Evanston officials plan to ask waste haulers to add a food scrap recycling option to bids for the city’s trash removal service this year.

In a presentation to aldermen prepared for Monday’s Administration and Public Works Committee meeting, Public Works Director Dave Stoneback says he plans to ask for pricing on three food scrap recycling options.


The first two would serve only residential buildings and would have residents place food scraps in their existing yard waste containers.

Under the first option service would only be provided to residents who sign up for the yard and food waste program. The second option would provide yard and food waste collection for all residential buildings.

The third option would use separate food-scrap-only containers, be a voluntary subscription service and would include commercial and institutional customers as well as residential ones.

The current yard waste pickup program only uses 95-gallon containers. In adding the food scrap service, Stoneback says, the city would add 35- and 65-gallon containers under either of the first two options and would provide containers as small as 5 gallons under the third option in which food scraps would be picked up separately from yard waste.

Under the city’s existing waste removal program, residents place food scraps in with regular trash that’s hauled to landfills rather than being recycled.

In a survey conducted by the city last year, two-thirds of the 848 respondents said they believed the city should provide food scrap recycling options.

And 43 percent said they’d be willing to pay $5 or more per month extra for the service. Thirty-seven percent said they either weren’t interested in the service or would be unwilling to pay extra for it, while another 21 percent said they’d only pay $2 or less per month for it.

The city’s yard waste program now operates at a deficit of more than a half-million dollars a year, and service is only offered from April through mid-December. The food scrap program would require adding winter-time pickups to that schedule.

Stoneback says food scraps are estimated to make up a third of the weight of an average household’s waste.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Rodents Dinner

    Don’t we already have a rat problem? Won’t leaving food scraps in a bin create a place for rats and other rodents to feast? I’ve seen some of the bins where an animal has chewed an opening to get at the contents.

    1. Just a different bin

      Food scraps are already left in a bin — the trash bin.

      The proposal would switch to using a different bin — the yard waste bin.

      Of course most people now probably put their food scraps in plastic bags before placing them in the trash. But plastic bags probably aren’t very effective in deterring rodents.

      The presentation doesn’t indicate what the rules would be for placing food waste into the yard waste containers — but plastic bags likely would be frowned upon because they are extremely difficult to remove in the typical recycling process.

      — Bill

  2. Sounds like a great idea.  I

    Sounds like a great idea.  I really hope it goes forward!  Thanks for listening to residents.

    1. What is the purpose

      I have read through the presentation, perhaps I miss it, but why is this a good idea?  What are the benefits?  

      1. Purpose

        One benefit is that it would reduce the amount of material that ends up buried in a landfill. Having stuff turned into compost is likely to be cheaper than burying it.

        It’s also seen as a way for the city to win more “green” cred.

        And it likely will provide an opportunity to restructure the fees residents pay for trash services, with a goal of plugging a major hole in the budget.

        — Bill

        1. The “hole in the budget”

          The “hole in the budget” thing always confuses me. We already pay taxes to the city so its not clear to me why 100% of a core municiple service like trash pickup should be covered by additional fees as opposed to the taxes we already pay…

          1. The hole

            What most people think of when they think of the taxes they pay is the property tax. But it only brings in enough to cover about 20 percent of the city’s expenses.

            And it largely funds things it’s difficult to charge users for directly — like police and fire protection.

            For a bunch of things the city does — like providing water and sewer service, parking structures and trash pickup — the theory, at least, is that different people use different quantities of those services and people should pay for them directly, in relation to the amount of them they use.

            That’s why if garbage fees only bring in, say 80 percent, of what it costs to to provide the service — people think of the shortfall as a hole in the budget that requires taking revenue from other sources (like the property tax) to cover.

            It would be possible to not have separate charges for those services — but that tends to lead people to overuse them — leading to inefficiency and higher costs all around. (Would your neighbor fix his leaky toilet if letting it leak wouldn’t mean a big increase in his water bill?)

            — Bill

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