Composting Program

Evanston Backyard Compost Program 

The City of Evanston Public Works Department is conducting a backyard compost program which aids residents in turning yard waste, leaves, and other organic compounds into a natural fertilizer. 

Evanston's Public Works department is providing Evanston residents with repurposed 95-gallon garbage containers to be used as compost bins. Composting allows your household to reduce the amount of food that would normally go into a landfill and reduce the need for purchasing yard waste bags and stickers. Composting food and yard waste will result in the creation of a natural material that can be used for mulch and soil amendment.

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The city is creating these compost bins from reclaimed 95-gallon garbage carts and will provide them to residents at no charge while supplies last!

Each resident will receive a compost bin and an instructional Compost Guide which will be delivered to their residence by Public Works crews. Using compost bins reduces the costs associated with yard waste disposal and helps preserve landfill space by limiting food waste being thrown away.

To obtain one of these compost bins while supplies last, residents should either e-mail their request with name, phone number and address to publicworks@cityofevanston.org or call 3-1-1 to place their order. One compost bin per household. Bins will be delivered while supplies last, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

 

How To Get Started

Composting is cheap, easy to learn and can dramatically improve your soil. While there is a bit of an art to composting that comes with practice, a few simple guidelines can get you on your way to becoming an expert. First, decide where and how you want to compost by selecting a sturdy bin and convenient location. Then, tend your compost pile to ensure a productive mixture of materials. 

Types of Bins

Staionary bins require layering wastes into a pile as they are generated. Non-woody materials such as grass clippings, food and crop wastes, garden weeds, and leaves work best in these systems.

Tumbling bins require turning and allow waste to be conveniently mixed for aeration on a regular basis, speeding decomposition.

When placing your bin, keep these tips in mind: 

  • Choose a level, well-drained area that is accessible from the door if adding kitchen scraps
  • Keep the pile in a sunny place to trap solar heat
  • Provide some shelter from freezing and drying winds
  • Build directly over soil to take advantage of earthworms, beneficial microbes and other decomposers AND for better drainage
  • Use distance and visual barriers between your pile and neighbors

Materials and Methods

To make compost, you need five basic components:

  • moisture (wet)
  • air or oxygen (dry)
  • woody and dead organic matter - high in carbon (brown)
  • recently cut vegetation and organic material – high in nitrogen (green)
  • decomposers

Add a layer of carbon/brown material after each green layer.  The ideal mix is about 75 percent carbon/brown material and 25 percent nitrogen/green scraps. Feed yard trimmings and kitchen scraps to your bin as you generate them and make sure to chop them into 6-inches pieces or smaller. Food scraps and grass clippings need to be buried or mixed into the center of the pile for decomposition. 

To achieve optimal conditions, you should focus on:

  • Drainage-compost piles should about as moist as a recently wrung out sponge
  • Air Flow-oxygen fuels decomposition and minimizes odors 
  • Insulation-heat levels between 130 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit are best for decomposition 

Your compost will be ‘finished’ when it is fine and crumbly like coarse potting soil or fine mulch. The amount of time required to make compost will vary widely depending upon the materials, the outdoor temperature, and the frequency of turning or mixing the material.

Find troubleshooting tips and more in the City of Evanston Compost Guide.

 

Ready for more?

Accessories

  • Kitchen compost pail with lid—keep it on the kitchen counter, under the sink or in the freezer
  • Aerator—a long rod with collapsible ‘wings’ on one end that is jabbed into the compost pile and then pulled out so that it mixes, loosens and aerates the pile
  • Thermometer—to check the internal temperature, which should be between 130 and 160 degrees
  • Compost sifter—a mesh or screen to collect finer compost particles for houseplants or new seedlings
  • Electric shredder/chipper—to reduce the size of the brown and green vegetative matter so that they decompose quicker
  • Spade or shovel—to turn or transfer material in the compost bin

Vermicompost

Vermicompost uses red worms in additional to aerobic microbes to break down waste naturally and efficiently. Red Wigglers and Red Earthworms are the most common types of worms used in vermicomposting because they are adapted for compost-type habitats. Regular worms from your backyard will NOT fulfill the role of red worms in vermiculture. This type of composting is most commonly used by apartment dwellers or other indoor composting systems because it is easier to maintain the pile's heat during the winter. 

Many types of containers can be purchased or fashioned for vermiculture, although be sure your bin allows for drainage and air flow. Line the bottom of your bin with moist newspaper clippings or other brown materials that mimick a worm's natural habitat. Then add your worms and cover them with a layer of organic green and brown waste.