Waste Reduction and Recycling

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Updated Cook County Solid Waste Management Plan Draft

Public Comment: The Cook County Department of Environment and Sustainability (DES) is in the process of updating its solid waste management plan. Public comments about the updated plan should be sent to WasteandRecycling@cookcountyil.gov (using “Comments on Updated SWMP” in the subject line) by June 21, 2024. After reviewing public comments, DES may further refine the draft plan before the Cook County Board of Commissioners adopts and publishes a final plan.

Draft Updated Cook County Solid Waste Plan

Overview: The Illinois Solid Waste Planning and Recycling Act (415 ILCS 15/) requires counties to develop an initial solid waste management plan and subsequent plan updates “that place substantial emphasis on recycling and other alternatives to landfills, to encourage municipal recycling and source reduction, and to promote composting of yard waste.” 

The draft updated “Cook County Solid Waste Management 2024-2029: The Path Toward Zero Waste and A Circular Economy” recommends actions to reduce the climate impact of solid waste and provides direction for Cook County’s waste prevention, reduction, reassembly, remanufacturing, reuse, repair, repurpose, recycling, composting, collection and other solid waste related investments, policies and practices over the next five years. The draft updated plan sets forth 43 recommendations for 16 major areas of focus that will help move the zero waste and circular economy systems in Cook County forward. The recommendations are based on the data presented in the draft updated plan and the feedback received from members of the Cook County Solid Waste Advisory Committee, local and state partners, environmental advocacy organizations and members of the public. The recommendations represent programs and efforts the County can reasonably implement over the next five years that will help push the County towards achieving its new goal of 45% waste diversion rate by 2030. 

Check out our new Story Map on where your waste and recycling go from the curb!

The Illinois Solid Waste Planning and Recycling Act (415 ILCS 15/) requires counties to develop an initial solid waste management plan and subsequent plan updates “that place substantial emphasis on recycling and other alternatives to landfills, to encourage municipal recycling and source reduction, and to promote composting of yard waste.” Cook County ordinance further requires an advisory committee be formed to “review the plan during its preparation, make suggestions and propose any changes it believes appropriate.” 

An update to the Suburban Cook County Solid Waste Management Plan was introduced to the Cook County board on June 6. On July 25th 2018, the Solid Waste Management Plan Update 2018 was approved by the Board of Commissioners.

The plan will help set priorities to promote safe, practical, environmentally beneficial and economically sound solid waste management practices for suburban Cook County. This update addresses issues and opportunities in curbside recycling, food scrap composting, household hazardous waste, electronic waste, and construction and demolition debris.

Suburban Cook County encompasses 127 municipalities, as well as unincorporated areas, with a combined population of approximately 2.5 million.  Residents, businesses and public facilities in suburban Cook County generate approximately three million tons of waste annually. In 2016, Cook County municipal waste hauler data indicated that haulers collected an estimated 8.2 pounds per household per day of waste and an estimated 1.87 pounds per household per day of recyclable materials.

Increasingly, fewer and larger private sector companies are providing waste collection, recycling and disposal services and facilities. The role of county and local governments, in relation to waste management, has shifted from the provision of services and facilities to matters relating to policy formulation, public education and information. Recycling and source reduction programs have been broadly accepted by the public and have significantly reduced the quantity of waste needing disposal. Current recycling rates in suburban Cook County exceed 25 percent. Improved performance is possible but each additional increment will be more difficult and more costly to achieve.

As more recycling programs come on line and more materials are recovered, additional uses and markets must be secured for products and materials with recyclable content.

Cook County Submits a Solid Waste Plan update to the Illinois EPA every 5 years. The most recent Plan Update, approved by the Cook County Board of Commissioners in 2018 gives an overview of the types of waste that is generated in the County, where its coming from and where it’s going. This informs the County’s plan for increasing diversion and decreasing waste going directly to landfills.