Cook County Crosses Million-Pound Threshold In Effort to Rid Itself of Old Paper

Cook County has recycled more than one million pounds of old documents, reports and miscellaneous paperwork in the last year-and-a-half, confronting a decades-old problem of records storage as well as generating savings and revenue for the County.

Over the past 18 months, the Records Management and County Salvage divisions of the County’s Bureau of Administration have overseen identification and review of paper that was eligible for destruction. Among the documents collected for disposal were old financial spreadsheets, dated legal journals, files from long-ago settled court cases, years-old dog bite incident reports, and documents from expired bond transactions.

“Whether due to forgetfulness, inertia or neglect, it became obvious that the County had a ‘paper problem’,” said Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. “We determined that we needed a centralized disposal effort that would free up usable space, produce savings and generate revenue, and establish a structure for orderly removal and destruction of records no longer needed.

“To date, this initiative has proven to be successful, as crossing the threshold of one million pounds would indicate.”

Some of the paperwork dated back to the 1960s. All of the documents were eligible for destruction under local records statutes. Certificates for disposal of the paperwork were obtained from the Illinois Secretary of State’s office, as required for official government documents.

Importantly, none of the 1.14 million pounds of paper was sent to a landfill. Instead, the paper was sold for recycling through a contract with a County vendor. Revenue from the sale of the paper to date has yielded the County more than $20,000 and removing the paper from County offices and facilities has cleared more than 71,000 cubic feet of space.

In addition, by centralizing the disposal process through Records Management and Salvage – formerly, a number of units within the County had their own contracts for document disposal – the County has saved at least $200,000 from what it would have spent with multiple vendors for the same services.

Records Management will continue its pro-active outreach to all County departments to identify, collect and dispose of old paper records that are eligible for destruction, Preckwinkle said.