Recycling goals being considered by Lake County communities

Updated 2/10/2012 4:57 PM

An action plan to dramatically increase recycling still is making its way to various Lake County communities but already there are encouraging signs, supporters say.

"Quite a few of the members are doing things to take action as a result of that report," said Walter Willis, executive director of the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County. "It's creating a buzz and it's creating some change."


Willis is referring to the report of a task force appointed by the Lake County Board in mid-2010 to study and develop recommendations to boost the recycling rate from 39 percent to 60 percent by 2020.

The report, released last fall, includes 36 recommendations covering residential and commercial businesses with the intent to reduce the amount of material taken to the county's two landfills.

Some measures, such as enhancing existing programs, are straightforward. Others recommend mandatory actions within a few years if goals aren't met.

In advance of final approval by the county, the 41 SWALCO member communities are being asked to "accept" or "approve" the report. Communities would not be required to do anything regardless of which they choose.

So far, about eight towns have taken some action on the report, Willis said. A majority of those towns have been wary of the proposed mandatory provisions, and opted to accept the report.

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"At this point, they're not going to focus on the mandatory stuff," he said. "There are 18 recommendations municipalities can work on. If they don't like three or four of them, that's fine."

The Lincolnshire village board on Monday, for example, will consider accepting the report.

"It's a subtle nuance, I think. I would suspect the word `approved' in some people's mind is akin to a higher commitment level," Village Manager Bob Irvin said.

The village already is at the goal for residential recycling, Irvin said, and changes in its new hauling contract, which began Jan. 1, may increase participation.

Changes include a requirement that toters rather than bins be used for residential recycling, and residents can opt for limited trash disposal at a lower price.


The bottom line is there is a finite amount of space in local landfills and costs could increase if the materials would have to be taken elsewhere, Irvin said.

"A little recycling now will hold costs down," he said.

Gurnee officials this past week directed staff to prepare a resolution to accept the 60% Task Force report.

Mayor Kristina Kovarik said village leaders agree with the concept but are wary of possible mandates for businesses.

"To make something mandatory when you haven't given the business community the resources or materials to comply isn't fair," Kovarik said.

The village also exceeds the county goal for residential recycling, she added, and is working on new programs such recycling for multifamily areas.

She said the task force report is going to raise awareness of what communities need to do.

"We constantly hear from residents -- they want us to be doing more and making it easier," to recycle, she said.

The deadline for the communities to decide is March 22.

Willis said he isn't too concerned at this point whether communities accept or approve the plan.

"We're making progress so I'm not getting hung up on the philosophical debate," he said. "I think that's a pretty big deal -- that 41 units of government are focused on these issues."

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