Report: Greater Chicagoland Compost Summit

This is a report from the May 2023 Compost Summit hosted by the University of Illinois. The intent of this report is to inspire and further work in building a culture of composting in greater Chicagoland. Information from this report has the potential to influence policies, educational programming, and infrastructure improvements, leading to a growing culture of composting in the region. This report may be of use to other Extension organizations. This publication was produced through the New Technologies for Ag Extension (NTAE) program. NTAE is a cooperative agreement between USDA NIFA, Oklahoma State University, and the Extension Foundation. The goal of the New Technologies for Ag Extension (NTAE) grant is to incubate, accelerate, and expand promising work that will increase the impact of the Cooperative Extension System (CES) in the communities it serves, and provide models that can be adopted or adapted by Extension teams across the nation.

A Report on the May 2023 Compost Summit

Building a culture of composting in greater Chicagoland

Kathyrn M. Pereira, Local Food Systems and Small Farms Educator, University of Illinois Extension


ATTRIBUTIONS A Report on the May 2023 Compost Summit – Building a Culture of Composting in Greater Chicagoland Copyright © Pereira, K., 2023. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0). Published by Extension Foundation.

Publish Date: 11/20/2023

Citations for this publication may be made using the following:

Pereira, K. (2023). A Report on the May 2023 Compost Summit – Building a Culture of Composting in Greater Chicagoland Kansas City: Extension Foundation

Producer: Ashley S. Griffin

Technical Implementer: Rose Hayden-Smith

Welcome to the Report: 5/2023 Composting Summit – Building a Culture of Composting in Greater Chicagoland, a resource created for the Cooperative Extension Service and published by the Extension Foundation. We welcome feedback and suggested resources for this publication, which could be included in any subsequent versions. This work is supported by New Technologies for Agriculture Extension grant no. 2020-41595-30123 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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Extension Foundation c/o Bryan Cave LLP One Kansas City Place

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TABLE OF CONTENTS ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS .............................................................................................................................................. 4 EXECUTIVE SUMMARY ............................................................................................................................................... 5 WHY DID WE HOLD A COMPOST SUMMIT? ............................................................................................................. 6 WHO WAS IN THE ROOM? ........................................................................................................................................ 7 WHAT MOTIVATED ATTENDEES TO PARTICIPATE? .................................................................................................. 8 HOW WAS THE SUMMIT STRUCTURED? .................................................................................................................. 9 POST-SUMMIT ANALYSIS PROCEDURE ................................................................................................................... 11 BARRIERS TO BUILDING A CULTURE OF COMPOSTING .......................................................................................... 12 CURRENT EFFORTS TO BUILD A CULTURE OF COMPOSTING ................................................................................. 14 OPPORTUNITIES TO BUILD A CULTURE COMPOSTING ........................................................................................... 16 ACTION PRIORITIES .................................................................................................................................................. 19 PRIORITIZING COLLECTIVE ACTION ......................................................................................................................... 22 CONCLUDING REMARKS .......................................................................................................................................... 24 FALL 2022 REPORT FEEDBACK ................................................................................................................................. 25 APPENDIX 1: Comment Summary Charts ............................................................................................................... 29 APPENDIX 2: Vison Cards ......................................................................................................................................... 49


ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS A round of applause and a hearty thank you for the many people who contributed to this successful event. A very special thank you to the NTAE Year 4 Extension Foundation project team for their review and input on this report and spending the past year diving into all things compost. NTAE project team Amy DeLorenzo, ORISE Research Fellow, U.S. EPA Sue Gasper, Illinois Extension Cook County Sarah Farley, Illinois Extension Lake and McHenry counties Kathryn Pereira, Illinois Extension Cook County and NTAE Year 4 Fellow Zach Samaras, Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (ISTC) Table conversation facilitators Illinois Extension Cook County: Sarah Batka, Gemini Bhalsod, Abigail Garafalo, Zack Grant, Val Kehoe, Nancy Kreith, Meghan McCleary, and Latosha Reggans

Lake and McHenry Counties: Brenda Dahlfors and Jesse Davis Jo Daviess, Stephenson and Winnebago Counties: Grant McCarty

Summit facilitation team Daylight: Lyndon Valicenti, Ketzel Feasley, Rae Perez

Graphic recorder The Value Web: Sunny Benbelkacem

Registration, logistics, and photography Illinois Extension: Veronica Aranda, Mike Neil, Aida Peralta University of Illinois student intern: Erica Johnson NTAE Year 4 Expansion Grant Extension Foundation: Dr. Jimmy Henning, Associate Dean and Extension Professor, University of Kentucky and Dr. Dyremple Marsh, Dean and Extension Director emeritus, Delaware State University

All the summit participants who spent a day discussing how to build a regional culture of composting.


EXECUTIVE SUMMARY The intent of this report is to inspire and further work in building a culture of composting. Information from this report has the potential to influence policies, educational programming, and infrastructure improvements, leading to a growing culture of composting in the region. It is the beginning of a road map to help us figure out where we could go. The report documents as accurately as possible the topics discussed by 85 people (79 compost professionals and 16 table facilitators) on May 12, 2023, during a World Café-style discussion. Participants included commercial composters, non-profit professionals, educators, researchers, policy advocates, solid waste agencies, local governments, community composters, restaurants, and food scrap hauling services from Boone, Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties. Over the course of the day the group explored the challenges, the current state, and the opportunities to improve the composting ecosystem in greater Chicagoland. The day ended with a group vote on the top action items that could realistically be addressed to move the culture of composting forward in greater Chicagoland.

After a full day of listening, discussing, and brainstorming,

• 31% of attendees believed that fostering collaboration between experts to create free and accessible resources was the top EDUCATION action priority. • Attendees were divided between choosing using existing government resources to subsidize composting and creating incentives for compost usage as the top INFRASTUCTURE action priorities with each item receiving 28% of the total votes. • 33% of attendees believed a new state law requiring all businesses that produce more than X lbs. of waste/yr. to use a composting service should be the top POLICY action priority. Within the composting ecosystem, a feedback loop exists between education, infrastructure, and policy. As we work individually to address each component the synergy between our efforts will strengthen the entire system.

As residents become more educated, they will advocate for new policies, which in turn will build and support infrastructure capacity. As infrastructure capacity increases, supply will increase while (ideally) simultaneous increases in education levels will increase demand for compost. As the system develops, methane gas emissions from landfills will decrease which in turn contributes to mitigating climate change. Summitt attendees will receive a draft report in September 2023. They will also receive a brief survey asking what action items they have been working on since the summit, and if the report accurately represents what they heard and experienced in May. If for them, it is not an accurate representation, they will be asked to give feedback on what content or themes are missing. A second survey will be sent one year after the Summit (in May 2024). This report will be updated after each survey.

Education, Infrastructure and Policy work together to build a culture of composting.


WHY DID WE HOLD A COMPOST SUMMIT? Food waste is a pressing environmental concern in Illinois. In Cook County — and in many counties around the state — it accounts for up to 37% of landfilled material. 1 Food waste is not just filling up municipal dump sites: it is a major source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas contributing to climate change. Composting could be a solution for reducing food waste the same way that, in the last 50 years, recycling has reduced plastic, paper, and aluminum waste. But the eight million residents in greater Chicagoland need more education about composting, and the process needs to be easier and more accessible. The project team, led by Illinois Extension, was interested in exploring this question: “ How can we work together to increase both demand for and the rate of composting adoption to collectively reach a “tipping point” where composting is as common as recycling? ” To do this, Illinois Extension convened greater Chicagoland compost professionals to discuss building a regional compost culture. The summit was designed to break down silos and provide an opportunity for people from diverse sectors to interact. How often does a community garden food scrap composter get to talk with a large commercial composter or an educator to a food scrap hauler?

Kicking off the day attendees were told: “ Today is about meeting new people, breaking down silos, collectively learning and brainstorming action we, as compost professionals, can take to speed up the process of compost adoption. We are confident that together we can build a culture of composting to foster healthy environments and local circular economies, strengthen urban farms and gardens, and to meet the EPA’s goal of cutting food waste in half by 2030. Thank you so much for being here. Your knowledge, ideas, and experiences are what will help us to move forward . ”

Note: The summit captured a specific moment in time. While Chicago does not currently offer municipal curbside hauling, 70 municipalities 2 in the region do. There are a variety of smaller food scrap haulers, and the City of Chicago is piloting a compost drop off program in six community gardens. Prior to our meeting, Chicago elected a new mayor and 1/3 of the city’s alderman were newly elected. All the excitement and, perhaps, anxiety about where the region may go in the next 2, 5 or 10 years are evident in the comments recorded throughout the summit.

1 2


WHO WAS IN THE ROOM? The seventy-nine participants included commercial composters, non-profit professionals, educators, researchers, policy advocates, solid waste agencies, local governments, community composters, restaurants, and food scrap hauling services from Boone, Cook, DuPage, Kane, Lake, McHenry, and Will counties. Participant name tags included names only (no titles or organizations) to give all participants an equal voice. Sixteen trained table facilitators from Illinois

Extension from Cook, Lake, McHenry, and Stephenson counties, Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, and the US EPA guided and contributed to conversations at the tables throughout the day. Three professional facilitators from Daylight guided the entire process.

Summit attendees represented diverse sectors of the composting ecosystem with no one sector exceeding 20% of the atendees*
















*attendees could chose more than one sector

# of people

Participant demographics were collected during registration. Since some attendee substitutions were made the day of the event the reported demographics below may not be 100% accurate. Gender: 57% female, 37% male, 4% non-binary, 3% prefer not to respond. Age: 8% 18-29, 71% 30-59, 17% 60-75, 5% prefer not to respond/unknown. Race: 68% White, 11% Black/African American, 4% Asian, 14% prefer not to respond, 3% 2 or more races. Hispanic origin: 81% non-Hispanic, 9% Hispanic, 10% prefer not to respond/unknown.


WHAT MOTIVATED ATTENDEES TO PARTICIPATE? Summit attendees were asked to complete a brief application to ensure participation from a broad swath of sectors. They were asked to 1) Describe their involvement in composting efforts in Chicagoland, 2) What they hoped to achieve by

participating in the summit and, 3) How might coming together to discuss composting with others impact their work? Attendees expressed a wide variety of reasons for attending,

reflecting their various professional roles in the

compost community. Of the 85 people who applied 100% were accepted and most (92%) were able to attend for at least part of the day if not the entire day.

Attendees’ motivation for participating in the Summit.


HOW WAS THE SUMMIT STRUCTURED? Using a World Café format, the morning was spent documenting and discussing barriers, current efforts, and opportunities for building a culture of composting. All attendees discussed all items in small groups at 16 different tables led by a trained facilitator. Attendees recorded their comments on sticky notes using a color- coding system: pink for barriers, blue for current

efforts, and green for opportunities. Three rounds with the same format were conducted for 20 minutes each. Participants were assigned to different tables for each round to maximize the cross-pollination of ideas. Although participants changed tables every round, the table facilitator and poster remained in place to allow participants to build on one another's ideas. In the afternoon the group divided into three

Participants discussing barriers (pink), current efforts (blue) and opportunities (green) for education, infrastructure, and policy to support a building a culture of composting. Photo: Sunny Benbelkacem

interest areas- education, infrastructure, and policy- or places where, based on their current work, they believed they could have the greatest ability to direct change. Each topic area had 2-3 tables discussing how to turn the opportunities identified in the morning into actions. The tables were guided by two facilitators to help record

and report the discussions. After a full group share out and final sorting of action topics all attendees voted on the top action items in each category. This format was chosen and developed in collaboration with the facilitation team from Daylight and intended to foster “the cross- pollination of relationships, ideas, and meaning.” This type of structure, or conversational leadership, is a natural role for an Extension Service who serves as a convening body to drive positive social change.

What is a World Café?

It is a method for structured large group dialogue. Participants engage in conversation around a set of questions in small groups. After 20 minutes participants move to a new table and engage in conversation with a new set of people. During each round participants record their ideas and conversations on sticky notes or large pieces of paper, leaving behind a record of their conversation for the next group to see. The sticky notes collected at the Summit are summarized in this report. Between sessions tables report out a summary of their discussion to the entire room. The report outs are captured in the graphic recordings which are included throughout the report in the categories of Barriers, Efforts, Opportunities, and Action.

Learn more about World Café at

From Conversational Leadership by Tom Hurley and Juanita Brown.


In addition to the collaborative idea sharing and conversations portions of the Summit, there were a few interactive elements included to enhance the experience. These included a “gives/asks” board where participants were able to share ideas, resources, and expertise they could provide for the assembled community and what ideas, resources, and expertise they desired to receive from the community. This list was compiled and sent to participants immediately following the Summit. At the beginning of the day, each participant was asked to fill out a Vision Card, which acted as a grounding or focusing exercise to direct conversations more purposefully. These cards have been scanned and are included in Appendix 2. Overall, the tone of these cards is hopeful and excited about the future.

Compost Summit Agenda May 12, 2023 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM Welcome Central Question: How might we build a culture of composting in greater Chicagoland? World Cafe Discussions Three rounds of small group discussions on: • What are the barriers to building a culture of composting in our region? • What current efforts exist that are building a culture of composting? • What opportunities for action are there to build a culture of composting? Full group share out Lunch Add to the “Asks & Gives” board to discover new connections. Gallery Walk Read through ideas from the morning’s World Cafe discussions. Action Breakouts Pick a topic to spend the afternoon discussing (Policy, Infrastructure, Education) Small group brainstorm on priority actions Full group share out Break Virtual Vote & Close Out Full group to vote on top actions through Mentimeter Close out the Summit Appy Hour 4:00-5:30 PM Mingle, eat, and visit the photo booth!

Following the Summit, general compost enthusiasts were invited to attend an ‘Appy’ Hour networking event to learn what was discussed, meet with the compost professionals, and have the chance to win compost- related prizes in a raffle. The Appy Hour was a collaboration with the Illinois Food Scrap & Composting Coalition (IFSCC) and was considered an informal closing to the programming put on by the IFSCC as part of International Compost Awareness Week, 2023.

Participants discussing identified barriers (pink), current efforts (blue) and opportunities (green). Photo: Sue Gasper, Illinois Extension


POST-SUMMIT ANALYSIS PROCEDURE Step 1: After photographing all the charts

generated by the table conversations, the team used the Post-it™ App to automatically transcribe the 1,061 Post-it™ notes generated throughout the day into an Excel spreadsheet. When the transcription was unintelligible the results were cross-checked with the original handwritten notes. For readability, light editing was applied to fix misspellings, correct capitalization and insert a missing word indicated by parenthesis. Step 2: All comments were read and grouped into categories. Step 3: A second and third round of categorization occurred while section summaries were drafted and the comments most representative of the categories were selected. This means that not all comments on the Post- it™ notes are represented in this report. For example, in Education “the ick factor” or variations of this idea such as smell, and rodents were mentioned multiple times as a barrier to compost education but not every comment on this idea is documented in the report. Step 4: A second person reviewed the entire

draft report, confirming categories, identifying new categories, and confirming if appropriate decisions had been made when a comment that was brought up during a current effort discussion might better be categorized as an opportunity. Step 5 : The full NTAE project team reviewed the report and revisions were made based on their feedback. Step 6: A draft report was sent to all 79 Summit attendees before the report was made public. Summit attendees were asked to complete a brief follow-up survey to glean more input on how they were going to work on the action items and who was missing from the Summit. The results are in the section, Concluding Remarks. Note: This analysis did not attempt to capture the number of times a subject was mentioned as it was not possible to determine if one person was making a similar comment about a specific subject many times throughout the day or if many people were making similar comments on a single subject. The analysis is instead focused on representing the many different voices in the room as accurately and succinctly as possible. There may be some discrepancies between what is reported in the graphics as they were based on the verbal table report outs of what each group discussed and tended to reflect the extended conversations held at the tables rather than what was recorded on the Post-it™ notes.


BARRIERS TO BUILDING A CULTURE OF COMPOSTING Barriers always exist when trying to implement culture change, and as humans, we are quick to spot those barriers. In our morning session we made sure to allow space for people to talk about barriers to implementing composting education, infrastructure, and policy.

EDUCATION barriers broke down into categories ranging from a very basic lack of understanding of what compost is to how to use compost to a lack of awareness of or access to programs . Surprisingly there were few comments about how to compost although there may be a “disconnect between [the] desire to compost and [an] understanding of [how composting] work[s ]." One participant summed all this up as a “lack of generational knowledge around composting. Long time city dwellers don't know how to compost and thus don't pass down to their kids.” A lack of understanding about why we should compost was also seen as a barrier because if people don’t understand "What's in it for me? Why should I bother?" they won’t be receptive to participating in composting programs nor in using compost. Other categories include lack of awareness about the value of compost, misperceptions, and fear by non- composters that composting is smelly and gross, mistrust that composting initiatives collecting food scraps are actually being composted, and confusion about what to compost. The fact that some specific target audiences such as kids, legislators, landscape companies, and under-served communities were not being reached was identified as a barrier to adoption. Funding and a lack of resources are persistent barriers to classroom education while in terms of practical experience “individual schools have no incentives to divert waste." A list of comments on Barriers to Education are displayed in Table 1 in Appendix 1. INFRASTRUCTURE barriers focused heavily on the economics of composting. Using compost was noted as costly for homeowners and gardeners as there are "hauling costs for home gardener." Additional costs are incurred when participating in composting by individuals and business owners as “ pickup programs [are] not affordable to all" and there is an “additional cost to business owners to add to compost to [their] waste contract and incorporate into operations." Compost processors also face cost issues as "compost facilities are expensive to run and are so full w/ product in IL" indicating a market imbalance between supply and demand and the likelihood that there is a "lack of end markets for finished compost (economic viability-closing the loop)" and a lack of understanding about the value of compost and composting. Supply quality issues impact demand for compost. For example, if the "quality of finished product (is) unknown or inconsistent", is contaminated, or even just perceived as contaminated, then consumers will be reluctant to purchase or use compost because they believe there is a " lack of high-quality compost from food scraps; [due to] too much contamination from post-consumer [waste].” Larger supply chain issues that need solutions include


increasing the capacity to haul the feedstock and the finished product and increasing processing capacity because the “volumes of food waste in our city is higher than our current capacity…." Some customers may not trust the finished product, others want it bagged or in small quantities, and others do not perceive the value of the product, thus decreasing demand. Lack of large markets for compost is a hurdle that must be overcome to handle potential over-supply issues as more residents’ access food waste separation services. Inexpensive landfill tipping fees limit waste haulers’ motivation to offer food scrap separation services, thus inhibiting the growth of hauling/pick up services so that access remains stagnant. On-going issues with contamination due to ‘compostable’ serve ware and confusion about what can be composted increases the costs to producers who then pass on the cost to consumers. Other infrastructure barriers include lack of access to pickup/hauling services, having sufficient space to compost at home or where to store a third waste bin for pick up services, and determining where to begin offering services for the most impactful results. Finally, the technology we use to manage, make, and use compost may be outdated and be the root cause of some of the infrastructure barriers such as policies and permitting costs that inhibit the development and placement of new compost facilities. These policies and eventual placements can lead to inequities and environmental justice concerns. Finally, it was generally recognized that the labor needed to produce compost, especially on a smaller scale, is more than most people are willing to do. One comment summed it up as "Composting must be as easy as consumption in order to include those w/ multiple challenges in their lives +limited resources."

A list of comments on Barriers to Infrastructure are displayed in Table 2, Appendix 1.

POLICY barriers were difficult to break down into categories. An effort was made to convene compost experts— those who had experience composting, advocating for better compost policy, researchers, nonprofits, etc. However, many barriers listed under policy reflect a collective frustration that policy in both the City of Chicago and the region is opaque and uneven. Policy that does exist is hard to understand and disseminate. Residents (and even experts) who don’t know or understand policies that currently exist interpret this as lack of government support. Many comments that were listed as policy barriers were about what kinds of policies should exist as people leapt ahead to thinking about opportunities. Lack of institutional support and awareness , funding to support policy, and inflexible contracts are barriers that could be overcome if awareness and knowledge of the benefits of composting were more widely understood by both the general public and elected officials as there is "not enough knowledge about policies and procedures about the importance and value of recycling in urban communities." Attendees also felt that there was a lack of enforcement of existing policies such as the 1990 ban on yard waste in Illinois landfills . Ultimately, attendees noted "(we) need to inform our elected officials on the basics of composting and its importance" and that "the responsibility of food waste diversion shouldn't be fully placed on individuals/households. It’s a policy issue!" It is not the purpose of this report to conclude whether government support for composting exists in the region. However, many Summit attendees wish to see stronger, clearer compost policies and have those policies be enforced. A list of comments on Barriers to Policy are displayed in Table 3, Appendix 1.


CURRENT EFFORTS TO BUILD A CULTURE OF COMPOSTING It was important to document all the good work being done by the Summit’s diverse participants and to give attendees the opportunity to learn from others about what’s happening across greater Chicagoland. The team also wanted to allow attendees the opportunity to build on each other’s efforts. Often someone from a different sector can easily identify a new pathway or audience or make critical connection even when they are hearing something for the very first time.

EDUCATION current efforts mentioned were surprisingly few given the large proportion of educators (approximately 30%) were in the room. This could be because many attendees were already familiar with how to compost, and the conversation was instead focused on how to expand ease of and access to composting services in the region. This by no means is a full and complete list of the efforts in Greater Chicagoland, but rather a small sample. Efforts from Illinois Food Scrap & Composting Coalition (IFSCC) and Illinois Extension are well- documented due to the number of representatives from both organizations at the Summit. Other non-profits mentioned as currently providing education include Academy for Global Citizenship, Illinois Stewardship Alliance (ISA), Zero Waste Schools Program, SCARCE, The Conservation Foundation (Will County), and Urban Growers Collective. Special educational events and initiatives included 1-day compost collection events (such as the collaborations with Illinois Extension and partners like Plant Chicago, the Village of Park Forest, and Garfield Park Conservatory), International Compost Awareness Week (led by IFSCC), If It Grows, It Goes (a marketing campaign to spur compost usage from IFSCC) and Soil Health Week (led by ISA). Government-led education efforts were mentioned as coming from SWALCO (Solid Waste Agency of Lake County) and the City of Chicago’s pilot food scrap composting at NeighborSpace community gardens. The US Composting Council Composter Handbook was mentioned as a good national resource for educators. And it was noted that general composting education was happening in schools and via small community programs. A list of comments on Current Efforts in Education are displayed in Table 4, Appendix 1. INFRASTRUCTURE current efforts, like education current efforts, were not thoroughly documented with many comments needing to be recategorized as barriers or opportunities. In general, infrastructure current efforts fell into two broad categories, collection, and processing . Collection efforts were either free public drop off programs (Plant Chicago and Urban Growers Collective) and collection events or private fee-based drop-off and


pick up programs (Block Bins, The Urban Canopy, Collective Resource) with participants noting that "the service areas of many of the smaller food scrap haulers appears to be expanding", thus indicating an increase in demand for these services. Although 70 communities in our region offer municipal compost pick up services, comments on this topic were general rather than specifying the name of the hauler or municipality offering these services. Comments do, however, reflect the patchwork of collection services being offered in the region. Processing infrastructure is limited with few large-scale commercial composting facilities located within the city limits (Green Era Anaerobic Digester, Denali 3 with other facilities located well beyond city limits in places like Romeoville, Grayslake, and DeKalb. New efforts to bolster infrastructure included the City of Chicago’s free food scrap composting pilot at six community gardens, seasonal food scrap ride along programs with yard waste haulers, and that SWALCO was purchasing bins for residents in Lake County to purchase at a reduced cost and use. It was also noted that UIC is researching a new way to process food scraps using black soldier flies. A list of comments on Current Efforts in Infrastructure are displayed in Table 5, Appendix 1. POLICY current efforts were also not well-documented by attendees. Many comments lacked a clear relationship to policy or could be reclassified as infrastructure needs or policy opportunities. This may demonstrate a weakness of the group and/or a gap that needs to be filled in building a culture of composting in greater Chicagoland. This may also reflect who was in the room as only 13% of attendees identified as government representatives or policy makers. As noted above, compost laws and policies in the City of Chicago are not always understood or well-enforced. In the greater Chicagoland area, laws on composting are an unevenly distributed patchwork. Attendees also struggled to differentiate between policy and infrastructure barrier (a “chicken-or-egg" question of what should come first, policy or infrastructure). Specific policies mentioned included the 1990 State of Illinois Yard Waste Ban , the Chicago Compost Ordinance, and efforts to allow landscape waste processors to accept food scraps . It was also noted that Illinois Food Scrap & Composting Coalition has a Policy Committee. Efforts that could help build support for policy changes include the fact that in 2023 "the State of Illinois adopted Illinois Compost Awareness Week" and the "[Materials and Management Advisory Committee] MMAC 2021 Report to ILGA recommends looking @ permitting to facilitate allowing landscape waste facilities to accept & process food/organics."

A list of comments on Current Efforts in Policy are displayed in Table 6, Appendix 1.

3 Now Whole Earth Compost


OPPORTUNITIES TO BUILD A CULTURE COMPOSTING By bringing together different sectors of the composting eco-system, we hoped “to bring out fresh ideas and new perspectives” to solve problems. Generally, educators talk to other educators and likely can easily identify the need for improved materials—but sometimes they may not pick up on specific needs to educate on issues in policy or infrastructure or what a small waste hauler, government official, or commercial composter might also need to learn. Similarly, policy makers may not be on the cutting edge of research or have a handle on community efforts to make change. Summit attendees were encouraged to identify themselves in breakout groups by name only, to encourage participation as an individual rather than as an expert representative of an industry so a diverse and rich set of opportunities could emerge and be discussed collaboratively.

EDUCATIONAL opportunities were focused on capturing the attention of youth via classroom education on specific topics such as climate change, composting, food waste, and gardening. It was also suggested to make food waste separation in educational institution’s the norm rather than the exception so that "…young people grow up with the practice." Some commentors mentioned the importance of educating school staff and obtaining buy in as a first step in youth education and there should be "funding to hire a dedicated sustainability position in schools!" The need for increased adult education was also recognized by attendees. Suggestions centered on creating a public marketing campaign, making sure materials were available in languages other than English , and focused on specific topics such as compost usage, benefits of compost, how to compost, who’s it for, soil health, and what services are currently available. The conversation around who’s it for prompted comments such as the need for "education state/city wide that dispels notion of composting is only for SOME people" Educational programs could be expanded to include field trips , demonstrations, and build-a-bin-workshops with increased community-based delivery in gardens, libraries, and schools with updated visual materials . Educational efforts could also be developed for the businesses side of composting such as case studies showing models that work and disseminating the idea that composting can create jobs in particular for youth and be an economic development opportunity for communities. A list of comments on Opportunities in Education are displayed in Table 7, Appendix 1.


INFRASTRUCTURE opportunities centered on increasing access to composting/food scrap hauling services. Increasing the number of free drop off locations located at farmers markets, gardens, churches, public parks, and schools was mentioned numerous times possibly indicating a belief that this might be the easiest or quickest approach to the adoption of composting if “ drop-off sites [were] in every neighborhood .” More gardens could also host on-site community composting if they had money available to pay stewards. Increasing municipal collection ( "Bins for All!") and community composting efforts and expanding options for home composting and for renters were all mentioned as options to increase access as was the development of a compost (service) directory. Regardless of how access to composting services was increased it should be affordable as “[you] shouldn't have to pay to do right thing.” Opportunities to utilize more appropriate technology abound including using AI for sorting to reduce contamination, developing rat-proof bins (for collection and home composting), using biodigesters, and perhaps creating a new type of facility to handle (plastic-based) ‘compostable’ (biodegradable) serve-ware. To support the development of infrastructure opportunities incentives such as "raising landfill tipping fees [or creating a] methane tax on private LF owners" and funding such as the "potential to pursue Federal funding to pilot creative programs" are critical. Increasing collaboration and coordination is also an opportunity to develop infrastructure with at least one participant wondering, “ Where is regional planning org? (e.g. CMAP)” and now is the time to increase collaboration because "passion exists among food producers in the region who need soil!!" Rather than looking to individual households for new sources of materials to make compost, restaurants, breweries, and landscapers and other large food waste generators could be better engaged and plugged in to composting perhaps driving or at least raising awareness of the issue for individual households. Attendees also mentioned as opportunities new places to process and acquire compost or new ways to handle food waste that included empty warehouses and factories, vacant lots, big box stores offering pickup of compost and drop off of scraps and sending food waste from large institutions to hog farms 4 . A list of comments on Opportunities in Infrastructure are displayed in Table 8, Appendix 1. POLICY opportunities included creating mandates for large generators (such as grocery stores, food processors, schools and universities) to compost and for public projects (roads, landscaping, buildings) to use finished compost. These two policy changes have the power to directly increase demand and may work to create a consistent end market for finished compost. There may exist a scalar mismatch in the region for compost— demand by individual consumers may be too small to justify the amount of effort it takes to create the compost so there needs to be "more emphasis on getting more finished compost to market." Other opportunities to increase demand for the finished product and access to services include passing Right to Compost legislation “so that building managers and landlords don't stand in the way" of their residents using compost pick up services; instituting bans and creating incentives and/or disincentives such as increasing landfill tipping fees ; and incentivizing compost usage by farmers and public works. Creating consistent, stable, and expanded end markets for finished compost and the support for processing infrastructure is extremely important when implementing policies that would increase the amount of feedstock available to create compost. Policy opportunities that did not require a large lift included creating new or expanding existing programs as "many municipalities already accept leaves & lawn clippings. Expanding to collecting food waste scraps is low- hanging fruit" and ensuring that funding is sufficient especially for creating technical assistance positions to support compost collection and processing. Also identified as an opportunity is to increase regional coordination

4 Please note that while this seems like a viable idea from a systems perspective there are serious food safety and disease issues with importing food scraps generated off site to feed farm animals. In fact, Illinois Public Act 48-7 prohibits feeding food scraps to farm animals unless they are sourced from the farm where the animal lives.


and planning especially between municipal governments and for clear, centralized policy leadership from the City of Chicago by bringing back the Department of Environment. A policy to reduce contamination of food waste sent to composting facilities includes "Improving labeling of ""compostable"" products – biodegradable...” so confusion about what can and cannot be sent to a composting facility decreases because products like ‘compostable’ serve ware are designated as certified.

A list of comments on Opportunities in Policy are displayed in Table 9, Appendix 1.


ACTION PRIORITIES In the afternoon the group divided into three interest areas- education, infrastructure, and policy- or places where, based on their current work, they believed they could have the greatest ability to direct change post- Summit. Groups discussed how to turn the opportunities identified in the morning into actions. Each table was assigned two facilitators to help guide and record the discussion. All three topics had more than one table simultaneously discussing feasible and critical actions that could be taken in each topic area. At the beginning of the session table participants recorded and posted their action ideas on sticky notes. After everyone recorded their own ideas, there was a brief discussion period so everyone could fully understand each idea. Next, each table voted on two-three topics to which they would dedicate the remainder of the afternoon discussing and exploring. A summary report-out session was held so attendees could learn what was discussed at all the other tables. During a brief break, the facilitation team from Daylight reviewed all the charts and comments, pulling the top action items into a Mentimeter poll (an interactive online polling system). The day concluded with all attendees voting on the top action items in each category.

Education actions included reaching wider and different audiences such as landscapers, farmers, and project managers on the benefits of using compost for large, public and private commercial projects. For individuals to better understand why compost can replace fertilizers we need to "be able to demonstrate to end users the value… of using commercial compost." The groups discussed actions to develop new delivery models (train the trainer and individual) and that a regional panel of experts could be established to review and develop new materials. Some discussion was had about who should provide the education with at least one group coalescing around the idea that Illinois Extension could train community-based organizations who in turn could train community members. There were also ideas on how compost education could be improved for both teachers and students by hiring school sustainability specialists, encouraging/incorporating composting practices in schools, connecting composting to other subjects such as biology and environmental sciences, making sure teachers were experienced home composters, and in general figuring out how to get composting added to school curriculum either by contacting


school administrators or the State Board of Education. An easy to implement action could be to “ develop International Compost Awareness Week (ICAW)…activities for schools.” In additional to continuing to provide and improve materials on the how and why of composting groups considered what types of new materials should be developed including testimonials from industry peers, case studies on the economics of composting, and more publicly available compost demonstration . Action could also be taken to create more resources for home composters for troubleshooting such as "create short + informative video highlighting common mistakes to avoid " and "411 type phone # or texting service for composting" (formally called the Rotline in Chicago when the city had a home composting program). Education actions were also identified to improve composting services by educating those writing and approving waste hauling contracts about what should be in the contract and increasing transparency so that everyone (municipalities, haulers, and households) can easily obtain the answer to the questions "where is the food waste going exactly?" and “what can composters accept?” A list of comments on Education Actions are displayed in Table 10, Appendix 1. INFRASTRUCTURE actions included ways to improve the composting ecosystem especially by increasing access to drop off and pick up programs , as well as ensuring that the programs are more equitable and accessible to all residents, regardless of their ability to pay. To support infrastructure, actions to be taken include increasing public awareness by creating and promoting compost maps and directories by using resources such as "Google Maps for showcasing businesses that compost," 5 holding more events like Pumpkin Smashes or compost giveback days and developing ad campaigns. It was noted that these types of efforts strengthen and support composting’s social infrastructure . To drive usage and demand for compost possible actions included encouraging increased usage on farms (either through incentives, subsidizes, or education) and in public works projects, and motivating residents and businesses to use and make compost and separate their organic waste. Policy was often viewed as a way to mobilize action for infrastructure whether it was creating "supportive equitable well written policy for farmers to be involved in compost as a business model" or to " make spray fertilizer less affordable.” Also suggested were policies to promote compost usage, the idea being that increased use will drive the expansion of compost production facilities. Comments such as “companies adding amended soil to large sites I-DOT Construction or other County municipalities, institutions universities corps" and " tax incentives for landscapers +topsoil producers to bring in compost " are examples of how policy could support infrastructure growth. Finally, streamlining the process of compost creation and improving compost products especially by working on “compost quality standard's testing .” Developing demonstration and research that compares compost products, blends, and mixes to support claims on the benefits of usage for highway construction, farms, and landscape use are also actions that could be taken to support the development of compost infrastructure.

A list of comments on Infrastructure Actions are displayed in Table 11, Appendix 1.

5 Note: IFSCC already has a resource like this


POLICY actions were discussed at 3 separate tables and included a mix of policies to be created such as requiring the use of compost in public projects and to "link using finished compost to stormwater management & erosion control." Requiring usage by private developers and in community gardens were also discussed as potential policy actions. Other new policies included allowing landscape waste processors to accept food scraps specifically by making “ …permitting less restrictive for composting facilities…. " And requiring large generators of food waste to compost while recognizing it "must be cost effective to business." Other ideas included policies that could be better enforced like the ban on yard waste in landfills with some even advocating for bringing in the Illinois EPA to make sure the ban was enforced and expanding the ban on organics in landfills to include food scraps. In addition, there was strong support for creating a residential food scrap pick up program in the City of Chicago (other cities in the region already have a curbside collection program). This specific table was focused on this topic because around the table were a small Chicago-based food scrap hauler, a representative from the City of Chicago’s Department of Streets and Sanitation, a Chicago alderman, and three Chicago residents who work in composting education and advocacy. Ideas for how to at least partially fund such a program included applying for EPA funding or a USDA OUAIP grant and advocating for raising landfill tipping fees to direct new funds to the pickup pilot. (see Action Topic 8 for more documentation of this conversation). Another policy table started with the guiding question: "What would it take to make composting cheaper and easier than landfill?" Their solution was to create a comprehensive waste strategy that worked across the three pillars of the day, education, policy, and infrastructure. The team also was cognizant of ensuring that the “identifying topics that would be likely to resonate with the new administration.” They therefore began with the basis of strong policies including organics/food waste bans to landfill and procurement policies requiring businesses to use finished compost. They then created a stair step chart that included education on composting, case studies by businesses composting to create a greater demand and roadmap for other businesses to see the value proposition, and j obs created by this new burgeoning compost industry in our area (see Action Topic 9). Some policy actions included recommendations for advocacy both from individuals- “Raise your voices if this is what you want!”- and from organizations such as IL Environmental Council, IFSCC, IL Recycling Foundation, and the Chicago Food Equity Council. A list of comments on Policy Actions are displayed in Table 12, Appendix 1.


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