Image of a young boy putting recyclable materials into a Blue Cart for recycling

Home composting

Every year, Chicago residents throw out tons of leaves, lawn clippings and other organic material. This “waste” makes up more than half of the city’s residential trash in the spring and summer growing seasons, and again in the fall when leaves are dropping.  Organic waste, however, is a valuable resource that can be composted instead of thrown out in the trash.

Composting is nature’s way of recycling. It is a satisfying way to turn fruit, vegetable and yard waste into a dark, crumbly, sweet-smelling soil conditioner through the natural decaying process. And it is the key to healthy soil and a healthy environment.

Composting saves you money by replacing store bought fertilizers and soil conditioners, helps garden and house plants grow, saves water by helping the soil hold moisture and reducing water runoff, and benefits the environment by reducing air and water pollution from garbage trucks and runoff and extending the life of our landfills.

There are two options for Chicagoans to compost their organic waste:

  1. If you have a blue cart:
    Place your yard waste (leaves, branches, twigs and grass clippings only—no food scrap allowed, please) in a bag and leave it next to your cart for weekly pick-up between April 1 and November 30 each year. Paper bags are preferred but plastic is also accepted. This yard waste is composted in a commercial composting facility in northwestern Indiana. 
  2. If you do not have a blue cart or wish to compost food scraps, which are not accepted in the blue cart yard waste collection program:
    Try back yard composting. The City is hosting Sustainable Backyard Workshops where you learn about back yard composting and then receive a rebate towards purchasing a compost bin. Or build your own compost bin. Learn how at the Chicago Home Composting Program website.

There are restrictions to the size of residential compost systems. For more information, please read the City’s composting ordinance.