New paint recycling plan lacks gloss for Kane officials

A new plan to improve the recycling of paint products in Illinois has the potential to be a Picasso of waste reduction, according to some Kane County officials. But when county board member Phil Lewis looks at the plan, all he sees is Dogs Playing Poker.

Kane County staff members wanted the county board's Energy and Environmental Committee Thursday to support a bill in Springfield that would create a program of paint recycling similar to the new plan for electronics recycling. Instead of local residents or local governments paying to recycle hazardous oil-based paints when they bring in old and half-used cans, a fee would be added to every paint purchase. That fee would be collected by the state and fund a "paint stewardship program."

The goal of the program is to save money by minimizing local government involvement in the disposal of unwanted or unused paint products. It would promote reuse and recycling of paint and craft new agreements with disposal companies for the collection, recycling and handling of whatever paint is discarded. More paint collection sites would also be established. The plan mimics programs in several other states and has the support of the paint industry.

One estimate, by the nonprofit Product Stewardship Institute, projects $17 million in annual savings for Illinois taxpayers on a state level and more than $1 million of savings for local governments. The institute helped create the stewardship plan.

Lewis said he did some investigating of the success of the model in Oregon and was not impressed. Lewis said his cursory examination indicated local residents aren't aware the program even exists.

"I'm not in favor of this," Lewis said. "I think it's government creep. I don't see any evidence of us needing it. We have a paint recycling and collection program. Before we adopt this, I'd like to see evidence that our program is not meeting our expectations."

Jennifer Jarland, the county's recycling coordinator, said the county pays a $350 fee for every paint collection event it hosts.

In addition, every county resident who comes to the event must pay $2 per gallon of paint to have it recycled. Under the proposed plan, the resident would only pay about 70 cents per gallon.

Lewis wasn't convinced. He said if the model is so good, the county should implement it on a local level and leave the state out of it. He and other committee members doubted any local fees sent to Springfield to fund the program would ever come to Kane County.

On the verge of rejecting support of the bill, which is being sponsored by State Sen. Linda Holmes, board members agreed to table the request. Staff members will conduct further research on the program and report back at a later date.

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