Suburban Cook County has announced plans this month to change its Solid Waste and Recycling Ordinance in order to improve the ways it handles ways — from the strengthening the inspection process of landfills and other waste management sites, to developing more effective recycling programs, to reducing illegal dumping in the county.
Terms of the ordinance are described in detail in this blog post from the County’s recently created Office of Sustainability. As writer Laura Oakleaf notes,
The ordinance will benefit Cook County residents through:
- Collection of comprehensive data that does not now exist on the volume of waste, how much is being recycled and what is in the waste stream. This information is needed to help communities in suburban Cook County boost their recycling rates and find economic and revenue opportunities in the often-valuable materials that are now thrown away.
- More frequent inspections of landfills, waste transfer stations and composting facilities. Despite high volumes of solid waste passing through many of these facilities, and the serious environmental problems that can result, there is no local entity that regularly monitors them.
- The ordinance also includes monitoring of recycling facilities, such as junk yards, scrap collectors, compost facilities, and large industrial recycling facilities. In suburban Cook County these facilities are not regularly monitored by either state or federal governments despite conducting operations that can have a significant impact on the environment and nearby communities.
- The ability to respond quickly to complaints of toxics spills including liquids, fly dumpers, odors and other environmental issues and to enforce safety and health standards by prosecuting violations.
- Requirements on recycling facilities that make it harder for thieves to sell stolen materials – which commonly include public property such as manhole covers, as well as chain-link fencing, wire and building debris such as downspouts and gutters.
- A boost in community programming such as recycling opportunities, disposal for difficult to dispose of household wastes, public education on waste reduction and partnering with municipalities to seek grant and other outside resources for recycling and waste disposal.
While this list looks impressive at first glance, we await news that this proposed ordinance is approved by the County Board and, even more importantly, put into swift action in the dozens of Cook County’s suburban communities, the collective population of which exceeds that of Chicago itself.