Composting in "the Burbs"

Composting"Composting Happens"

Home composting is a great way to reduce the waste that goes into landfills. According to The EPA, yard trimmings and food residuals together constitute 23 percent of the U.S. waste stream. Municipal efforts have increased in large scale composting of grass and yard waste, but recovery of food scraps is far behind due to logistical difficulty of food separation and collection. Home composting efforts can enrich soil, reduce water usage and reduce the need for chemicals in yards to suppress diseases and pests. The key is having the right kind of composting unit for your lifestyle and strict attention to what goes in it to avoid pests and smells.

First, check with your municipality to make sure to be in accordance to their rules about composting. In the Northwest Suburbs, most municipalities do allow for outdoor composting.


For any composting area, there are three things you need to make compost; brown matter such as dead leaves, twigs, small branches cut into small pieces, green matter, such as kitchen scraps, peelings, grass clippings, and water. Brown and green matter should be alternated in several layers within your composting area, and wet down and kept moist (but not dripping wet) with occasional watering.

There are several ways to set up a home composting area around your yard. There are many companies that sell compost bins that are read-made, or you can build one on your own with wood or chicken wire. Large bins or piles are good if you have a lot of waste, and you don't mind occasionally stirring or turning the pile with a shovel to get to the compost on the bottom. Composting in this manner creates compost in a few months to a year depending on how well you layer, tend and turn it.

Some commercial units are shaped like barrels that you can turn with a crank or a motor, and they can be good for people with small to medium amounts of compostable waste, or people who want to convert kitchen and yard waste to compost within a few weeks instead of months as it would be with a conventional pile.

Not everything can be put into compost. Putting the wrong components in a pile can create health hazards or smells or attract pests. Here is a list compostable and non-compostable items from the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County.

A well-tended compost area will remain smell and pest-free and be highly beneficial to your plants and yard. For more information on home composting, check out :
The Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County
The Environmental Protection Agency
University of Illinois Agricultural Extension

– by Debbie Ruzicka

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Things To Compost:

Grass Clippings


Fruit & Vegetable Waste




Pine Needles


Alfalfa Hay

Coffee Grounds

Brush and shrub trimmings



Wood Ash


Things NOT To Compost:


Fat and Grease

Diseased Plants


Dog and Cat Manure

Inorganic Matter (eg. plastic or metal)



Salad Dressing


Find more info:

UofI Agricultural Extension


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