10 Years of Recycling in Kane County – A Farewell From Jennifer Jarland

10 Years of Recycling in Kane County – A Farewell From Jennifer Jarland

  • Editor’s Note: This article was written by Kane County Recycling Coordinator Jennifer Jarland. Click this link to read more of her articles on recycling in Kane County.

This is the last article I will write for the Kane County Connects.

You may or may not have heard that I am leaving my job at the county after 10 ½ years here as the recycling program coordinator. I am actually leaving the country, and will be traveling to Australia where my Mum and brothers live (and where I lived between 1988 and 2003) to spend time with family. A new recycling coordinator has been hired, and that person can be reached at recycle@countyofkane.org or 630-208-3841 in the new year.

It has been an honor to serve the residents of Kane County over the years. I want to thank you for all you do, and congratulate you for the effort you make to recycle right and minimize waste.

Kane County residents have recycled at least 14 million pounds (7,000 tons!) of materials through county programs over the last decade (2011 to 2020). Most of that weight was electronics and TVs, but more on that below.

This article will cover all the Kane County programs and services, and how much we have all recycled over the last 10 years!

PROGRAMS AND SERVICES

Programs and services provided by Kane County include recycling collection events, three permanent recycling centers, electronics recycling programs, household hazardous waste collection programs, an annual pumpkin recycling event, public education (including the Kane County Recycles website, Green Guide, and public presentations), and a number of other smaller programs like the one for fluorescent tube recycling.

Your municipalities (cities and villages) and townships manage your curbside trash and recycling program contracts – not the county – but because I collect data from your waste and recycling haulers, I can say that you did well there, too.

RECYCLING EVENTS

When I started 10 years ago, there were 12 collection events a year – for electronics and books – at the Traffic Court building in St. Charles.

These days there are fewer events (and none in winter!) but we have added more materials to the list of items we accept, and we’ve been doing document shredding events since 2012.

During my time here I’ve conducted around 100 events that were utilized by a total of about 80,000 people. See the Events page for 2022 Event dates. 

DOCUMENT SHREDDING

Since the shredding program began 16,000 people have brought over 670,000 pounds of documents to be shredded at 27 individual one-day shredding events. The trucks shred the documents onsite and all the paper gets recycled locally into paper and cardboard packaging products.

There are three free shred events scheduled for 2022.

RECYCLING CENTERS

As a more convenient and comprehensive option for residents, in addition to the Saturday events, we now have three year-round recycling centers, open Monday through Friday, 40 hours a week, located conveniently in West Dundee, Batavia, and Aurora.  The sites are staffed, and we unload for you. Most things are free to drop off, except TVs, monitors, aerosol products, and small propane canisters.

And we take a lot more than just electronics and books. We also accept clothing and textiles, shoes, cardboard and paper, appliances, scrap metal, aerosol products and more.

See full list of Accepted and Not Accepted items in this printable PDF.  Check out the Recycling Center webpage for addresses and hours.

ELECTRONICS RECYCLING

Electronics recycling was the original seed that led to both the Event program and the creation of the Recycling Centers.

Between 2011 and 2020, there were a total of 94 events that accepted electronics. In addition to the recycling centers in their various incarnations, the electronics recycling program has served 145,000 people and recycled 12,375,000 pounds of electronics.

To put that in perspective, that is about 700 semi-trailers full of electronics that were responsibly recycled rather than landfilled.

HOUSEHOLD HAZARDOUS WASTE PROGRAMS

The Naperville Household Hazardous Waste facility, which is open to all citizens of Illinois, has served more than 26,000 Kane County residents, who responsibly disposed of 841,000 pounds of toxic and hazardous household products through this free program since 2011.

The areas eligible for the HHW home collection program have grown over the last decade to include not just the northern six townships, but also the cities of Geneva and Batavia and the Mill Creek Special Services Area.

This home collection program served an additional 6,490 Kane County residents, who responsibly disposed of 457,000 pounds of toxic and hazardous household products through this free program since 2011.

There were also two one-day events for HHW in 2019 and 2021.

Together the events served another 1,342 residents and recycled almost 70,000 pounds of hazardous material.

In total, that’s 1,368,000 pounds of HHW responsibly disposed of by 33,832 residents. For more info on how to utilize these free and convenient programs, see the Household Hazardous Waste page.

FLUORESCENT TUBE RECYCLING

Fluorescent Tubes and compact fluorescent light bulbs are difficult to recycle beyond the two HHW options above, so the county formed a partnership with the Geneva Ace Hardware (617 W. State St.; 630-208-6600) to become a drop-off point for the county program for free recycling of fluorescent bulbs for residents of Kane County.

The program started Dec. 1, 2015, and since then we have recycled a total of 22,500 fluorescent tubes and lightbulbs.

PUBLIC EDUCATION

A big part of my job has been answering your phone calls and emails asking for advice on how to recycle.

I took the frequently asked questions and turned the answers into content for the website, the Green Guide, and the articles I produced for the Kane County Connects online newsletter.

I have also provided several community presentations to various groups.

  • Thousands of people are served every year through response to phone calls and emails. You can continue to reach out to the new recycling coordinator at recycle@countyofkane.org, and 630-208-3841.
  • The Kane County Recycles website is a comprehensive resource for all of your recycling questions, and is one of the most visited set of pages in the county website.
  • The annual Kane County Recycles Green Guide, with 20,000-30,000 published each year in January, is a printed guide with a wealth of recycling information in it. The 2022 Green Guide will be out soon.
  • Over the last five years, since I started tracking in 2017, I have published more than 200 articles in Kane County Connects online newsletter and blog. See the archive of recycling articles here. And we now have more than 4,000 subscribers to the KC Recycles constant contact e-mail list.
  • Over the last seven years since I started tracking, I’ve given at least 50 public presentations at schools, clubs, libraries, restaurants, conferences, and community halls. I have also done more than 40 interviews for local newspapers and radio stations. And that is not even counting all of the press releases over the years! How many people have been reached is unknown, but I feel confident in saying “tens of thousands.” If you are interested, a couple of my presentations have been recorded on zoom.

RESIDENTIAL RECYCLING – CURBSIDE

Residential curbside programs had a 34% DIVERSION RATE in 2020 based hauler surveys from six residential haulers, with data from 171,680 households within municipal and township franchise-contracted areas.

  • 61,691 tons (up from 57,693 tons in 2019) of paper and containers were collected through residential curbside recycling programs from households in Kane County
  • 24,736 tons (up from 19,519 tons in 2019) of yard waste were mulched or composted
  • 165,875 tons (up from 139,837 tons in 2019) of waste was sent to landfills

When we say “diversion”, we are talking about the amount of material that is rescued from the landfill through recycling or composting programs. As you can see, our recycling and composting numbers are going up, but so is the volume of waste.

The good news is that 34% diversion is better than the national average of 25%, but we still have room for improvement. My parting advice is my oft repeated plea to please assess your waste and see where you can reduce it through rethinking, reducing, and reusing! And stop buying stuff you do not need.

To leave you with a visual on the amount of waste coming out of Kane County, if you were to take all of the  recyclable, compostable, and landfill-bound materials from Kane County residents in 2020, and put it inside of train containers, the Diversion Train would be 134 miles long and the Trash Train would be 257 miles long.

(Calculation note: Assuming a 40-foot shipping container (with 2,660 cubic feet inside capacity) goes on a 50-foot flatbed train car and, at 5,280 feet in a mile, that is approximately 105 train cars per mile.)

The total weight of Kane County residential discards, including trash and recycling equals 1.4 tons per household per year, which is almost 8 pounds per household per day (almost 5 pounds out of that 8 pound total is going to one of the landfills in surrounding counties).

EASY BEING GREEN

It is not always easy being green. There have been challenges over the years, but by envisioning my desired outcome, the green brick road always unfolded before me.

I want to thank you all for your efforts to recycle right, to place awareness on the preciousness of our limited resources, to take responsibility for your waste, and to always welcome and foster positive change, even if it isn’t always easy.