Nearly 26 million tons worth of food scraps are thrown out every year.

Collective Resource is hoping to reduce that – one bucket at a time.

Collective Resource is a food scrap pickup service based in Evanston, Illinois that collects food waste and other compostable products from homes, businesses and institutions throughout Chicagoland and takes them to a commercial composting site.

Their goal? To give everyone the ability to reduce what they send to the landfill.

Feeding the Soil, Not the Landfill

When Erlene Howard first learned about composting, she was living in a condo with no backyard, making the process rather difficult. However, she was determined to find a way to make it work for her and others in similar living situations. Her efforts eventually led her to the idea of creating a simple residential composting service for her fellow Chicagoans, who waste 55 million pounds of food each month.

“Nobody is going to [compost] if they don’t know why [it’s beneficial],” she said.

Howard shared her vision for a residential compost pickup service with Ken Dunn at The Resource Center in Chicago, and drew on his knowledge of composting as well as her own experience running small businesses to create Collective Resource.

Collective Resource Cargo Van

Photo Courtesy of Collective Resource.

Howard founded the company in 2010 with three customers, using her Toyota Camry for pickups. Today, Collective Resource’s customer base has grown to over 500 residential and 100 commercial customers, diverting an average of 20 tons of scraps a week using three cargo vans.

Unlike home composting, which handles organic waste from one household or facility, commercial composting handles organic waste on a much larger scale. Rather than sitting in a landfill, the scraps are mixed with grass clippings, leaves and food-soiled cardboard and then turned into a nutrient-rich soil amendment.

Erlene Howard“I have had a lot of conversations about what composting is and why it’s important. It’s important to reduce landfill use because food waste in landfills creates methane and CO2. It’s important for air, water and soil quality.”

Erlene Howard | Founder and Owner, Collective Resource

The company provides residents with door-to-door pickup of food scraps, providing 5-gallon buckets with weekly and biweekly collection options. Weekly pickup costs $10.50 while biweekly is $15.50.

Collective Resource also hauls food scraps from businesses large and small, providing 32-gallon totes with $24 pickup fees per tote for up to four totes.

More Than a Food Scrap Pickup Service

In addition to hauling compost, Collective Resource educates the public about the importance of reducing landfill use.

The company offers zero waste event consulting, compost education and event staffing. Howard, along with several zero waste consultants, can help you manage waste at any event, including fundraisers, weddings and festivals.

As part of their event planning services, the Collective Resource team helps customers determine whether or not reusable or compostable items are right for their event. The team also educates guests about composting and waste reduction, explaining the positive impact attendees can have by reducing landfill use.

Collective Resource Team Members

Photo Courtesy of Collective Resource.

“It feels like such a blessing to have this team that gets what we’re really doing,” Howard said. “There’s just so many people that we’re impacting their everyday life, and I’m really glad to be making that kind of difference.”

So too is the city.

Evanston just revised its solid waste agreement to include Collective Resource as a single waste hauler effective as of Nov. 1. It’s not a bucket on every doorstep, but it is another step towards the company’s goal of saving every last scrap of food.

If you would like to start composting at home or at a commercial site, or are interested in having a zero waste event, contact Collective Resource to see if you are in its pickup area.

Business Composting

Photo Courtesy of Collective Resource.

Budget Dumpster is your community-focused source for a dumpster rental in Chicago. This article is part of a series spotlighting organizations that are making a difference in the communities we serve. If you know of another great organization, let us know in the comments!