Lake County residents and businesses that may not have been aware of how and what to recycle are about to get a high-profile education as part of an initiative to reduce the amount of trash dumped in landfills.
An empty, upside-down garbage can will be the symbol of the "Recycle First. Trash Last" campaign waged by the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County. The agency has received the equivalent of about $200,000 in marketing expertise from Curbside Value Partnership, designed to increase participation in recycling programs.
The logo will appear on buses and garbage trucks, news of the campaign will be broadcast on radio and mailers will be sent, SWALCO street teams will hit local festivals among other avenues of attack, such as recyclefirsttrashlast.org, which provides information and resources on all things recycling.
"We're trying to simplify it for people," said Walter Willis, executive director of the agency comprising 41 communities and the Great Lakes Naval Station. "A consistent message is important."
In the works for several months, the comprehensive strategy -- the first in Illinois backed by Curbside -- was unveiled Wednesday at the Waste Management Materials Recovery Facility. It adjoins the Countryside Landfill in Grayslake.
"We have the ability to do this in a very easy fashion," Lake County Board Chairman David Stolman said during the official introduction. "There's still people who don't do it, who don't get it. It's helping our county by not filling up the landfill."
Every month at that facility, 10,000 tons of newspaper, plastic, metal and other materials travel through a dizzying, multilevel system of conveyors to be sorted by hand, baled, and shipped to customers for further recycling.
About 40 percent of materials that make it to the curb in Lake County are recycled. SWALCO was charged by the Lake County Board to produce a plan, released late last year, to increase that amount.
"We're throwing away 60 percent. We have to flip-flop that," Willis said. The key will be to get residents to change their thinking and consider recycling as a "proactive everyday habit," according to Willis.
The initial focus will be what residents can recycle in their homes and what materials are accepted, according to Jennifer Hamilton, a Curbside representative.
While Lake County "already does a good job" of recycling, people need to realize items such as lids, deli containers, flower pots, kitty litter tubs or even laundry baskets are fair game, said Craig Cookson, director of sustainability and recycling for the American Chemistry Council and a Curbside board member.
"The essence of this campaign is thinking about all the stuff you can put in your recycling bin," he said.
Nearly all plastics, except those containing foam or film, can be recycled, officials said.
SWALCO will pay for T-shirts, magnets and other advertising, but the marketing and consulting expertise was delivered through the partnership with Curbside, a national group that accepts entities by invitation.
It is funded by companies in the aluminum, can, metal container and other industries that generate the packaging that SWALCO and others want recycled.
So far, the campaigns have been initiated in 29 communities and four states.