Composting pilot program may come to DeKalb

By Ali Combs

Locals may have an environmentally friendly method of waste disposal coming to their doorsteps next spring.

At Monday’s City Council meeting, the council agreed to a five-year contract with Waste Management for waste removal services throughout the city. This contract includes a pilot program for community-wide composting.

In the pilot, City Council and staff will choose a neighborhood suited for testing the program. Matt Hernandez, a Waste Management representative involved in Public Sector Marketing for the company, spoke at Monday’s meeting. He said the neighborhood chosen is important to the program.

“You want to get a good area where you get a good mix of families and participation in the program,” Hernandez said at the meeting. “If you’re going to go to an area where there may not bet that much participation, it does nothing, because you’re not getting a good sample….”

The program will provide participants with a durable container to put food scraps in. A combination of kitchen counter food scrap receptacles and outdoor food scrap receptacles will be supplied. The scraps would be collected and taken to the landfill where they would be combined with yard waste to create compost. Third ward alderman Kristen Lash said the program was a great idea, but she raised some concern about how the pilot neighborhood would be selected.

“The city would determine what geographic area of DeKalb they would like to pilot,” said Waste Management representative Bill Plunkett.

Not all landfills can compost materials, but the DeKalb County landfill is one of several that do, Plunkett said.

Lash also wanted to be sure composting participants were well educated about how composting works and what materials can be composted.

The pilot would likely use some of the same education materials as a similar program in another town in northern Illinois.

“We currently have a pilot program going on in Oak Park, Illinois..,” he said. “So we have literature in place that we would send out to the people who are in the pilot program…. We’d follow it up with a letter saying this is the program, this is what’s going on. We’d give them the information, and those people who say, ‘Yes, we want to participate,’ we’d give more information on what’s going on…. There’s a difference between being compostable and being recyclable, so we want to make sure that they know what’s going on.”

There is still some work to be done in planning the program, but should the program have high enough response, the city would look to expand the program throughout DeKalb, said Public Works Director T.J. Moore.

“The details of the program are still to be ironed out,” Moore said. “Ideally, if it’s something we find would be successful, we would then find a way to implement it throughout the community.”

The program should be ready by spring, said Moore and Plunkett.