Chicago residents will now be able to keep their food scraps out of area landfills, with the launch of the first-ever citywide composting program, Mayor Brandon Johnson said Monday.
Chicagoans can bring their food waste to one of 15 locations across the city and dispose of it in a green bin, officials said. Leftover fruit, vegetables, meat, fish, bones, dairy, eggshells, tea leaves, coffee grounds, bread and grains will be accepted — but not pizza boxes or so-called “compostable bags,” officials said.
“Diverting food scraps for composting is one of the easiest and most impactful ways for individuals and cities to address the climate crisis,” Mayor Brandon Johnson said. “As we bring composting options to all Chicago residents, we can reduce harmful greenhouse gas emissions that occur when organic food material decomposes in a landfill, return organic materials to the earth, and most importantly, create healthier communities across our great city.”
Less than 9% of the trash produced every year by Chicago residents is kept out of landfills — a rate that has been essentially unchanged for five years, despite repeated calls for the city to do a better job at recycling.
Two years ago, a study of the city's waste strategy conducted by the Delta Institute and released in July urged the city to expand ways for residents — and businesses in the food industry — to compost organic waste, rather than tossing it in the trash.
Johnson’s announcement comes just days before the leadership of the Department of Streets and Sanitation are expected to defend their efforts to keep recyclable paper, glass and plastic out of area landfills as part of annual hearings into the mayor’s spending plan proposal.
Former Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s 2022 spending plan set aside $6 million to fund a compost program, but a full-scale effort never got off the ground.
In November 2022, city officials launched a small-scale pilot compost program, which allowed six community gardens to accept food waste from garden members and some neighbors.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimated that food waste accounts for nearly one-quarter of all material that winds up in landfills in the United States, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions.
Watch: Chicago bills itself as a world-class city, but when it comes to recycling, its performance has been less than first-rate. What's gone wrong? WTTW News Explains takes a deep dumpster dive.