Task Force Issues Statewide Recycling Guidelines

Task Force Issues Statewide Recycling Guidelines

For the first time, Illinois has recycling guidelines that can be implemented in counties and municipalities throughout the state.

A state task force made up of local government leaders, environmental organizations and the waste industry has issued a news release announcing the creation of guidelines designed to “tackle the issue of recycling contamination.”

According to the news release, recycling industry audits confirm that one in four items placed in the recycling cart is not recyclable. The result is contamination that makes recycling efforts more expensive and less effective.

The task force formed by the National Waste and Recycling Association and Solid Waste Association of North America brought together  haulers and sorting facility operators, government and business leaders to develop simple, cohesive recycling education materials to help residents better understand what items should and should not be placed in recycling carts.

“Recycling is more highly contaminated with non-recyclable garbage than ever before,” said Walter Willis, SWALCO executive director and co-chair of the task force. “The non-recyclable items weigh down sorting facilities, reduce commodity prices, and affect the re-manufacturing markets.”

Lisa Disbrow, vice chair of the Illinois Chapter of NWRA and co-chair of the task force, said recycling facilities report contamination from 25 percent to more than 35 percent  in some of the recycling streams.

“As recycling facilities add labor to help remove contamination and slow lines to improve recovery, these additional costs are passed along which may increase costs for local governments, and ultimately residents,” she said.

The task force identified the most common items placed in the recycling cart that are not recyclable including plastic bags, tanglers (garden hoses, wire, cords, clothing), food waste, medical waste including syringes, and batteries.

Kane County Recycling Program Coordinator Jennifer Jarland, a member of the task force, said flexible plastic packaging, pouches, bags, and wraps are among the most-common contaminants.

“The resin identification code number in the triangle does not mean that a plastic object is recyclable!” she said. “Plastic containers — bottles, tubs, jugs and jars — are the only plastic items recyclable in your curbside carts.”

As a result of the task force discussions, guidelines were developed to represent local recycling programs’ common denominators so that there are go-to guidelines for all programs, haulers and educators throughout the state.

Participating in the discussions at the task force, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency developed and launched a new webpage this month to answer recycling questions for Illinois residents.

The release of the statewide recycling guidelines coincides with the Nov. 15 America Recycles Day, which is celebrated and promoted by thousands of organizations across the country.

In addition to representatives of NWRA, SWANA, IEPA, the task force participants include: USEPA, City of Chicago, Cook County, DuPage County, Kane County, Madison County, Will County, Solid Waste Agencies of Cook County, Lake County and West Cook County, and multiple organizations including the Illinois County Solid Waste Management Association, Illinois Recycling Association, and the Steel Recycling Institute.

About NWRA

The National Waste and Recycling Association represents the private sector waste and recycling services industry. Association members conduct business in all 50 states, and include companies that manage garbage, recycling and medical waste, equipment manufacturers and distributors, and a variety of other service providers. For more information about NWRA, please visit www.wasterecycling.org.


The Solid Waste Association of North America is an organization of more than 10,000 public and private sector professionals committed to advancing from solid waste management to resource management through their shared emphasis on education, advocacy and research. For more than 50 years, SWANA has been the leading association in the solid waste management field. SWANA serves industry professionals through technical conferences, certifications, publications, and a large offering of technical training courses. For more information, visit swana.org.