A New Day for Composting in Chicago

Photo by Phil Velasquez, Chicago Tribune

Photo by Phil Velasquez, Chicago Tribune

After working with the Mayor’s office, the Illinois Environmental Council (IEC), the Chicago Food Policy Action Council (CFPAC), and many other stakeholders for more than two years, AUA is pleased to announce that composting in Chicago has made a big leap forward. The City Council recently passed amendments to Chicago’s composting ordinance that will finally allow community gardens and urban farms to accept and compost food scraps and other organic waste generated offsite. The amendments will also make it much easier for nonprofits to start community composting centers.

Until now, Chicago farms and community gardens weren’t permitted to take kitchen scraps or yard waste from their neighbors or accept larger quantities of organic waste from nearby businesses. Steep permitting fees made establishing and maintaining full-fledged composting facilities in the city almost impossible. As a result, the prospect of generating enough compost to meet the growing demand of Chicago’s gardeners and farmers was little more than a pipe dream, and city dwellers – especially those with little to no land – found themselves with limited options for keeping easily compostable materials out of the waste stream.

With the recent passage of Chicago’s new composting rules, these obstacles have largely been removed while still doing much to address legitimate concerns about odor and rodent problems. We look forward to seeing a growing number of community gardens and urban farms that are able to produce all of the compost they need, and we’re optimistic that our vision for a composting center in each Chicago neighborhood can be achieved over the coming years.

In the meantime, there is work to be done. AUA will continue collaborating with our organizational partners, the Department of Public Health, growers across the city, and other stakeholders to ensure that implementation of these new rules is smooth and successful. We’ll be holding meetings and events to collect feedback and educate people about what the new rules do and don’t allow. For now, we hope that you’ll take a look at the overview and FAQ we’ve been developing. For a more detailed and technical look at the new rules, the actual ordinance can be viewed here.

Click here to listen to AUA Executive Director Billy Burdett and IEC Executive Director Jen Walling discuss the new compost ordinance on WBEZ’s Morning Shift last August!

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