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
“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
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
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.