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Thursday, April 19, 2012 03:30 pm

Recycling opportunities grow

Better yet, don’t buy it in the first place

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Abby Walden believes that before Springfield residents start to consider recycling their trash, they should first be aware of the goods they are purchasing.

“Products that cannot be reused, you should think twice about buying them,” Walden said. “Instead of buying plastic water bottles, look into getting a reusable water bottle that you can fill up at home and take with you.”

Walden, an environmental studies graduate student at the University of Illinois Springfield and intern at City Water, Light and Power, said she is pleased to see Springfield is moving in a “positive direction” toward more recycling options.

“More and more products are able to be recycled. As we continue to move forward we will be able to offer a larger program for recycling products,” Walden said.


Curbside recycling

What recycling options are available in Springfield? Mark Mahoney, director of public works for the City of Springfield, said homeowners or renters who want curbside recycling should contact their local waste hauler.

Not sure what can be recycled? Mahoney suggests visiting the city of Springfield’s website (www.springfield.il.us/recycle.htm), which features a “Room to Room Guide” offering information and tips about recycling specific items in the typical home. The guide was created in 2008 and is currently being updated.

Mahoney said that his family of six recycles two full bins of recyclable materials a week, including everything from glass to cardboard.

“I generally separate the bottles and cans into one bin and then the paper and cardboard into another bin,” Mahoney said, describing his recycling method. “I then sort them a little bit more and combine them for the Tuesday morning pickup.”


Electronics

Though it’s most known for building affordable housing, Habitat for Humanity of Sangamon County provides an opportunity for people to recycle electronics.

Sarah Mackey, executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Sangamon County, said since the statewide ban on disposing of electronics (batteries, DVD players) in the trash went into effect at the beginning of the year, Habitat for Humanity of Sangamon County Restore has stepped up efforts to accept electronics recyclables.

“Five years ago, a lot of these electronics were ending up in landfills. So after the legislation passed we wanted to increase awareness about recycling electronics,” Mackey said.

The Habitat for Humanity of Sangamon County Restore is at 1514 W. Jefferson St. in Springfield.


Athletic shoes

 The Green Center at Lincoln Land Community College also promotes recycling by encouraging LLCC students and faculty to take an active role. Julie Bates, manager at the Green Center, said that LLCC has recycling events throughout the year that allow students and employees to bring in various recyclables such as paper, plastic, cardboard and cans.

“We have the basic recycling opportunities, but we also offer special recycling drives, such as during Earth Week, where students and employees are able to bring in other materials that they would like to recycle,” Bates said. Earth Week is April 16-22.

“With this year’s Earth Week, students and employees can bring in athletic shoes to recycle and then we will be working to get them to Nike, where they make them into things like rubber athletic courts.”


Green Business Network

Springfield has plenty of options for businesses to recycle, as well. The City of Springfield and the Green Business Network of Springfield (GBNS) are expanding their efforts to educate and offer a variety of recycling opportunities to citizens and local businesses.

The GBNS, which began in 2010, is a nonprofit organization composed of local businesses that work to encourage environmental sustainability practices such as recycling, water conservation and energy efficiency.

Bill Mills, a volunteer for the GBNS and manager of the Energy Services division of CWLP, said GBNS specifically addresses recycling for businesses in Springfield through the Recycle Springfield Project.

“Most small- to medium-sized businesses in Springfield cannot afford the monthly charge to have a recycling dumpster – particularly if it is only for cardboard and occasionally paper – that commercial recyclers provide,” Mills said. “The commercial recyclers do a fine job. We don’t see that this program (RSP) in any way competes with them. What became fairly obvious to us is that a lot of materials that could be recycled were going into trash dumpsters.”

Mills said the main obstacles for these businesses included the cost of the recycling dumpster and the cost of the service to have the dumpster emptied, which could range from $100 to $125 a month and “they typically only took cardboard, occasionally paper.”

GBNS addressed this financial issue by partnering with Durr, Tillet and Kobylarz, Inc., a recycling company in Springfield, to provide free recycling dumpsters to small- and medium-size businesses and nonprofit organizations. Businesses qualify for the service by joining the GBNS and paying a one-time membership fee of $25.

DTK then set up a central drop-off site located at the corner of 11th and Madison streets for businesses and citizens to drop off their recyclable materials. Mills said the recycling dumpsters for RSP come in both a two cubic yard and a four cubic yard size.

For more information, visit the Green Business Network website at www.gbns.org.


Don’t buy it

Wynne Coplea, director of college partnerships at Heartland Community College in Normal and former manager of waste and recycling for the city of Springfield, echoed Walden’s earlier comments. Ultimately, Coplea says the consumer is the first line of defense in protecting the environment. She said products like Styrofoam egg cartons and juice boxes are difficult to recycle, so consumers should look for products in more recyclable containers.

“In some places those products are recyclable, but nowhere in the downstate area,” Coplea said. “These materials are very tightly compressed. Paper, plastic and metal all together…..it’s very difficult to get these materials apart and do any sort of viable recycling with them.”

Contact Neil Schneider at nschneider@illinoistimes.com.

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