Recycling Sea Change: Illinois Developing Consensus on Items 'Accepted' or 'Not Accepted'

Recycling Sea Change: Illinois Developing Consensus on Items ‘Accepted’ or ‘Not Accepted’

  • Editor’s Note: This article, written by Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland, is the second of a three-part series on China’s National Sword legislation and its effects on recycling programs in Kane County. Got questions or concerns? Contact Jarland at at 630-208-3841 or

The impacts of China’s National Sword legislation and the shifting world of recycling have yet to hit Illinois in force, but to be sure, they are coming.

In response, a group of statewide stakeholders and experts have been convened into a Recycling Contamination Task Force, which includes representation from Illinois associations, agencies, haulers, Materials Recovery Facility operators, and county program coordinators.

I am a member of the task force, serving in my capacity as a board member of the Illinois Counties Solid Waste Management Association.

At our most recent meeting, the task force reviewed a detailed list of recyclable materials and arrived at consensus concerning which items would be “accepted” or “not accepted” for recycling statewide, with a couple of items being “accepted in some areas.”

The list looks nearly identical to the existing Kane County Recycling Guidelines.

The task force will will be drafting and fine-tuning new unified recycling guidelines that apply across the state, developing marketing materials, planning a statewide public education strategy, and seeking funding from the state to support the outreach campaign.

Our main message will be to stop “wish-cycling” and to recycle only the items on the accepted items list, which will include paper (including magazines and cardboard) and containers (plastic bottles, tubs, jugs and jars; glass bottles and jars; and metal cans).

It will be up to the counties to customize the lists of alternative recycling opportunities in their areas.


What is “wish-cycling,” you ask?

A simple definition given by my colleague Kim Petzing in Madison County is that wish cycling is “the act of tossing a questionable item into the recycling bin and assuming the product is, or should be recyclable — even if you’re not 100 percent sure.”

Wish-cycling is damaging the recycling system because in reality the garbage that you throw in the bin has to be transported, sorted out (manually and with machines) and then transported again to a landfill, where recyclers have to pay to tip it.

Please do not wish-cycle! Instead follow the guidelines strictly!

Your help in this will make all of the difference between success and failure of the recycling system as we know it.

IL Recycling Contamination Task Force on Twitter

Read The Sea Change Series