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Government Local

DeKalb County task force explores zero waste policy

SYCAMORE – Although Waste Management is continuing with its plan to expand its landfill in Cortland, a DeKalb County task force will examine whether the amount of trash local people contribute to it can be reduced.

The County Board created the Zero Waste Task Force and appointed 13 members Oct. 16. The committee will meet publicly for the first time at 1:15 p.m. Thursday and include presentations from board member Marc Johnson, D-Sycamore, and county health department officials. The meeting will be held at the DeKalb County Community Outreach Building, 2500 N. Annie Glidden Road.

For the next 10 months, the task force will see if the county can make the zero waste policy a guiding principle of its solid waste management plan. Members of the task force include County Board members, county officials, city officials and Waste Management representatives. The goal provides a counterbalance to the decision to allow Waste Management to expand the DeKalb County landfill near Cortland.

Johnson, who is a member of the task force, said he’s promoted the adoption of the zero waste policy since he was elected last year. He said the policy, which targets the reduction of waste in landfills, is about “taking care of things from the beginning.”

“Waste produces nothing,” he said. “We end up with a bigger pile of garbage in the middle of the county. … There are countries in this world using their garbage to produce energy.”

Even though the county has a high recycling rate, it also produces a significant amount of trash, he said. 

According to a 2012 solid waste annual report from the county health department, the amount of solid waste recycled last year was 66,449 tons, compared to 48,018 in 2011. However, the amount of waste generated last year was 108,219 tons, compared to 90,899 in 2011. 

Task force members are expected to produce a report on how feasible the zero-waste policy is for the county by the end of August, said County Administrator Gary Hanson. The report will be up for discussion by County Board members at that time.

“The first broad question is if it’s a goal we can accomplish, and if it is then [the task force will] have some things they need to identify, such as costs,” he said. 

The task force might not focus on increasing recycling efforts to reduce landfill waste but reducing the disposal rate itself, said Greg Maurice, director of the health department’s environmental health division. 

Johnson said recycling isn’t enough when it comes to reducing waste in landfills. Alternative methods include having people purchase reusable materials or giving businesses incentives to use biodegradable or compostable material, such as restaurants using compostable serving ware.

As the task force discusses the implementation of a zero-waste policy in the coming months, Waste Management will continue with its landfill expansion project, located in the southwest corner of Cortland Township. The expansion is expected to begin in the spring and finish in by early 2015. 

Currently, the landfill accepts 300 tons of waste a day, and Waste Management representatives have said the expansion could allow an additional 1,500 tons of waste from DeKalb, Kane, McHenry and Kendall counties.

“My hope is, at the very least on our end, we can reduce the amount of garbage we have that has a significant [environmental] impact,” Johnson said. 

Zero Waste Task Force Board

• County Board member Marc Johnson, D-Sycamore

• County Board member John Emerson, R-Genoa

• Mike Hey, Waste Management representative

• Jeffrey Daurer, Northern Illinois University associate vice president of facilities, planning and operations, or designee

• Connie Handel, University of Illinois Extension representative

• John Rey, DeKalb Mayor, or designee

• Ken Mundy, Sycamore Mayor, or designee

• Rick Olson, Sandwich Mayor, or designee, 

• Greg Maurice, county health department director of environmental health division

• Christel Springmire, county health department solid waste coordinator

• Roy Plote, citizen 

• Jerry Smith, citizen

• Steve Challgren, Ideal Industries representative

Source: Oct. 16 County Board agenda

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