Proposed Changes to Solid Waste and Recycling Ordinance Would Give County New Tools to Protect the Environment

Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle today introduced an ordinance that would give Cook County significant new tools and information to increase recycling, prosecute fly-dumping and reduce thefts of metal and other valuable materials from public and private property. Overall, the proposed ordinance contains provisions designed to protect public health and safety, and build more sustainable ways to deal with waste in Cook County. “We know that suburban Cook County generates more waste per capita than the national average, and that our recycling rate lags,” Preckwinkle said. “Our ultimate goal is to turn materials into opportunities instead of liabilities, and to greatly boost Cook County’s recycling and waste reduction.” Environmental Committee Chair Liz Gorman (17th) and Commissioner Stanley Moore (4th) sponsored the ordinance. It is co-sponsored by Commissioners Jerry Butler (3rd), John Daley (11th) and Gregg Goslin (14th). Included in the ordinance are provisions to gather data on waste and recycling from waste haulers. It also has performance standards for landfills, transfer stations and recycling facilities to ensure that they are good environmental citizens in their communities. The ordinance will benefit Cook County residents through: Collection of comprehensive data that does not now exist on the volume of waste, how much is being recycled and what is in the waste stream. This information is needed to help communities in suburban Cook County boost their recycling rates and find economic and revenue opportunities in the often-valuable materials that are now thrown away. More frequent inspections of landfills, waste transfer stations and composting facilities. Despite high volumes of solid waste passing through many of these facilities, and the serious environmental problems that can result, there is no local entity that regularly monitors them. The ordinance also includes monitoring of recycling facilities, such as junk yards, scrap collectors, compost facilities, and large industrial recycling facilities. In suburban Cook County these facilities are not regularly monitored by either state or federal governments despite conducting operations that can have a significant impact on the environment and nearby communities. The ability to respond quickly to complaints of toxics spills including liquids, fly dumpers, odors and other environmental issues and to enforce safety and health standards by prosecuting violations. Requirements on recycling facilities that make it harder for thieves to sell stolen materials – which commonly include public property such as manhole covers, as well as chain-link fencing, wire and building debris such as downspouts and gutters. A boost in community programming such as recycling opportunities, disposal for difficult to dispose of household wastes, public education on waste reduction and partnering with municipalities to seek grant and other outside resources for recycling and waste disposal. All of Cook’s neighboring counties plus the City of Chicago already regulate landfills and transfer stations in partnership with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. Suburban Cook County is the only governmental entity in the five-county region that does not have such a delegation agreement with the state. Passing the ordinance would put Cook County in a position to strengthen enforcement. “This ordinance will help us take significant steps toward implementing the Solid Waste Plan that the Cook County Board passed in 2012, and it moves us toward our aspirational goal of zero waste,” Preckwinkle said. “Cook County has already become a national leader through our Demolition Debris Diversion program, which results in more than 70 percent of building materials from demolitions and renovations in suburban Cook County being kept out of landfills and recycled or reused. “The proposed ordinance we introduced today will allow Cook County to continue its leadership by monitoring environmental conditions and generating a comprehensive picture of the county’s waste stream.”