Lake County Jail Sees Success With Compost Program

Bernie Tafoya
April 12, 2019 - 1:48 pm

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CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- A program to keep organic food scraps out of landfills is said to be working well at the Lake County Jail in the northern suburbs.

With nearly 2,000 meals a day served at the Lake County Jail, according to Walter Willis, executive director of the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County, there’s a lot of table scraps and uneaten food that, until several months ago, would just get thrown in the garbage and end up in a landfill.

Now, he said, nearly half of all those scraps are composted.

"Most of the work is done by the inmates," Willis said.

The SWALCO executive said, "it’s a good several thousand pounds a month of material that’s collected by Advanced Disposal in a separate container."

He said it’s a 50 percent diversion rate with the scraps going to Midwest Organics Recycling.

Willis said that, besides requiring less landfill space for the jail's garbage, it also is saving the county money.

"We’re trying to start the little snowball and make it bigger." 

Willis said others have followed suit with their own food scrap diversion programs.

"Abbott started a program. The College of Lake County has a food scrap diversion program. We’ve got about 10 businesses we’re working with in Grayslake and Highland Park," he said.

Willis said keeping garbage out of landfills that doesn't need to be there is "really the heart of what we're trying to do".

Willis said there’s another environmental success story at the Lake County Jail, as well. He said “they’re starting a textile recycling program for the old uniforms and shoes that the inmates wear.”