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County explores feasibility of zero waste

Task force explores whether reduction in landfill trash is feasible

DeKALB – Boulder County’s population may be three times the size of DeKalb County, but it generates less waste.

County Board member Marc Johnson, D-Sycamore, shared with the newly created Zero Waste Task Force on Thursday that the county in Colorado, which has an estimated population of 318,000, produced more than 61,000 tons of waste last year. Meanwhile, DeKalb County, with its population of about 105,000, generated more than 108,000 tons of waste last year despite a recycling rate of 61 percent. 

“As you can see, we’re generating so much more waste that our recycling rate almost becomes a moot point,” he said. 

Having a policy that aims to reduce waste in landfills through reusing resources as a guiding principle for the county’s solid waste management plan may be the solution.

A 13-member Zero Waste Task Force created by the DeKalb County Board is set to find out whether such a policy – also known as a zero waste policy – will be feasible for the county in the next 10 months.

The task force met for its first meeting Thursday to learn about zero waste initiatives and current efforts from county officials to reduce waste. 

Members decided to meet once a month and have until the end of August to produce a report of their findings for county officials and board members. Their next meeting will start at 1:15 p.m. on Dec. 5. 

A zero waste policy aims to reduce waste in landfills through recycling, reusing resources and other initiatives. During his presentation on zero waste policy, Johnson said it would take more than increasing recycling efforts or buying reusable products to achieve this goal. 

“It’s all these things together,” he said. “It’s making sure that the very last place that [the waste] can go to is the landfill.” 

Boulder County has a zero waste policy. One way Boulder County officials have reduced waste is by giving financial incentives to businesses to follow zero waste guidelines such as using composted material. That measure led to 0.1 percent increase in sales taxes, he said. 

A similar measure could be used in DeKalb County, Johnson said.

He suggested collecting food waste for compost and presenting educational programs at public schools. He also said Northern Illinois University officials might consider adopting a zero waste policy for campus.

Waste Management representative Mike Hey, a member of the task force, said he plans to provide insight and guidance to the task force because he is from the waste management industry. He said the goal of achieving a zero waste policy will always be a goal.  

“Zero waste is perfect … but it’s the thing to strive for,” he said. 

If you go

What: Zero Waste Task Force
When: 1:15 p.m. on Dec. 5
Where: DeKalb County Community Outreach Building, 2500 N. Annie Glidden Road, DeKalb

For more information, contact the DeKalb County Health Department at 815-758-6673.

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