Composting in Chicago: Cheap & Easy Ways to Compost at Home

A green bin for food and yard waste

The tons of food waste around the world is wreaking havoc on the atmosphere, as it contributes 6% to global greenhouse gas emissions. Thankfully, food waste is a problem that we can have an effect on at home. By making smarter decisions about how we produce and then deal with our waste, we can positively affect the environment.

One of those smarter decisions we can make is composting. Chicago doesn't have a municipal composting service, so it's on you to take care of your food scraps sustainably. Starting to compost for the first time can be a daunting task, so we're here to help you. We're going to let you know where you can take your compost in Chicago, and how you can start composting at home.

As composting isn't required for the residents of Chicago, let's start by answering why you should even be composting in the first place.

Why should you compost?

A woman holding some compost in her hands

Composting is beneficial for the environment and for the garden. It diverts food waste from landfills, where it would have released methane into the atmosphere. Instead, by composting your food scraps, it turns into nutrients perfect for feeding plants. On top of that, it's just so easy to get started.

Although the city of Chicago doesn't provide a compost service, it is absolutely worth it for you to start composting your own food scraps. If you're worried about cost, there are both cheap and free ways to compost. If you're worried about effort, many composting methods require barely any effort or time. There are also plenty of services available in Chicago that allow you to just drop off your compostable waste for them to do all the work.

So, you should compost because it's one of the best actions you can take to combat climate change and because it's easy, cheap, and won't require much effort at all.



Where to compost in Chicago

While Chicago doesn't offer any municipal solutions, there are commercial composting facilities and community drop-offs available to you. Here are some popular composting services you can use in the city. Just keep in mind this list is not exhaustive, so if there aren't any options here that are perfect for you, definitely look into other available services.

1. WasteNot Compost

A WasteNot compost bin against a brick wall with other compost bins
Image Credit: WasteNot Compost

One great option for a convenient compost pickup service is through WasteNot Compost. It is a paid service, but they're truly dedicated to reducing landfill emissions and refuse to emit greenhouse gases to get the job done. To ensure a completely clean service, all their pickup vehicles are electric.

The service is also made simple for you. They drop off a green bin for you to fill up, and then provide a new bin replacement when they collect your organic waste. It's also possible to receive finished compost with their service, which is perfect for any gardener.

Cost: $12 bi-weekly service ($24 per month) or $10 weekly service ($40 per month)

2. Block Bins

Block Bins green compost bins against a brick wall
Image Credit: Block Bins

Another easy option is with Block Bins. While they don't only have electric vehicles, they do purchase carbon offsets to completely cover their transport emissions. Block Bins is another carbon-neutral compost pickup service.

Block Bins also works a bit differently. Instead of a personal green bin, you subscribe to drop your compostable waste at a Block Bins green bin near you. So, you'll be sharing that bin with others who live nearby. It is possible to have a private bin if that matters to you, but it would come with a higher monthly cost.

Cost: $10 - $40 per month depending on household size



3. Collective Resource Compost

People standing around a small compost bin from Collective Resource
Image Credit: Collective Resource

Collective Resource offers a couple of compost solutions. The first one is the standard personal compost bin that they'll pick up weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly depending on how much organic matter your household creates.

The other option offered by Collective Resource is a neighborhood tote program. Essentially, they give a host one large bin that can hold the waste from up to 24 people in a week, and the host finds up to 24 people to share it with. This program ends up being much cheaper per person than the personal bin, and is a great opportunity to meet and interact with your neighborhood!

Cost: $20.50 - $42 per month depending on pickup frequency

4. The Urban Canopy

A small Urban Canopy compost bin against a wooden wall
Image Credit: The Urban Canopy

The Urban Canopy is another convenient service that will pick up your food scraps and other compostable waste from a personal 5-gallon bucket that they provide. When they pick up your waste, they actually bring some of it back to compost at their own farm before taking the rest to a commercial composting facility. What's neat about The Urban Canopy is what's essentially their rewards program. After every ten pickups, you'll get a choice between receiving your own finished compost or a voucher to select local businesses.

Urban Canopy also runs a Compost Club for residents that don't want someone to pick up their scraps. Instead, you have the option to drop off your scraps at drop-off locations throughout various farmers markets in the city. Dropping off through the Compost Club is less expensive than the pick up service.

Cost: $25 - $35 per month depending on pickup frequency

5. Resource Center

A curbside green bin waiting for collection

The Resource Center offers both a composting and a recycling program, making it the ideal choice for anyone looking for both of these services. Their compost pickup service works much like Black Bins. Instead of a personal compost bin, you get access to a compost bin nearby that you share with others in the region. With Resource Center, you pay an annual fee to get access to a combination lock code on their bins.

Cost: Contact them for a quote.


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How to compost in Chicago: 5 ways to compost at home

Getting your organic waste picked up or dropping it off somewhere else isn't your only option. It's not even the best option if you want full control over what you're composting, or if you want to be able to use the compost you make when it's finished. Home composting is also a great option, even if you don't think you have enough space for it. Here are five simple ways to make your own compost:

1. Electric composting with Lomi

Front view of Lomi filled with organic waste and bioplastics

One big reason people living in the city are worried composting won't work for them is because of the lack of space. More often than not, they don't have much yard space, if any at all. However, we're here to tell you that you can absolutely compost on your own even if you live in a tiny apartment with no outdoor space whatsoever.

The easiest way to compost when you don't have any space is electric composting. Lomi, an electric composter by Pela, is small enough to fit in any kitchen. Along with being the perfect size, Lomi is super easy to use. All you need to do is toss your kitchen scraps in the bucket and press a button. All that's left to do is wait for it to finish.

Waiting for that finished result won't take long, either. At most, Lomi will take 20 hours to compost your kitchen scraps. In that time, you'll receive some beautiful natural fertilizer for your plants.

Best for: Anyone living in a small space that still wants to compost at home. Lomi is also perfect for people who could use nutrient-rich dirt on a regular basis.

Pro tip: Lomi has 3 different modes! Set it to Eco-Express to be as energy efficient as possible.

2. Vermicomposting: let worms do the work for you

Someone holding a sample of compost from their worm composting bin

Electric composting isn't your only choice for indoor composting. Another popular method is vermicomposting, also known as worm composting. It's pretty much exactly what it sounds like: you add worms to your compost and they do all the hard work.

Although it may seem unpleasant to have a bucket full of worms in your home, it's a popular choice because vermicomposting is effective. The finished compost they produce is top-quality, and it's faster than most other methods. When you use worms, you can expect finished compost within about a month.

Best for: People who want to compost indoors and aren't squeamish around worms. You'll need to separate worms from the finished compost at the end, so make sure you're okay with handling them.

Pro tip: The amount of worms you'll need to buy is dependant on the amount of organic waste you need to compost every week. If you have a larger household, make sure to buy enough worms!

3. Keep it small with a kitchen compost bin

A woman standing in front of her countertop compost bin

If you really don't want worms in the house, that's alright. You can absolutely compost inside without them. Just know that it will take longer to complete. When composting without worms, you can expect to wait a few months before your compost is finished.

However, composting inside with a small kitchen compost bin is quite easy. All you need to do is add your compostables to your bin while being careful about the amount of green versus brown matter you're adding to your pile. After that, you just need to turn the contents every once in a while until it's finished.

Best for: People who want to start composting indoors without worms. This is also the cheapest method of indoor composting, so it's also ideal for anyone with a tighter budget.

Pro tip: If you haven't been composting indoors because you're worried about the smells from a compost bin, there are ways you can prevent that! Check out our guide on composting without smells to put your worries to ease.



4. Make space for a compost tumbler

A woman adding food scraps to her compost tumbler

If you do have some space to spare at your home, either inside or outside, you might find it's worth it to invest in a compost tumbler. It works pretty much the same as a regular kitchen compost bin except it's bigger and takes the work out of it.

A compost tumbler is essentially just a compost bin with legs and a handle on the side. While it may not sound like much, this design comes with a couple of perks! The first is that it makes the compost so much easier to turn. Mixing a full compost bin can take some strength and energy. With a compost tumbler, the handle on the side takes all that effort away for some quick and easy compost turning.

The other benefit of the compost tumbler is that it's completely enclosed, meaning you don't have to worry about any smells escaping or pests getting into your compost.

Best for: Anyone with enough space at home for a compost tumbler and who wants to cut down on the effort required to compost on their own.

Pro tip: There are some compost tumblers that contain 2 separated bins. If you get one of those, you can fill one bucket with scraps while the other bucket has started composting.

5. If you have a backyard, try a traditional compost pile

A woman shoveling finished compost out of her backyard compost pile

If you're in Chicago and you do have a backyard you can use, you should definitely give a backyard compost pile a try! There are plenty of outdoor composting methods that vary in the amount of space and effort required to do them. For example, if you have the space for a compost pile but don't want to put in an ounce of effort, you can give cold composting a go. Basically, you just throw all your organic matter in one pile and wait for it to do its magic. The only downside is that this can take a long time to finish.

However, there are outdoor composting methods that don't even require that much space. For example, you could also try trench composting. This involves digging up some trenches in your yard, filling them with your kitchen scraps, and then covering them back up again. It won't even look like you're composting if you don't want it to.

Best for: People who want to compost at home and have outdoor space. It's also ideal for larger houses as you can generally have larger compost bins outside than inside.

Pro tip: Check out a wide variety of outdoor composting methods so that you can pick the one that best suits your space and lifestyle.

What’s the best way to compost in Chicago?

Lomi with organic waste, dirt, and a plant

The absolute best way to compost in Chicago is with Lomi. Electric composting is fast, effortless, and requires very little space. On top of that, Lomi is able to compost Lomi approved bioplastics, something you're not able to do at home any other way. For composting in the city, Lomi is the number one choice.

Even without city-mandated composting, it's essential for everybody to start separating their organic waste from their other trash. There are plenty of services in Chicago to pick up your waste, and you can easily start composting at home. For the quickest and easiest composting method, check out Lomi! You can also find other guides on how to start composting at home and how you can compost with little space on our blog.

Written by: Sereana Simpson