Good news on recycling front

January 3, 2019

KANKAKEE — Kankakee residents are “moving forward” in their efforts to do a better job in disposing of recyclables, a representative of the local garbage hauler said.

Phoenix, Ariz.-based Republic Services conducted an audit of residents’ recycling in late November and early December.

During the summer, the company reported that 85 percent of recycled materials picked up by Republic drivers in Kankakee ultimately was rejected by recycling centers because other waste contaminated it.

As a result, those materials were disposed of at a landfill.

Last week, Ernie Lopez, an area official for Republic, appeared on Mayor Chasity Wells-Armstrong’s monthly live video session.

She asked him how well the city was doing with recycling.

Lopez replied he lacked specific numbers because the company still was putting together the audit. But, he said, things are better than Republic thought.

“We see a trend moving forward,” he said.

In August, Kankakee had so much recycling contamination compared to other towns, Republic announced it would end the curbside program the following month and replace it with recycling locations in each of the city’s seven wards.

But the city protested, stating this action would violate its contract with Republic. The company reversed itself and promised to conduct an audit to see how well residents were doing.

The mayor said residents wanted another chance.

“One, we want to make sure we are respectful of the environment. Two, we don’t want to lose the privilege of recycling,” Wells-Armstrong said.

The recycling program consists of paper, cardboard, plastic, glass and metal, including aluminum. Glass and plastic containers should be clean and empty, and pizza containers must not have grease on them.

“Grease contaminates a load,” Lopez said.

Residents also should not put their recyclables in plastic bags.

The mayor had simple advice for residents: “When in doubt, throw it out.”

She also said children should be enlisted in the campaign to educate residents.

“I think our kids can do a good job policing. I remember when my son was young, and my grandfather was a smoker. My son learned from DARE in class, and he held my grandfather accountable and told him how harmful cigarettes are,” Wells-Armstrong said. “Kids can be good reminders for adults. Often they are the ones taking out the garbage when parents give them chores to do.”

Lopez said the local schools have an educational program.

The mayor said she was glad to hear good news on the recycling front.

“It sounds like we are moving forward and making progress,” she said.

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