Forest Park residents concerned about the environment will soon have another recycling option.
Thanks in part to the efforts of several residents, village officials have instituted a separate pickup for compostable material with the village's trash hauler, Republic Services. Yard waste will be collected as usual for residents, as it is illegal for yard waste to be sent to landfills in Illinois.
The possibility of such a program was first raised in summer of 2018 when residents Sharon Bloyd-Peshkin and Etta Worthington met with Tim Gillian, village administrator, and John Doss, public works director.
Bloyd-Peshkin, who recently moved to Forest Park from Oak Park, said she wondered why Forest Park did not have a compostable material pickup program, similar to the one she used when she lived in Oak Park.
Gillian explained that the village's five-year contract with Republic was expiring and village officials were working on setting up a request for proposals around the time he and Doss met with Bloyd-Peshkin and Worthington.
"We had been working on it for a while but Republic did not offer the service," Gillian said. "Certainly the outreach from Sharon helped me understand the need and the desire of our residents.
"In the end we elected to extend the current contract for one year and take advantage of good pricing. I made the composting program part of those discussions and a pre-requisite."
Gillian and Bloyd-Peshkin gave credit for starting the program to each other.
"To his credit, he took our request seriously and got this to happen," Bloyd-Peshkin said of Gillian.
Gillian returned the compliment.
"Certainly without the input from Sharon and Etta I would not have known the number of residents that would be interested in this program," he said. "They also sent helpful reminders of their willingness to help."
Bloyd-Peshkin and Worthington are both involved with Go Green Forest Park, although Bloyd-Peshkin said she does not hold a leadership position with the group and is involved in other organizations in the village.
She said used social media to reach out to fellow residents and gauge interest, using a simple online form she admits was "very unscientific." In addition to sparking what Bloyd-Peshkin termed "lively conversations" on social media, she said her inquiry led to 76 people expressing interest in participating in such a program, information she shared with Gillian.
Noting the responses came in a week's period, she said, "That says there's a lot of interest."
Bloyd-Peshkin said the program benefits residents without placing a financial burden on the village, calling it "revenue-neutral."
Although many residents are able to compost materials in their backyards, she said many others, such as those living in apartments, are not. She also noted that neighbors have the option of sharing a container, which would reduce the cost.
Compostable materials, such as yard waste and food scraps, can break down into carbon dioxide, water, inorganic compounds and biomass in small pieces in about 90 days. Compost works because millions of tiny microbes consume the waste and transform the material into compost, which can be used as an organic fertilizer.
The program, which was announced in January after several months of negotiations between the village and Republic, will run from April 1 through Nov. 30.
The cost for the program, which Bloyd-Peshkin is similar to ones in Oak Park and River Forest, will be $13 per month or $104 total, payable in advance. Gillian said he would insure that those joining the program after April 1 would receive pro-rated pricing.
Each household participating in the program will receive a 65-gallon container in which compostable material should be placed and which will be picked up weekly on the same schedule as their yard waste is picked up. Gillian said because recycling compostable materials is a new program for Republic, the firm is running it in conjunction with the yard waste recycling program, which explains the eight-month schedule.
According to Gillian, yard waste and food scraps are only picked up during spring, summer and fall because they do not decompose in the cold weather. He added he is checking to be sure of what other municipalities do, "but so far I am being told it is not uncommon for towns to offer this service only for specific months and not year round."
Once the materials have been picked up, residents will not be able to access the compost. Gillian explained that most trash haulers dispose of food waste and yard waste at a private facility that is permitted by the state.
"As they are private facilities and not necessarily affiliated with the hauler, they do not allow residents to pick up the material," he said.
In addition to helping the environment by keeping organic waste out of landfills, village officials noted that residents who participate in the program realize savings from no longer having to purchase yard waste bags for their lawn clippings or leaves.
"The real rationale for doing this is to divert compostable materials from landfills," Bloyd-Peshkin said. "There are a lot of people who want to do something for our environment."
Yard waste permitted in the program includes grass clippings, garden vegetation, and leaves. Food items permitted include fruit and vegetables, boneless meat, bread and crackers, pasta, dairy products such as cheese and yogurt, coffee grounds and eggshells. All organic waste must be clean and free of debris.
Prohibited items include beverages and other liquids, bones, plastic packaging, bags, Styrofoam, rubber bands, labels and serving ware such as plates, cups and flatware. Also prohibited are paper products, including soiled paper and wrap from food packaging, pet waste and diapers.
During the winter months, residents will be asked to keep the organics cart until the yard-waste season starts again the following April. Those who request that the container be picked up or cleaned out will incur a cart changeout fee for each pick-up and delivery.
Residents who are interested in the service are asked to call Republic Services at 708-345-7050.