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Our View: Do more to stop piling on landfill problems

Published: Wednesday, Sept. 5, 2012 5:30 a.m. CDT

A recent report from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency projects the Cortland landfill has only six years of usable life remaining.

That might give some ammunition to those supporting the planned 500-acre expansion of the landfill that will be subject to a challenge in the 2nd District Appellate Court in Elgin on Thursday.

But regardless of one’s position on the plan to expand the landfill to pay for an expansion of the DeKalb County Jail, chances are there’s more you could do to keep your trash out of it.

There also is more that can be done in our communities.

Recycling has become part of the everyday routine in many local households. Most of us are accustomed to recycling newspapers, aluminum cans and glass bottles by now.

But there are new frontiers for keeping trash out of the waste stream, and there also are many people in the area who do not have recycling available to them in the convenient way it is available to single-family homeowners.

For instance, anyone living in an apartment complex with more than four units is not guaranteed a convenient means of recycling. In those buildings – considered “commercial” customers – the landlords work out waste-hauling agreements on their own; they often decide to skip recycling collection because it costs more.

But recycling is worth it to many people, even those who rent. Among tenants, landlords and the city, there should be a path toward making it available.

There’s also the new frontier of food-waste disposal, which takes the kitchen scraps out of the trash bin and puts them into a composting bin. Food waste can be heavy, and efforts to compost it are under way in some communities, including suburban Highland Park, which recently launched a pilot program to see how food-waste composting might work for its residents.

Although starting a backyard compost heap might not appeal to many people, if it was presented to them as another way of sorting refuse, it could catch on similarly to recycling other materials.

The DeKalb County Health Department also coordinates a program where municipalities around the area host collections of so-called “orphan” wastes – items such as electronics, small appliances, batteries, TVs and monitors. There’s a complete schedule available at www.dekalbcountyhealthdepartment.org.

The Cortland landfill took in 98,897 tons of trash in 2011, according to the IEPA. About 12,000 tons came from elsewhere; the rest – about 86,900 tons – never crossed the county line. That’s 238 tons of trash every day that came from local homes and businesses to be buried under the ground.

All of us have a responsibility to take recycling efforts further to cut into that number and slow our contribution to the landfill.

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