste Prevention Week, scheduled to take place April 1-7 this year. 

In 2019 alone, EPA estimates that about 66 million tons of wasted food were generated in the food retail, food service, and residential sectors, and most of this waste (about 60%) was sent to landfills.  Food Waste Prevention Week is a collaborative effort to raise awareness about food waste and its negative impacts on our society and environment, while also sharing resources to help individuals, families, and organizations reduce their own food waste. Because its Technical Assistance Program (TAP) has experience working on food waste reduction and management projects, the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center is proud to be a partner organization for Food Waste Prevention Week for the second year in a row!

Be sure to check ISTC’s social media platforms during April 1-7, as we highlight some of the past and present work TAP is doing related to food waste, as well as facts and resources to help you on your food waste reduction journey. If you’re not already following us on social media, you can connect with us on:

Throughout the week, several partners across the U.S. will host webinars to inspire action to reduce food waste. For example:

  • Closing the Loop. On Monday, April 1, at noon Central, join an informative discussion on what food waste generators can do to sustainably process their waste via on- and off-site composting, biodigesters, anaerobic digesters, etc. Register here.
  • Harnessing the Power of Food Preferences for Overproduction Reduction. Unveil how individual eating preferences can be a game-changer in minimizing food waste in food services. Learn how culinary IDs are the key to precise production while offering diners a better, personalized experience at scale. This webinar will be on April 1 from 1-1:50 PM Central time. Register here.
  • USDA Programs, Investments, and Innovations to Prevent and Reduce Food Loss and Waste. On April 2, from 11 AM to noon Central, join Dr. Jean Buzby (USDA Food Loss and Waste Liaison) and a panel of leaders from across USDA (NIFA, OUAIP, FNS, and ARS) to learn about some of the ways the agency engages in food loss and waste prevention and reduction across the U.S. food supply chain. Register here.
  • Gleaning: Reduce Loss & Waste at the Farm. On April 3 from 3-3:50 PM Central, join the Society of St. Andrew’s experts on gleaning and learn about its impact. They will discuss the benefits of gleaning crops for farmers, local hunger relief agencies, and volunteers alike, the impact of SoSA’s work over 40+ years, and ways to get involved in your locale. Register here.
  • Food Production and Sustainability. This thought-provoking panel discussion of industry experts will explore the industrial perspective of the fight against food waste and share strategies for implementing sustainability without compromising operational effectiveness. Join the discussion April 4th from 10-10:50 AM CDT. Register here.
  • From Food Scraps to Soil Food: Starting a Drop-Off Program in Your Community.​ Learn how East Hampton Compost is growing awareness of food waste, diverting scraps from the waste stream and enriching local soils. A collaboration between ReWild Long Island and the Town of East Hampton, with local high school students staffing drop-off locations and working on outreach. Dive into the dirt to gain valuable insights into the challenges and rewards of piloting an all-volunteer initiative, as well as actionable strategies for starting one in your community. This webinar will be on April 4 from 2-2:50 PM. Register here.

See the Food Waste Prevention Week “Webinars” page for additional webinars scheduled for Food Waste Prevention Week, and learn more about other ways you can get involved at https://www.foodwastepreventionweek.com/get-involved.

Registration open for International Compost Awareness Week (ICAW) events

ICAW 2023 graphic

The Illinois Food Scrap & Composting Coalition (IFSCC), a non-profit organization that advances the diversion and composting of all organics in the state, has announced its International Compost Awareness Week (ICAW) 2023 programming. ISTC is an organizational member of IFSCC and the Technical Assistance Program’s zero waste team is actively involved in IFSCC and its committees.

ICAW is the largest and most comprehensive education initiative of the global compost community. The 2023 ICAW theme is “For Healthier Soil … Healthier Food, Compost!” and the 2023 dates are Sunday, May 7 – Saturday, May 13. Learn more about ICAW on the Compost Research and Education Foundation website.

Since 2021, the IFSCC has planned robust ICAW programming that combines in-person and hands-on experiences with virtual discussions and presentations to reach diverse and widespread audiences at all stages of life and composting experience. The 2023 line-up includes a day of “Adventures in Composting” with farmers, gardeners, and backyard composters around the state; a virtual International Cafe at which composting stories from around the world will be shared; a virtual Legislative Lunch & Learn; and multiple opportunities throughout the week to attend library programs and obtain finished compost.

Visit https://illinoiscomposts.org/icaw-2023/ to learn more. This page on the IFSCC website includes:

  • An expandable schedule of events, event map, and registration links for virtual events;
  • A toolkit for libraries throughout IL to use for relevant programming during ICAW;
  • Links to further information on international ICAW activities;
  • Links to connect with ICAW on social media;
  • Highlights from last year’s programming, including recordings of virtual events; and
  • Bios for the co-chairs of the IFSCC ICAW planning committee, Kate Caldwell and Merleanne Rampale.

Finally, if you’re new to composting, check out this recent blog post from TAP, which includes resources for a variety of home composting methods: https://green-lunchroom.istc.illinois.edu/2023/04/05/composting-at-home-videos-upcoming-webinars-other-resources-for-beginners/.

ICAW info poster from IFSCC

“Green” your Halloween with these seasonal waste diversion programs

What do the members of the ISTC Technical Assistance Program’s zero waste team fear the most? Unnecessary waste! Think about all the products and packaging sent off to be prematurely buried in landfills before their useful “lives” are truly over–it makes our blood run cold. To avoid being haunted by the ghosts of poorly managed materials, check out the following Halloween waste diversion programs to keep waste out of landfills.

Please note that links and/or mentions of organizations or businesses are provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as endorsements by the Technical Assistance Program, ISTC, the Prairie Research Institute, or the University of Illinois.

Pumpkin Smash Events

Did you know that IL leads the nation in production of pumpkins? Did you further know that pumpkins are mostly water? A great deal of labor, land, water, and other resources are invested in growing, harvesting, and distributing pumpkins in our state, and many of them end up being used for brief decorations that may wind up in landfills after Halloween has passed.

Pumpkin “Smash” events are events to collect jack-o-lanterns and other pumpkins for composting. They’re held on the Saturday after Halloween (November 5th this year), and may involve fun activities in which people can “smash” their pumpkins by throwing them into a designated dumpster or compost heap. Some events even involve pumpkin “chucking” with catapults! SCARCE has helped Pumpkin Smashes grow to over 59 sites across IL since 2014, and their efforts have even inspired communities outside of IL to host their own pumpkin collections. According to the SCARCE website, the 2021 Pumpkin Smash events collectively composted over 242 tons of pumpkins! See https://www.scarce.org/pumpkins/ for more information, including a map of registered events in the state, a guide for hosting a Pumpkin Smash to help with planning for next year, a form to register your local event so it will be included on the aforementioned map, and example flyers and other resources to help spread the word. See this recent Illinois Food Scrap Coalition blog post and flyer developed by Go Green Winnetka for further information.

Flyer for Pumpkin Smash Event at the Landscape Recycling Center in Urbana, IL.

Candy Wrapper Recycling Programs

When you’re hosting a Halloween party or having kids trick-or-treat at the homes of people you know and trust, there are opportunities to pass out/receive homemade or minimally-packaged bulk treats and reduce the amount of plastic packaging associated with Halloween festivities. However, the reality is that many people pass out candy to or collect candy from strangers; plus, many of us like to purchase Halloween candy to share with coworkers or our family during the month of October as part of celebrating. The result is lots of plastic packaging ending up in landfills because such material is not collected in typical recycling programs because the form or components of the packaging make them difficult to recycle. There are however, a couple of options that can help divert the seasonal increase in candy wrappers from the landfill.

Trick or trash box
Trick or Trash collection box available from Rubicon.

Rubicon, in collaboration with the National Wildlife Foundation, annually offers a Trick or Trash program, in which schools, independent small businesses, and community organizations can order FREE candy wrapper collection boxes. Organizations receive their collection boxes through the UPS Carbon Neutral Shipment program, set them up and collect wrappers until their box is full. Then, boxes are sealed and mailed back using a pre-affixed label. Each participating organization gets a certificate of recycling confirming how many wrappers they diverted from landfill. The recycled plastic can be used to make “doggie bags” used at animal shelters for animal waste collection. See https://www.rubicon.com/trick-or-trash/how-it-works/ for more information, and https://www.rubicon.com/trick-or-trash/#block_5aee8cc625f6cfa2532fd2b387a4e675 to order a free box. Educational materials, including lesson plans, are available at https://www.rubicon.com/trick-or-trash/education/. Note that teachers and organizations are limited to one free box to ensure that more people across the country can participate, and you should allow at least a week for shipping. So if you order a free box now, you might plan to collect wrappers right after Halloween, rather than at Halloween events. Individuals or larger business might choose to purchase a box for participation.

TerraCycle also sells “zero waste boxes” for various hard-to-recycle waste streams, including candy and snack wrapper zero waste boxes. That company also collaborates with various Subaru locations nationwide that host collection boxes for items including disposable cups, lids, straws, candy and snack wrappers, and coffee and creamer capsules. Learn more on the TerraCycle Subaru Loves the Earth web page and search for a participating location near you.

Learn more about reducing and reusing on Halloween

Champaign County group receives funding, seeks participants for commercial food scrap compost pilot

CCES logo

This fall, the Champaign County Environmental Stewards (CCES) received a ‘Land, Health, Community’ Lumpkin Family Foundation Grant to help launch a commercial food scrap compost pilot project at the Landscape Recycling Center (LRC) in Urbana, IL. This grant will primarily be used toward the construction of a concrete bunker at the LRC for the processing of food scraps collected from pilot participants.

CCES is a non-profit community organization formed in 2019 to support efforts to provide area citizens with safe and convenient collection options for household materials that pose potential problems at the end of their useful life. CCES is an organizational member of the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition.  Joy Scrogum, a member of the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center Technical Assistance Program (TAP) who works primarily on zero waste projects, serves on the CCES board of directors.

The pilot project will provide pre-consumer (i.e. back-of-house) food scrap collection service to recruited commercial food scrap generators (e.g., grocery stores, commercial kitchens, and restaurants) located within or nearby Urbana. CCES will collaborate with the City of Urbana Public Works Department, which operates the LRC, and local sponsors.

CCES is currently recruiting participants for the pilot project and coordinating collection service details with the selected local waste hauler Dale Levitt Disposal (DLD) in Urbana. DLD will offer pilot project participants flexible collection options (weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly) at a service subscription rate of $6 per each 32-gallon container.

Additional funding received from the Community Foundation of East Central Illinois will allow CCES to provide 32-gallon collection containers for separate stream collection of commercial food scrap at no cost to pilot project participants.

Benefits of participation include:

  • Less odor, weight, and volume of landfill-bound trash, resulting in a potential reduction of waste hauling costs
  • Recognition as an organization that composts
  • Benefits to the environment–less food in landfills means less greenhouse gas emissions
  • Benefits to the local community–gardens and landscapers purchase locally-sourced compost from the LRC, and pilot participants will be contributing to the production of that compost

CCES recruiting participants

Businesses interested in being part of this pilot project should contact Scott Tess, srtess@urbanaillinois.us, (217) 384-2381.

Development of this pilot project was spearheaded by CCES board member Grace Wilken, in collaboration with CCES Executive Director and Champaign County Recycling Coordinator Susan Monte, and City of Urbana Sustainability & Resilience Officer, Scott Tess.

Lessons learned from the pilot will hopefully allow for the development of permanent commercial food scrap composting service in the area in the future.

To learn more about CCES, visit https://www.ccenvstew.com/. Sign up for the CCES newsletter to receive updates on this and other initiatives at https://mailchi.mp/ace7dcc98d86/newsletter.

This post originally appeared on the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition (IFSC) Blog. Thanks to IFSC and the CCES Board of Directors for allowing ISTC to share this post.

Materials Management Advisory Committee (MMAC) sends report to IL General Assembly

MMAC report cover

In July 2019, Governor Pritzker signed House Bill 3068, which created the Statewide Materials Management Advisory Committee (MMAC). Coordinated by the Illinois EPA and comprised of a wide variety of recycling, composting, materials management, and solid waste professionals, the Committee was charged with investigating current recycling and solid waste practices and recommending options to the Illinois General Assembly to divert wastes from Illinois landfills. These recommendations were also meant to include improvements to form and contents of county waste management plan required by Illinois law.

Shantanu Pai of the ISTC Technical Assistance Program (TAP) served as co-chair (along with Suzanne Boring of the Illinois EPA) for the MMAC Measurement Subcommittee, the primary purpose of which was to identify, capture, and evaluate existing data reflecting the state of waste and materials management in Illinois in 2018, the base year for the reported data. Using those data, the Measurement Subcommittee was tasked with developing a matrix reflecting the environmental impacts of diverting specific materials from landfills and relaying that information to the entire Committee. Additional subcommittees existed for education and outreach, infrastructure development, market development, and local government support.

Though not official members of the MMAC or its subcommittees, TAP staff members Savannah Feher, April Janssen Mahajan, and Joy Scrogum provided support to the measurement subcommittee and to the overall efforts of the MMAC and Illinois EPA coordinating team for achievement of the MMAC goals.

The overall MMAC findings, along with the associated recommendations from various subcommittees, were compiled in report form and submitted to the 102nd General Assembly on July 1, 2021. Key recommendations include:

  • Establishing statewide landfill diversion targets of 40% by 2025, 45% by 2030, and 50% by 2035 (current rate is 37%);
  • Employing a stratified approach to strategically target materials for diversion from Illinois landfills;
  • Increasing the statewide support from existing funding and without additional revenue for materials management programs by as much as $3.375 million per State Fiscal Year by State Fiscal Year 2027;
  • Creating a Statewide Market Development Advisory Board to review and approve viable public and private sector diversion projects to receive state support;
  • Appropriating funding to support the statewide recycling and composting infrastructure grant programs;
  • Enhancing the level of state support for household hazardous waste collections;
  • Developing and continuing to support a statewide materials management education campaign;
  • Developing sophisticated data management systems within state government to track and map landfill diversion opportunities available to the public; and
  • Adopting a consistent and simplified statewide approach to local government solid waste and materials management planning and reporting.

These items, including information related to the votes to adopt the recommendations, are discussed in greater detail in the full MMAC report. Copies of the formal recommendations are included in Attachment C of the report.

The full report, along with the full roster of MMAC membership, minutes from committee and subcommittee meetings, and other relevant resources are available for download at https://www2.illinois.gov/epa/topics/waste-management/materials-management/Pages/Materials-Management-Advisory-Committee.aspx.

Monitor the Illinois General Assembly website and the Illinois EPA Materials Management pages for future updates. See also the recorded Illinois Recycling Association/Illinois Recycling Foundation webinar from April 2021 in which provided an overview of the MMAC draft recommendations at that time.

How can I help influence the takeout containers restaurants are purchasing?

Have a question about living a greener life? Joy Scrogum's work focuses on food waste, waste reduction, and reuse. Ask her anything about being more sustainable. We'll post her answers next week.This is the first in a periodic series of Ask Me Anything (AMA) posts where ISTC features a researcher on our Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts and solicits questions from our followers. We post the answers on the original platform and also aggregate them into a wrap-up blog post. Our first featured researcher is Joy Scrogum.

Question (from Facebook): I like to order takeout food from the many amazing restaurants in my neighborhood, but cringe at all the waste this generates. Some of this serveware I can compost and recycle, but some of it I cannot.  How can I help influence the takeout containers restaurants are purchasing?

Joy: I’m glad you’re thinking about this. consumers really have more power than they tend to think. First of all, let me note that during the current pandemic, we all have to make allowances for the takeout containers being used by our local restaurants. It’s fabulous that they’re open and delivering. It’s important to support them during this difficult time and recognize that exploring new packaging is, of course, not a priority for them now. One thing you can do when ordering takeout is remember to ask a restaurant to not include unnecessary disposable items with your order (e.g. plastic utensils, napkins, condiment packets, plastic straws, etc.). That will not only prevent waste, but also save them a little money and reduce the opportunity for contamination as we practice social distancing.

When we’ve gotten past this pandemic, the easiest thing you can do is voice your concerns about packaging to the manager of a restaurant, along with your reasoning (e.g. polystyrene foam, aka Styrofoam, its persistence, difficulty/inability to recycle in your area, etc.). Always start on a positive note by letting them know what you enjoy about their food and service, if you’re a long-time customer, etc., and then tell them what’s troubling you, so the conversation doesn’t seem like an attack.

It’s also important to bear in mind that businesses, especially small ones, are making decisions based on costs. So when you speak or write to someone with your concerns, acknowledge that price is an issue for them and be prepared to provide some tools that might help them choose “greener” options available at similar or better prices than what  they’re currently using. The Product Stewardship Institute (PSI) has developed the Foodware Cost Calculator, which allows restaurants or other foodservice operations to compare the costs of their currently used disposable products to reusable options (e.g. plastic utensils vs. real silverware) or alternative disposable items (e.g. recyclable, compostable, made with recycled content, etc.). PSI also has a guidance document that can help businesses reduce their plastic footprint, and understand the benefits, called 3 Steps to Reduce Plastic & Benefit Your Business. You might also point out examples of preferable packaging used by other businesses in your area or elsewhere to help make the case for what is possible. A few examples that come to mind include Just Salad, which uses reusable to-go packaging, and Farmer’s Fridge, which operates fresh-food vending machines using recyclable and reusable containers. 

You can always use existing consumers ratings mechanisms, such as Yelp, Google, or Facebook, to express support for businesses using greener packaging or dismay at a restaurant with great food but problematic to-go packaging. An interesting new app from developers in Colorado is called PlasticScore. It allows you to provide feedback to restaurants on single-use plastic, as well as see waste-related ratings of nearby restaurants so you can support businesses practices that align with your values. It’s pretty new (just launched in March 2020), so you might not find a lot of information applicable to your area right now, but you could certainly contribute your own feedback to help expand their database.

Another thing to keep in mind related to compostable packaging is that sort of packaging only degrades properly in commercial composting operations (e.g. services that pick up compostables from a business or via residential drop-off or curbside composting programs). Backyard compost piles don’t attain the proper temperatures or other conditions to effectively break down those items. So before asking a restaurant to switch to compostable items, check to see if commercial composting is available in your area. It’s unfortunately true that such service is not available in many areas of Illinois.

I’m a proud member of the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition (IFSC), which is working to expand food scrap composting in our state. Check the IFSC’s online list of haulers and compost processors to see if commercial food scrap composting exists in your area. If so, you can let your favorite restaurants know, and also point out that if they decide to start composting their food scraps and compostable packaging, they could receive recognition through IFSC’s We Compost program.

Finally, you can influence restaurants and other diners through your own example. When we’re all able to dine-in at our favorite restaurants again, consider taking your own reusable food storage container or foil from home for packing any leftovers, instead of asking the restaurant for a box. When people see you doing this, it can spark conversation about packaging and may inspire someone else to do the same. Many coffee shops offer discounts for folks who bring in their own reusable mug. Be sure to ask if your favorite shop does this, so they know there is interest, and remember to take advantage of such incentives where they exist.

Note: ISTC does not endorse, either explicitly or implicitly, any particular manufacturer, vendor, product or service. Information about specific products, manufacturers or vendors is provided for reference only.

International Compost Awareness Week and Illinois Compost News

International Compost Awareness Week (ICAW), falling on May 7-13 this year, is celebrated during the first full week in May annually. The event began in Canada in 1995 and has since grown as more and more organizations and individuals become aware of food waste issues and recognize the value of composting as a waste reduction strategy with multiple environmental benefits. The theme for this year’s celebration is “Compost! Healthy Soil, Healthy Food.” Learn more at http://compostfoundation.org/icaw.

 

IL Economic Impact and Market Study
Composting food scraps also has economic benefits as illustrated in a recent report produced by Skumatz Economic Research Associates (SERA). Building on the 2015 Food Scrap Composting Challenges and Solutions in Illinois  report produced by recent collaboration with the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition (IFSC), Seven Generations Ahead (SGA) contracted SERA to identify the problems associated with landfilling organics, food scraps in particular, and recommend solutions emphasizing the development of the Illinois sustainable food industry. The goals of the project were to examine the influence of expanded food scraps recovery and composting programs on improving the viability of commercial composting ventures in Illinois, drive Illinois-based food production, and enhance the local food economy in Illinois, including jobs and revenues.

 

Analyses in this report indicate that the three targeted organic materials – food scraps, compostable yard waste (not including woody materials), and compostable paper– represent significant recoverable resources. Diverting these target materials would reduce 22% of tons disposed, and 16% of the MTCO2e available from all the non-recovered recyclables and organics disposed annually in Illinois. Using estimates of future prices of carbon dioxide, the value of the carbon dioxide represented by the target food scraps is $54 million – $89 million annually (2020 prices). SERA found that if IL can achieve a 65% organics diversion goal, the state will realize 3,185 jobs paying an average salary of $50k annually, $290 million annually in economic output, $10.5 million annually in local and state tax revenue, over 2 million tons of material diverted from landfill annually, and over 800k MTCO2e in GHG emissions reduction annually. This all makes composting of organics seem like a sound environmental and economic investment.

 

The report recommends a multiyear implementation plan for statewide diversion programs, citing Vermont’s Universal Recycling Law (Act 148) as an example. Recommended steps include: setting a statewide goal for organics diversion; adding food wastes to the existing yard waste landfill ban; adding tip fee surcharges for landfilled organics; introducing commerical and residential a Pay-As-You-throw (PAYT); promotion of urban gardens and backyard composting; grant programs to assist businesses and communities with food scrap composting; organics diversion requirements for sectors generating the most material; measurement strategies; and clarification for food donation regulations and encouragement of food recovery.

 

To download the full report, Economic Impact and Market Study Report: Elements of the Case for Advancing Food Scrap Composting Industry and the Link to Building Illinois’ Local Food Economygo to http://illinoiscomposts.org/images/pdfs/Economic-Impact-Report.pdf.

 

Village of Lake Bluff and City of Highwood (IL) Offer Year-Round Food Scrap Programs
Meanwhile, as part of their celebration of ICAW, leaders from the Village of Lake Bluff, the City of Highwood, the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County (SWALCO), and recycling businesses held a press conference May 10th to discuss year-round curbside collection of food scraps and yard waste for residents in those municipalities.  They are the latest in a small number of IL communities offering similar services. Starting this month, Highwood is requiring residents to separate food scraps from other waste to keep these materials out of landfill. For more information, read the media advisory on the press conference, coverage in the Chicago Tribune on 5/1/17 and 5/10/17, and a document from SWALCO outlining Lake County’s food scrap composting options.

 

Approval for Composting Facility near Des Plaines, IL Moves Forward
Elsewhere on May 10, Patriot Acres, a proposed composting facility outside of Des Plaines, received approval from the Cook County Board of Commissioners. The facility has faced opposition from some residents who are concerned about odors among other issues. Patriot Acres has agreed to offer a complaint line, operate within set hours, and abide by a list of environmental requirements. Approval from Cook County allows Patriot Acres to move forward with requests for approval from the IL Environmental Protection Agency and the Metropolitan Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. To read more about the proposed facility and the debate surrounding it, see the 5/12/17 edition of WasteDive.

 

IL Resident Wins ICAW Poster Contest
Incidentally, as part of each year’s ICAW celebration, there is a contest for poster designs reflecting the year’s theme. This year’s winner is Ursula Gutowski a graphic designer from Niles, IL. You can read more about Ursula and her inspiration at http://compostfoundation.org/ICAW-Poster-Contest. To order a copy, visit the ICAW online store. More information about the 2018 poster contest will be available soon on the Composting Council’s Research and Education Foundation web site.

2017 ICAW poster contest winning design

Focus on Food Waste: Recent and Upcoming Food Waste Events

Interested in ways to fight food waste in your organization or community? Be sure to check out these upcoming events, as well as archived resources from recent events.

Upcoming Events

US EPA Sustainable Materials Management (SMM) Web Academy Webinar: New Tool Kit: Reforming Laws and Policies to Enhance Food Recovery at the State and Local Level

Thursday, Oct 20, 2016 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM CDT; Register at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7992718732755591171

 

In September 2015, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the first ever domestic goal to reduce food loss and waste by half by the year 2030 and are seeking to work with public and private partners to take action and make this happen over the next 14 years. The Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) is one of EPA’s partners and is at the forefront of identifying key areas where current laws create barriers to reducing this food waste or where policies can incentivize more food recovery, and is actively working on the federal and state level to help reform those laws. One way to assist with the proliferation of better food recovery laws and policies is by providing information to states and local governments regarding methods of increasing food recovery. In order to make such information more widely available, FLPC created a toolkit for state and local policymakers interested in reducing food waste. This toolkit brings together lessons from their research and policy work in date labeling, tax incentives, liability protections, organic waste bans, leftovers for livestock as well as other food waste policies, to provide state and local policy makers with a comprehensive menu of policy options to reduce food waste.

 

Join this webinar to learn what is included in this toolkit, and how you can use it in your state or local food waste policy planning. Presenters will explain the content and how best to use the toolkit, with a focus on a few of the sections, and will answer questions from webinar participants about these and other examples.

 

Controlling Food Waste in School Food-Service

Thursday, Oct 20, 2016, 10:30 AM to 1:30 PM CDT, Hillsdale, IL;  Space is limited–RSVP to carl@pbjreps.com or pj@pbjreps.com.

 

ISTC’s Joy Scrogum will be among the presenters, talking about the Green Lunchroom Challenge Program. Other presenters will covers topics such as speed scratch cooking, presenting freshness, preserving freshness, holding freshness, storing freshness and more. Learn about food waste reduction while supporting a great cause! The event is free with a suggested $10 donation at the door. Proceeds will benefit the Greater Chicago Food Depository; PBJ Commercial Agents will be matching donations. See http://www.greenlunchroom.org/documents/Controlling-Waste-PBJ.pdf for more information.

 

Composting Policy Forum

Monday, Oct 24, 1:00 PM -3:00 PM CDT,  Chicago Botanic Garden, 1000 Lake Cook Rd, Glencoe, IL 60022; Register at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdO69XnWKyU-NCLmXTzr8n6SyAteHCkVoAdSaQOMulOmgvprA/viewform.

 

Seven Generations Ahead, the Illinois Environmental Council, the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County and the Illinois Food Scrap Coalition invite you to attend the third in a series of four free forums addressing composting policy in Illinois. Get updates on food scrap composting initiatives in Northern Cook County. Learn about Illinois landfill disposal bans and their impact. Discuss what would be needed for a successful organics disposal ban in Illinois. View the agenda online.

 

Recent Events

US EPA SMM Web Academy Webinar: Food: Too Good to Waste – Community Results and Lessons Learned

Sept. 22, 2016; View archived presentation materials online.

 

Currently, over 30 percent of the food currently grown and processed in the U.S. goes uneaten. When wholesome, edible food ends up in a landfill, all those embedded resources (along with the money spent on them) also get wasted. This impacts the environment, our community and the bottom line. The Food: Too Good to Waste toolkit was designed and developed for local governments and other community partners to help prevent wasted food in households. This community food waste prevention toolkit has been tested throughout the US and helps households save money while reducing wasted food by up to 50%. During this webinar we will present results from an evaluation report on several campaign implementations and hear from three of those communities who successfully implemented this toolkit.

 

Michigan DEQ Sustainability Series Webinar: Engaging in Food Recovery

Sept. 22, 2016; View archived slides and recording online (Note: Scroll to the bottom of the page).

 

Food scraps are the “final frontier” for organics recovery. Food is the most water, labor and nutrient intensive of the wastes we produce. And not all food that is wasted is unfit for a plate. Food recovery should come first. After that, diversion from landfills, then identifying the best options to recover what value we can from what we worked so hard to grow. Learn how your business or organization can avoid wasting this valuable resource. This webinar was geared towards any business or institution that generates food waste in a kitchen or cafeteria or through food processing, as well as anyone interested in learning more about food waste recovery. Presented by Sally L. Brown, PhD, a Research Associate Professor at the University of Washington. She is a Fellow in the Soil Science Society of America, and was a member of the National Academy of Science Committee on Soils. She writes a monthly column for Biocycle magazine and a blog for the Huffington Post.

 

Green Lunchroom Challenge Webinar, Sept. 30, Features Innovative School Projects

Join us on Friday, September 30, 2016 for a Green Lunchroom Challenge Webinar, “School Gardening and Composting at Salem High School (MA).” The webinar will be broadcast from 11:30 AM to 12:30 PM Central, and will be recorded and posted to the Challenge web site for later viewing. Register online at https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/2878734024751555843.

 

Learn about innovative on-site gardening and composting efforts at Salem High School (Salem, MA). These projects not only provide fresh produce for school meals, but also engaging experiential learning opportunities for students. Our presenters will be Graeme Marcoux, Salem High School science teacher, and Deborah Jeffers, Food Services Director. This school not only has traditional garden plots, but also grows produce in a modified, climate controlled shipping container from Freight Farms. This atypical approach to on-site gardening allows the school to generate more fresh produce than they would with their traditional plots alone, and can allow growing during any season. This CBS Boston feature on the school’s efforts provides more information, and may help you formulate questions you’d like to ask during the webinar: http://boston.cbslocal.com/video/category/news-general/3411386-eye-on-education-students-grow-fresh-healthy-food-for-cafeteria/#.V1cjQm52EV9.wordpress.

 

Coordinated by ISTC with funding from US EPA Region 5, the Green Lunchroom Challenge is a voluntary pledge program for schools to improve the sustainability of their food service operations. By registering, participants are accepting the challenge to reduce and prevent food waste in their facilities. The Challenge involves suggested activities that range in complexity and commitment, to allow participants to best suit their situation, budget and available community resources. Participants are not required to complete activities, but with each activity that is completed successfully, they earn points and can be recognized as having achieved different levels of accomplishment. Learn more, and register your school or district, at www.greenlunchroom.org.

 

Green Lunchroom Challenge logo