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Compost Compliance Toolkit

Composting is a great way to improve garden production, enrich potting soil, and reducing waste.

Compost is the dark, crumbly, earthy smelling material produced by the decomposition of organic materials such as food scraps and yard trimmings. When added to soil, compost sequesters carbon, improves plant growth, conserves water, reduces reliance on chemical pesticides and fertilizers, and helps prevent nutrient runoff and soil erosion.


At-home or backyard composting has additional benefits. It saves local government money by avoiding the need to collect and process material. In Chicago specifically, there are three ways to compost organic waste without a permit. More specifically, the expectations of composting under Chicago's ordinance 7-28-715 are expanded upon below with the goal to make getting approval easy to acquire (e.g., from a board or senior leadership, etc).


However regardless of the type of compost garden, there is a basic checklist for composting standards for permit-exempt work sites (Represented in Chicago Ordinance 7-28-715 (2)(a)-(f) that must be followed.

Basic Worksite Conditions Checklist

Compost site checklist:

  • No odor, litter, dust or noise nuisance.

  • No rodents, pests, etc.

  • No standing water.

  • No sewage.

Compost materials checklist:

  • Mixed or turned at regular intervals.

  • Behind screens/ netting OR placed in a sealed bin or vessel OR ground up into pieces



Tier 1 Compost Garden

These types of gardens if correctly set-up and maintained may be exempt

from needing a permit filed through the city if they:

  • Composts only landscape waste.

  • Is NOT engaged in commercial activities related to composting.

  • Has no more than 10 cubic yards of landscape waste, composting material and end product compost at any time.

    • Express written authorization can be issued by the commissioner of streets and sanitation allowing up to 25 cubic yards.

  • Uses all generated compost on-site.

  • Annually registers with the city to include garden and contact information.

    • Any operator shall annually register with the city's on-line or other registration portal, or a third party registration portal approved by the commissioners by rule.

      • Registration must include the name and contact information of the operator, the name and contact information of the owner, the name and contact information of the individual principally in charge of the site operations (if different from the operator), and any other information that may be required by the commissioners by rule.

      • The operator must keep such information current as provided by the commissioners by rule.



Tier 2 Compost Garden

These gardens, similar to that of tier 1, may also be exempt from

needing a permit filed through the city if they:

  • Compost only landscape waste and limited organic waste.

    • 'Limited organic waste' means organic waste, other than landscape waste, which does not include: fish; fish products: poultry; poultry products: meat; meat products: eggs (excluding egg shells): cheese, butter or other dairy products; fat; grease: oil or oily food; cat, dog, or other animal excreta; animal feed losses or animal bedding; colored or glossy paper; sawdust from pressure-treated plywood or lumber; diseased or insect-infested houseplants or soil; or biodegradable or compostable plastic

  • Buries or secures all food scraps by the end of the day.

  • Keeps a ratio of 1:10 of food scraps to yard waste.

  • Uses all generated compost on-site.

  • Is NOT engaged in commercial activities related to composting.

  • Has no more than 10 cubic yards of landscape waste, limited to organic waste, composting material and end product compost on-site at any one time.

    • Express written authorization can be issued by the commissioner of streets and sanitation allowing up to 25 cubic yards.

  • Maintains on site, and make available, all records of all limited organic waste received from off-site.

  • Annually registers with the city to introduce garden and contact information.

    • Registration. Any operator shall annually register with the city's on-line or other registration portal, or a third party registration portal approved by the commissioners by rule.

      • Such registration must include the name and contact information of the operator, the name and contact information of the owner, the name and contact information of the individual principally in charge of the site operations (if different from the operator), and any other information that may be required by the commissioners by rule. The operator must keep such information current as provided by the commissioners by rule.


Food Scrap In-vessel

A food scrap compost operation does not need a permit if it:

  • Composts organic waster that is generated on-site.

  • Completes composting in-vessel>

    • 'In-vessel' means composting which is conducted entirely within a fully enclosed container, with no opening having a dimension greater than 1/4 inch in any direction.

  • Has no more than 5 cubic yards of landscape waste, composting material and end product compost at any time.

    • Expresses written authorization can be issued by the commissioner of streets and sanitation allowing a greater volume.

  • Uses all generated compost on-site.


Altogether, composting is a great tool for making more productive soil, limiting the amount of waste discarded, and being more sustainable.


Lastly, we want to thank Johnathan Jackson for creating the compost compliance toolkit that was used in this post. For a full text of the ordinance, download the PDF here. For the PDF toolkit that was created, click below.

Garden Compost Compliance Tool
.pdf
Download PDF • 203KB

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