Oak Park poised to boost composting program

Roughly 10 percent of residents now composting

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By Timothy Inklebarger

Staff Reporter

Before Oak Park Trustee Deno Andrews started participating in the village's composting pickup program, his household produced a "heaping" can of refuse every week.

"The lid wouldn't close and sometimes we would have three or four bags piled and the lid would be at a 40-degree angle," said in a recent interview.

It was Andrews' wife who convinced him a couple of years ago to sign up for the village's fledgling compost-pickup program, which allows residents to essentially recycle organic material like food and yard waste.

Because of composting, he says the Andrews clan now throws away "one of those small, five- or six-gallon bags in a week."

That's why he was surprised to learn that only about 10 percent of the households – about 1,200 in total – in the village participate in the composting-pickup program.

Andrews said the topic came up at a Finance Committee meeting recently, where officials and village staff discussed opportunities for reducing dumping fees paid by the village.

If the village could get more people to use the composting program – it costs about $15 a month and requires a special receptacle – it also would reduce the amount of material going into the landfill.

"The more people that use it, the better it is for everybody," Andrews said.

Trustees appeared in strong support of his suggestion to make the program free for residents for the first three months. While the potential ordinance has not yet gotten a vote, Andrews' colleagues voiced support for the idea.

Trustee Jim Taglia said he would like to see participation increase to at least 30 percent.

Oak Park Public Works Director John Wielebnicki said in a telephone interview that the promotion, if approved by the board of trustees, would likely not go into effect until early next year.

He noted that the first three months free is a value of $44.56.

Wielebnicki said composting started in a 2012 pilot program and now is available throughout the village.

Those who sign up get their composting bins in about two weeks, Wielebnicki said.

He noted that the compost that is gathered is later made available after material is broken down.

Wielebnicki said the compost is available on a first-come first-served basis at bins located on a village-owned parking lot at the corner of Madison Street and Highland Avenue. One bin at the location is full of compost, which can be used in gardens and lawns, and the other contains brush chips, Wielebnicki said.

CONTACT: tim@oakpark.com

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Carolyn Cullen  

Posted: January 10th, 2018 10:33 PM

We have used this program since its pilot phase and still love it. Why? Because organic waste is a resource to be used, not put in a landfill forever. If enough folks participate, it will not cost more. Karen Rozmus, our former Env. services guru, wanted to see it rolled out for everyone at no extra cost, but that was deemed too radical for now. Once you realize an apple core should be turned into new garden soil, your whole mindset changes. The program takes chicken bones, greasy pizza boxes, etc, that are not good for backyard composting. We are another family of 4 who throws out 1 small bag every other week (biweekly pickup was also considered but again, considered too extreme for some folks, alas). Is it always just about spending as little as possible? Sometimes it costs a bit more, for now, to do the right thing, environmentally speaking. As they say, "try it, you'll like it" :)

Liz Tabor Robinson from oak park  

Posted: November 17th, 2017 1:07 PM

I too agree, why would I ever participate in this program? We get charged more to participate in a program that helps the village save money. So it is a win win for the village... they save $ and they make $.

Judy Weik  

Posted: November 13th, 2017 8:37 AM

We've participated in the village composting program since it started, and I love it! Our yard is too small to adequately compost all our kitchen and yard waste. Since all our yard waste goes into our big gray bin we save money on the brown composting bags. I think $15 a month is worth it for the convenience. Backyard composting does not work for everyone.

Alyssa Harsha from Oak Park  

Posted: November 12th, 2017 11:30 AM

Echoing Barbara's comment, residents in buildings with 6+ units are not able to participate in the composting program. Upon moving to Oak Park a year ago, I was disappointment to find out that I would not be able to utilize the composting service because I live in a condo with 6 units. It seems that people who are not able to afford living in a single-family home miss out on accessing services such as composting and trash removal, even though we are contributing tax dollars to these great services. I'd love to be able to participate!

Terence Jones  

Posted: November 11th, 2017 2:52 PM

We also keep our composting at home and find it ludicrous to have to pay to take it away. Is the composting program superior to my own composting? Do they compost anaerobically and capture the methane produced? Does the composted material given back have a higher nitrogen content than mine. If that was the case, I might consider the program. Seems like another way to soak the taxpayer to me.

Jeff Schroeder from Oak Park   

Posted: November 11th, 2017 9:06 AM

I echo the comments of Ms. Wess. We used to get paid to recycle. Now we pay for it. Why pay for composting when we can all use it in our gardens?

Deborah Wess from Oak Park  

Posted: November 10th, 2017 7:40 PM

WJ, there may be 10% of OPrs participating in *this* program, but Im guessing many hundreds more are composting. We have been for yearsband years, as have at least 3 neighbors I can think of on our alley. As with Trustee Andrews, we usually only have one bag of trash per week. We've never been interested in paying for this program - we do it for free and use it in our garden every spring.

Daniel Seltzer  

Posted: November 10th, 2017 6:26 PM

Why do I want to increase my refuse charge to compost? I can throw it all away now at no add'l cost. You want to incentivize folks to do it. WasteManagement should be providing a discount for compost since it reduces their intake. I pay too much in taxes and village services now-why do I want to increase my costs?

Barbara Moline from Oak Park  

Posted: November 10th, 2017 5:44 PM

Unfortunately, residents of 6+ apartment buildings are not eligible to participate. These account for a lot of households.

Leslie Roberts from Oak Park  

Posted: November 10th, 2017 5:28 PM

Oh, forgot: When we composted in our own yard, we could not include meat and bread. But we were told by the village that these are acceptable in village compost program. Newspaper is also okay. We were told ink is now soy. But I would not include those shiny ad inserts. Do we have any experts in town that can enlighten us?

Leslie Roberts from Oak Park  

Posted: November 10th, 2017 5:11 PM

My neighbor(s) and my household have been sharing a bin for years, so we share the cost on our quarterly water bill. Since we also are recycling much of our waste, we only need to put out our non-rotting landfill trash every other week. because it takes time to fill a bag. So we share that bin also. Until recently, we shared the cost too, but now we only get a $6 discount on our water bill for that category. Please note also that for the compost, the village/waste co. provides a small container to accumulate food waste in the kitchen, which we line with a bio-degradeable bag to put in the compost bin weekly. We buy a year's supply of small bags online cheap. But the village said the kitchen compost can be wrapped in newspaper. Also, during the winter months, the pick-up is every other week. We used to compost in our yard, like another neighbor, but we decided to use the village provided bins to avoid mice and animals visiting. I asked why we suddenly have to pay so much more for our landfill bins we share and the village person said it was for Autumn leaf pick-up and for alley repairs... I was also told the waste pick-up company gets paid by the number of bins it empties and they want us to have more bins. We let our leaves stay on our lawn as mulch to protect the plants, but we are all charged anyway. During a block party a village representative promoting the compost bins told us that the huge pile of compost gets so hot, the heat degrades the pesticides from non-organic veggies. During our block parties we do not use paper or plastic dishes, glasses, utensils, but bring our reusable place settings. This was suggested by our new young parents on the block. Good to know the next generation is aware and responsible! We also put out our recycling, etc. bins. And now the village provides a special block party container to compost, recycle, and landfill easily, and pick up the box the next morning. Thanks for the opportunity to fill the gaps.

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