Recycling in Oak Park, IL

By Ahleiah Al-Waraqi for SUST 210*

The article “A Third of Oak Park Trash Gets Recycled: Where Does It Go?” by Jim Jaworski from the Trib Local section of the Chicago Tribune discusses recycling and waste management in Oak Park, IL, which is a near-west suburb of Chicago. Jaworski talks about where the recycling and waste goes, how much is being recycled, cost of these processes, etc.

What I found interesting about this article is that “Oak Parkers recycle somewhere between 5,100 and 6,500 tons every year. The program costs the village about $2.5 million a year.” Many towns and those who work in this business make money off of what gets recycled, but in Oak Park there is no profit for these workers when it comes down to the items that get recycled. Waste reduction manager of Oak Park Karen Rozmus states that “A lot of residents think we are making money on recycling, but we are not.”

A worker empties a recycling cart in Oak Park in 2010 (photo: Jim Jaworski)

A worker empties a recycling cart in Oak Park in 2010
(photo: Jim Jaworski)

The percentage of waste that is recycled in Oak Park increased during the 2000s, hitting at peak of 33% in 2009. Raul Chavez, who is a Waste Management hauler in Oak Park, says that after the waste is picked up from Oak Park, “Waste Management takes possession of the recycling, which goes on a journey to Cicero, then to the far South Side, and sometimes as far as China.” The article also talks about the process of recycling, specifically noting some of the things workers find when they are going through sorting the materials. In regards to the unexpected items that have been found in the recycling process, Rozmus states that “people seem to think [anything] can be recycled include handguns, a grenade and mannequins.” This can cause issues for workers and those who profit from the recycling items by selling them because certain items are hazardous and can cause injury if found in waste accidently. This is why people should be more mindful of what they put into recycling and what they put into the regular garbage.

Overall this article demonstrates that Oak Parkers do their best to make sure that their waste and recycling process is smooth and safe, but have failed to capitalize on the prospect of making a profit from the enterprise. The emphasis here is on the environment and making sure that we reduce, reuse and recycle.

Submitted 1 Mar 2013

* Each week during the Spring 2013 semester, two to three students in the SUST 210 Sustainable Future online/Schaumburg class at Roosevelt University will contribute blog posts to the Schaumburg’s Sustainable Future website.

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About Suburban Sustainability

Founder and editor of the Schaumburg's Sustainability Future social media project (est. Earth Day, 2011)
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