JULY 2011

Illinois launches statewide environmental initiatives

A model for a statewide comprehensive recycling database and a cutting-edge job training program that will serve to create new jobs in Illinois’ recycling and sustainability industries were launched at the annual Illinois Recycling and Waste Management Conference and Trade Show.

“Illinois is on the forefront of not only reducing waste but in creating the infrastructure for building a new sustainable environmental industry – this is potentially the next dot.com of the 21st century,” said Mike Mitchell, executive director, Illinois Recycling Association (IRA).

According to the 2010 Recycling Economic Impact Study prepared for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO) by DSM Environmental through a grant to the Illinois Recycling Association, recycling, recycling reliant, and reuse industries in Illinois contribute a total of 111,500 jobs, a payroll of $3.6 billion, and over $1 billion in state and local taxes. And there is room for more growth as Illinois continues to increase the amount of reusable resources diverted from landfills each year.

“The recycling industry has experienced impressive growth for over 30 years. From 1967 to 2000 the industry experienced annual growth rates of 8.3 percent in the number of jobs and 12.7 percent in gross annual sales, outperforming industries like fast food and health care. The industry continues to be a proven job creator and economic growth generator,” said Dr. Neil Seldman, president of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance in Washington, D.C.

On a national level, in 2009, 243 million tons of waste were generated. Sixty-six percent of that waste ended up in a landfill or was incinerated. When materials that could be reclaimed or recycled are burned or buried, valuable resources, revenue, and American jobs are wasted as well.

As the nation looks to sustainability and recycling as new sources of job creation and economic development, as well as environmental solutions, these programs together are important in equipping citizens with both the right data and education to support continued growth of the industry.

First Comprehensive Statewide Recycling Database in Illinois EcoPoint™ Illinois is the first comprehensive database of local and statewide recycling opportunities in the state, providing information from local government, and public and private sector recyclers about where residents can recycle anything from cans to computers.

Local governments in Illinois will also be able to publish and promote information about their waste reduction and recycling programs through a central portal of Community Profiles. Both of these search engines are available in Illinois through IRA’s website at www.illinoisrecycles.org.

The subscription to this service was funded by the Illinois DCEO through a grant to IRA.

“The difference between EcoPoint Illinois and other existing national recycling databases is that the database is populated by local governments and businesses using new free accounts available in Re-TRAC Connect™, a web-based data management system. Because Re-TRAC Connect offers many features and functionality in addition to managing a database of EcoPoint locations and community profiles, users will have regular opportunities to keep their information current,” said Rick Penner, president of Emerge Knowledge, the technology company that developed EcoPoint and Re-TRAC Connect. “It’s an integrated system to track and measure recycling and solid waste data as well as connect people with information to achieve sustainability outcomes.”

Illinois launched EcoPoint with information pre-loaded in the new database that was obtained by a statewide survey conducted by Resource Recycling Systems as part of the same DCEO grant. The launch of EcoPoint Illinois also included the kick-off of an ongoing initiative by IRA to encourage greater participation in the program so that the database will eventually include information from every recycler throughout the state.

Recycling rates for Illinois indicate the percentage of solid waste that is recycled or composted. The Illinois Solid Waste Management Act requires each county in Illinois to develop a plan to recycle 25 percent of municipal solid waste, but there is no statewide mandate for recycling rates. In 2009, the state achieved a recycling rate of 37 percent, according to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency’s Nonhazardous Solid Waste Management and Landfill Capacity in Illinois: 2009 report.

“While this puts Illinois above the 2009 national recycling rate of 33.8 percent, it is far below what we could be doing to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills,” said Paul Jaquet, president of Eagle Enterprises, Inc. and IRA board president. “The recycling rate goals for Illinois haven’t been revised since 1988. People look at 37 percent recycling statewide and think that this is great, but we are far behind states like California where the recycling rate is over 50 percent.”

“The old waste management model is 75 percent disposal and 25 percent recycling/composting. Through our certification program, we are re-training professionals to see what we used to call waste as valuable resources that can be reused,” said Mitchell. “This new resource management model flips these numbers, calling for at least 75 percent recycling/composting and only 25 percent disposal. This dramatically alters the landscape of how discards are handled.”

The certification program will be offered at community colleges around the state beginning in 2012 and applies to current industry professionals as well as those interested in starting a new career in the growing recycling and sustainability field. Certification begins with Recycling 101.