One Less Garbage Truck: A Bike-Powered Compost Collection Service

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Jonathan Scheffel hauls food scraps in the Dearborn bike lane. Photo: John Greenfield

While riding in the Dearborn protected bike lane today, I came across Jonathan Scheffel, the owner of Healthy Soil Compost, a bicycle-powered food waste collection service, towing a trailer full of restaurant scraps. Scheffel has been collecting food waste by bike as a hobby for over a year, and the business became licensed in July. He does the work full-time, year-round, and employs a few other riders. Scheffel dished the dirt on his car-free enterprise.

John Greenfield: So you’re picking up restaurant waste here?

Jonathan Scheffel: Yeah, this is from Hotel Allegro and 312 Chicago. They contracted me to be their composter. I haul it down to an earthworm farm [at 1111 West 48th Street in Back of the Yards] called Nature’s Little Recyclers and we make soil for farmers. And then I also pick up from residential members all around the city.

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Scheffel’s trailer is made by Gainesville-based Kanner Karts. Photo: John Greenfield

JG: How many clients do you have?

JS: Residential, over 100 now a month, and then about four commercial.

JG: Why do you guys use bikes?

JS: You can do stuff like this where you stop me and talk for a little bit — I would miss these interactions if I was in a truck or a car. Also bicycle delivery helps make the streets a little safer for everybody. I’m only going about 8 mph. And it brings awareness to what I’m doing in terms of picking up food waste and showing that waste is a thing that can be recycled.

So it’s about community interaction, and helping to make the air cleaner for everybody. Trash trucks that do what I do get three miles to the gallon. And this is a dense city, so we if we have bicycles picking up inner-city waste, then you don’t need to have trash trucks.

JG: Anything else you want to tell me about the business?

JS: You can sign up [for residential compost pick-up] at HealthySoilCompost.com, or follow us on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

  • Pat

    John, how did CDOT fair on plowing the bike lanes? This week seemed like their first real test.

    As of 4:30PM yesterday, the Dearborn PBL lane was not plowed at Dearborn and Kinzie. Since it was right on the hill, it pretty much forced you to walk up it if you were going South.

  • johnaustingreenfield

    Dearborn in the Loop wasn’t too bad this morning, save for this patch by the Goodman Theater.

  • How to cover a beat. Not only is Greenfield out there spotting amazing developments like a bicycle-powered compost pickup service, but when someone asks him a marginal question about snow conditions, he’s ready with a germane photo.

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