In 2015, the city of Chicago passed amendments to Chicago’s compost ordinance that now allows community gardens and urban farms to accept and compost food scraps and other organic waste generated off-site.

Photo by Phil Velasquez, Chicago TribuneWhat does this mean for community gardeners?

Under the new rules, community gardens will be able to accept (if they wish) raw, unprocessed food scraps and eggshells, in addition to landscape waste, from off-site noncommercial entities. Previously, they could only compost on-site materials. If the garden wishes to accept off-site food scraps and eggshells, they will have to register (for free) annually with the city. Gardens who accept off-site waste are considered Tier 2 garden composting operations.

There are a few specific requirements for Tier 2 garden composting operations, including:

  • Storing waste in containers at the end of the day if it is not immediately incorporated into the composting system.
  • Registration of the garden by April 1 each year through the Chicago Urban Agriculture Mapping Project (CUAMP)
  • Record-keeping of the inputs into the compost pile as well as turning and other upkeep.
  • Following best practices to minimize odor and pests.
  • Composting operation can be no larger than 10 cubic yards (or 25 cubic yards with permission of Streets and Sanitation).

What does this mean for urban farmers?

Urban farmers will also be able to register for free and follow the same requirements as above, but can additionally apply for a permit that allows them to conduct larger, more robust operations.

Urban farm accessory composting operation permits have the following requirements:

  • Must get a permit from the city ($300/3 years).
  • Can take any type of organic waste as the permit allows.
  • Operation can be no larger than 2% of the property.
  • No tipping fee is allowed. (A hauler can be paid to pick up material, but a farm cannot be paid to accept material.)
  • Can sell finished compost, but must comply with all applicable performance standards and testing
  • procedures for end-product compost produced by compost facilities.
  • There is a 150 foot setback from residential properties required and also a record-keeping requirement

Want to learn more and get composting? Please click below for: