Illinois EPA Unveils New Recycling Guide

Nov 21, 2018

Can plastic utensils be recycled? Where can you take electronics for recycling? The Illinois Environmental Protection Agency unveiled a new online tool to answer questions just like those.

Credit Claire Buchanan

The new interactive tool was developed by the state EPA along with representatives from local governments and recycling centers.

Illinois EPA’s James Jennings worked on the tool. He says it was created to address recycling contamination in the state.

Non-recyclable items that are put into curbside recycling bins can be problematic. For example, lithium batteries can start fires, and medical waste poses a health threat to recycling center employees. Non-recyclable items  can also break equipment or ruin the final product.

Jennings says, “Once it’s all baled together, that degrades the quality of the end product. And unless those products meet very specific criteria, it can be difficult to turn it into something of economic value.”

The Curbside Recycling Guide is applicable statewide, but some materials listed as “not acceptable” may be accepted by certain recyclers or through certain programs. Jennings says most materials can be recycled somehow, even if they are not accepted by waste haulers. He says, “One of the most both prophetic and accurate comments that came up during our task force meeting was that a representative of a recycler looked around the room and said, ‘I can tell you where you can recycle everything in this room... if you have time.’”

People can type their zip code into the Beyond the Bin map to find alternate recycling outlets for items that cannot be placed in curbside bins, like electronics and household chemicals.