The Wonder of Compost

Alex Narrajos

On July 29th, 2015, the City of Chicago announced the expansion of the city’s composting ordinance. This expansion came as a result of the increased investment into community gardens and urban farms-a strategy to expand on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s 2011 ordinance to further support urban agriculture. The refined Urban Farm ordinance relaxed laws and permitting for farms, including fencing and parking, and relaxed the limits on the size of these spaces. The ordinance aided gardens and farms with start-up costs as well as making it easier to implement more innovations, including hydro and aquaponics (City of Chicago).

This came in response to the historically difficult process of composting on urban garden sights, both landscape refuge and kitchen waste. “Under former regulations, urban farms and community gardens could only compost materials generated on-site. It was illegal for them to accept food scrap donations, and they needed permits for containers larger than 5 cubic yards, about the size of a garden shed” (Cancino). These restrictions were too constricting, making it impossible to cater to residents who wanted to reduce their waste and for farms who wanted to be more self-sustaining in their practices. In addition to the size expansion, the cost of composting was reduced. Permits that were originally $3000 have been reduced to $300 for locations that produce less than 4,000 tons of compost a year. This ordinance is helpful for many different users in Chicago, including homeowners, urban farms and gardens, and restaurants. It allows urban farms to profit off of something new-a compost pickup and delivery service, which satisfies the needs of homeowners and restaurants who are able to dispose of their food waste responsibly.

In my opinion, this is the ultimate form of urban sustainability. We all obviously need to eat and with a growing urban population, accommodating urban farms is in the city’s best interest. Participating in composting will also increase the health of the soil as well as lessen the waste load on the city. “Organic wastes, such as food waste and yard waste, make up 25 to 50% of what people throw away. While you may not be able to compost all of the organic waste you generate, composting can significantly cut down on your overall trash.

When we throw away yard and food waste, it decomposes in a landfill and releases methane gas, a potent greenhouse gas. While most landfills have technology to capture much of this methane, eliminating the gas at its source is even better” (

Cancino, Alejandra. “City Council Approves Compost Ordinance.” N.p., 29 June 2015. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.


2 thoughts on “The Wonder of Compost

  1. This is a lot of great information about composting in Chicago! I’m glad that the city recognized the need for size expansion/reevaluation of current regulations for urban commercial composting. I hope to see composting programs/practices become commonplace throughout the city. I know you mentioned this, but I just wanted to reiterate that the composting permits are only for commercial farms and composting, and do not pertain to residential composting. I’ve been looking into different ways for residents to compost in the city instead of using a service ( But for those that can’t, here are some links and additional information:
    FAQs for growing food for sale in the city/starting a community garden:


  2. Composting should definitely be more of a regularity and have a stricter ordinance, especially in urban areas with rapid growing populations as you mentioned. Composting nurtures the earth’s soil, which in turn is healthy for our own food and living. Creating community composting sites really shouldn’t be so hard! I’ve found a composting service where you can pay them to pick up your compost:
    or just a regular composting drop-off site:
    It’d also be super helpful if the city could pick up people’s compost weekly and maybe have our taxes pay for it, just like our regular trash and recycling.


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