How Lake County is trying to keep food scraps out of landfills

  • The Solid Waste Agency of Lake County is working with restaurants to divert food scraps from landfills. So far, restaurants in Grayslake and Highland Park have signed up, and three in Libertyville are expected to follow suit.

    The Solid Waste Agency of Lake County is working with restaurants to divert food scraps from landfills. So far, restaurants in Grayslake and Highland Park have signed up, and three in Libertyville are expected to follow suit. Courtesy of Lake County

 
 
Updated 9/17/2019 5:47 AM

The Solid Waste Agency of Lake County is pursuing an initiative to encourage local restaurants to keep food scraps out of landfills.

As it is just getting started in earnest, participation in the fledgling program has been limited.

 

But the long-range hope is that focusing on businesses could have a trickle-down effect and persuade Lake County residents who have the opportunity through their waste haulers to give it a try.

"What we're trying to do is set the tone that this is something that can be done," said Pete Adrian, the waste agency's recycling coordinator.

The idea for either business or residents is the same: Food scraps are collected separately and taken to a recycling facility to be converted to compost.

Doing that reduces garbage and preserves landfill space, according to the waste agency.

Diverting food from the garbage bin also reduces the amount of greenhouse gases produced by rotting trash at landfills and creates a nutrient-rich amendment that can rebuild soil and conserve water, the agency says.

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So far eight restaurants -- four each in Grayslake and Highland Park -- have come aboard, Adrian said.

Libertyville is next on the list with three restaurants examining their procedures to see what might work.

"There are a lot of questions. I would say they're all pretty much working at getting it going," said Patrick Hastings, a management analyst with the village's public works department and liaison to the Sustain Libertyville commission.

The waste agency is working with Bright Beat, a Chicago-based environmental stewardship firm, to advance food scrap composting and recycling as viable options for businesses.

In Libertyville, three restaurants -- The Green Room, O'Toole's of Libertyville and Pizzeria Deville -- are assessing procedures to determine the best methods to divert food from the traditional trash.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"At this point, it's a work in progress, and we hope to really get it going by the end of fall," Hastings said.

Picking up food scraps incurs a cost, Adrian acknowledged, but that could be offset if less frequent trash collection were needed.

"What we're going for here is a break-even scenario with (food waste) diversion as a benefit," Adrian said.

"The primary driver really has to be the desire of the individual owner," he added, noting the agency will be expanding the initiative to other communities.

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