About three years ago, Erlene Howard wanted to start a composting program, but she had no way to compost because she lived in a condominium.

Public Works employees sort items dropped off by residents at the recycling fair.

About three years ago, Erlene Howard wanted to start a composting program, but she had no way to compost because she lived in a condominium.

“I went out to figure out once I collected the food scraps from different places where it would go. I made the connection to the commercial composting sites, which just became available in January of 2010,” said Howard, aptly nicknamed “Erlene the Compost Queen.”

Erlene Howard talking up her service at the recycling fair.

On June 16, 2010, Howard made her first residential compost pick-up — using in the trunk of her 2002 Toyota Camry. Collective Resource Inc. was created.

A year ago, Howard purchased a truck, and now she collects over six tons of food scraps per week.

Howard and other environmental advocates joined today to educate people at Evanston Township High School about recycling.

The Recycling Fair provided an opportunity for people to securely shred documents, recycle various items, obtain educational materials and free light bulbs, and get up close to some of the Streets and Sanitation heavy equipment.

Crews unloading obsolete computers at the fair.

When John Knox saw the online newsletter in his email inbox announcing that the city was hosting its third annual Recycling Fair, he decided this was his chance to recycle two huge television sets and multiple compact fluorescent bulbs.

“Oh boy, I’m really, really happy. Otherwise I would have to put two huge TVs and lots of compact fluorescent bulbs in the landfill, where they don’t belong at all,” said Knox, who, as the live-in caretaker at the Evanston Quaker building, has more opportunity to recycle than the average person.

“I’m so glad they have these booths here—I’m learning a lot that I have wanted to learn for a long time.”

Join the Conversation


  1. Recycling Fair

      I hope that next year the sponsors will consider making this great annual event from 9 a.m. to 2 or 3 p.m.  I had marked my calendar and made my piles of documents, electronics, flourescent bulbs and things to be shredded to load into the car, but by the time I arrived home from morning errands that began before 8:00 am,  it was 12:05p.m. — too late.  I will drive to Glenview next week to unload some of it, but what a bummer.

  2. Congratulations, Erlene. 

    Congratulations, Erlene.  What a great idea to help people recycle compost.  It's such a good thing to do.

    MaryJo Boyer

    1. Kudos… A month late (and a dime short)

      I'm with you MaryJo,

      Congrats to you Erlene… on taking risks and overcoming adversity…

      Thank you for your kindness in composting community projects, people, businesses and breaking ground so waste doesn't have to be buried! 

      Your friend, Brian Becharas

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