Lake Bluff and Highwood mayors appeared last week at the Lake Bluff Composting Facility to tout their first-in-the-state year-round food scrap collection programs, as Lake County waste management officials hope to achieve a 60 percent recycling rate by the end of the decade.

The Solid Waste Agency of Lake County (SWALCO) said the current food scrap recycling rate was close to 48 percent, while 15 of its 43 municipal members currently have programs to divert food scraps from ending up in the landfill.

“With Lake Bluff and Highwood, we have the first towns in the state that have included year-round food scrap collection programs in their municipal hauling contracts,” said SWALCO Executive Director Walter Willis.

SWALCO Chairman and Wadsworth Mayor Glenn Ryback said he expects food scrap diversion programs to continue growing. “This reminds me of when we first started implementing village wide curbside recycling programs 30 years ago, food scraps collection is just beginning to take off like curbside recycling did.”

“We recognize it will take several years for residents and businesses to begin to change the way they manage their food scraps by shifting them from the garbage container to the composting one,” Ryback said.

“The nice thing is that Lake County is fortunate to have a robust composting infrastructure in the county which includes 9 composting facilities that managed over 115,000 tons last year or 11% of the waste stream,” Willis added.

As with any new recycling program education will be key to its success. The residents and businesses need to make sure they are diverting food scraps that are acceptable to the composting sites.

“We have been working closely with member towns, the haulers and compost sites accepting the material to provide a consistent message on proper food scrap diversion, from how to collect food scraps in your kitchen to putting them out for collection,” Willis said.

“By following the guidelines, residents will be helping reduce costs at the composting sites and increasing the value of the final product.”

The mayors of Lake Bluff and Highwood appeared with Willis at a press conference last week to mark International Compost Awareness week and inform county residents about the benefits of composting and how people can help divert food scraps from the landfill.

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