Curbside recycling may be getting all the attention lately, but another type of recycling is beginning to make its mark in Peoria County. Composting is the act of combining organic materials like food scraps and yard waste—in the correct ratio—to produce nutrient-rich soil amendment.
Commercial composting is no grade-school science project, though. In 2015 alone, more than 18.6 million pounds of food scraps were composted in an Illinois EPA-permitted scrap composting facility located in Peoria County.
While well-established composting procedures are in place for yard waste, food scraps and compostable products represent new challenges. Aside from a few businesses and many backyard composters, food scrap composting has struggled to take hold in central Illinois.
Peoria County looks to change that. Our Sustainability and Resource Conservation Department recently introduced a pilot program in conjunction with Better Earth Logistics, a local small business, to support food scrap composting in schools and businesses in Peoria County.
In September 2018, Peoria County purchased 100 composting carts, which are available at no charge to businesses who sign up for hauling services from Better Earth Logistics. These carts are comparable to the garbage and recycling carts used by residents. This is part of a two-year pilot program to both decrease food waste in the landfill and increase the beneficial use of compost material.
Composting commercially involves separating food scraps from waste and recyclable material. An example would be a restaurant diverting prep scrap (like potato peelings and carrot tops) to a compost bin instead of the trash bin. The program accepts bones, meat and dairy products, which allows most food waste and soiled paper to be diverted from the landfill.
Bradley University, Sous Chef, Caterpillar and Sugarcane Shack have all joined the composting movement locally and are leading the way toward zero waste. In addition, Peoria County has implemented composting at Heddington Oaks, our long-term care facility, where staff are now diverting kitchen prep material along with plate scrapings from residents. Heddington Oaks has already diverted more than 24,000 pounds of food waste from our landfill in just the past four months. Imagine the impact we could have if even more businesses came on board.
Composting food scraps is just one part of waste diversion. Organizations that collect unused food for food banks—as well as programs to reduce food waste in total—are important and essential parts of waste diversion. Businesses that use disposable tableware can also make a conscious choice to use compostable plates and cups. These items are not coated in polyethylene and must meet standards set by the Biodegradable Products Institute.
Interested in learning more about how your business can join the movement? Reach out to our Peoria County recycling staff at (309) 679-6690—they will be happy to provide you with details. iBi