Illinois has a long history of championing recycling and composting programs, but it has a long way to go. We generate approximately 19 million tons of garbage a year, which is 23% more waste per capita than the average state in the U.S. Sadly, only 37% of this waste material is ever recycled. Additionally, even though estimates of Illinois’ waste stream indicate that nearly 20% is organic and 23% is food scrap, only 13% and 1% of these materials, respectively, is diverted from landfills (composted)–this places Illinois behind other states in removing food scrap from our waste stream. There are 42 landfills in Illinois, with a statewide landfill life expectancy of 21 years—that means landfill space in Illinois won’t last forever and we must stop sending valuable materials to be landfilled that will be difficult to recover.
However, our current recycling programs divert over 7 million tons of useful materials from landfills and save enough energy to heat and light 578,000 homes. Each year, recycling in Illinois reduces water pollution by 21,500 tons of various contaminants and reduces air pollution by 131,000 tons of various contaminants each. What’s more, recycling can create up to 10 times as many jobs as landfilling, while composting can create up to 4 times as many jobs. In fact, Illinois already has over 110,000 recycling jobs with a payroll of $3.6 billion and $30.3 billion in gross receipts. Furthermore, manufacturing with recycled commodities in Illinois reduces greenhouse gas emissions by 4 million tons (carbon equivalent) a year.
Illinois’ resource management future should start with ambitious goals: we should start by encouraging source reduction and move towards a zero waste goal.
- The WillCountyGreen.com provides techniques to reduce energy consumption and provides examples of numerous ways anyone can do more to green their life.
- The Solid Waste Agency of Lake County educates the public regarding implications of solid waste management options and identifies, evaluates and disseminates information regarding techniques to reduce, reuse and recycle the amount of solid waste generated. Read SWALCO’s recycling publications.
- The Illinois Recycling Task Force is co-chaired by the Department of Economic Opportunity and the Environmental Protection Agency.
- The Illinois Recycling Association provides a collective voice for recycling on critical waste management issues facing Illinois.
- The Chicago Recycling Coaltion champions environmentally and fiscally sound management of solid waste through research, education, and advocacy, emphasizing waste reduction, reuse, recycling, composting, and buying recycled.
- Illinois Commodity/Waste Generation and Characterization Study
- Waste and Recycling in Illinois: Report commissioned by DCEO.
- Illinois Landfill Projections of Disposal Capacity: Report by IEPA.
- SCARCE works with schools and communities to educate and assist with recycling and composting programs.
- DCEO’s summary of the recycling industry in Illinois.