Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County — a model of cooperating villages

GLENVIEW — Every workday 150 waste disposal trucks rumble into the 7-acre grounds of the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County in Glenview.

Since 1988 the joint municipal agency has been a transfer station for garbage and recyclables that are picked up in 23 nearby suburbs, resolving a need to lower hauling rates and to meet the requirements of environmental regulations.

Remodeling contractors, landscapers and residents also use the station on River Road near the Des Plaines River, where all refuse and recyclables are dropped off, then transferred to landfills in Northbrook and Winnetka.

The 40,000-square-foot waste station is a bustling, loud, grimy repository with huge backhoe trucks pushing and loading trash into long, high-sided waste hauling trucks.

Occasionally, the trucks run over capped water bottles or basketballs, causing loud pops and muffled explosions, echoing across the dark depot.

“The core mission of the agency is helping people become more environmentally and economically responsible in disposing waste,” said Steve Schilling, assistant executive director of the Solid Waste Agency.

With landfill sites filling up and closing, as well as villages paying up to 20 percent more a year for pickup services, Schilling explained municipalities saw value in cooperating.

“So villages wanted to aggregate waste and get purchasing power on the market to create steady, predictable rates,” he said.

“Similar to the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Chicago, forming the agency was unprecedented in getting many villages to agree to this project.”

Two federal laws, the Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 and The Clean Water Act four years earlier, established rules for eliminating water pollution and controlling hazardous waste.

Schilling said the laws motivated local governments to create environmentally missioned groups like the Solid Waste Agency.

The agency contracts with Groot Industries, the largest waste management provide in Illinois, to transport waste to landfills.

More than 5 billion tons of waste are brought to the agency each year.

Schilling said the agency’s current “biggest obstacle” is getting multi-family homes and high-rises to recycle more.

These buildings lacked rooms or space for containers where they can deposit recyclables, he said, explaining building and codes often did not require them.

“That’s one thing we need to study. We would have go meet with villages to survey all the buildings.

“But village staffs are getting thinner and thinner. It would be hard to track the information,” he said.

The agency also has an active recycling education program that reaches out to school, villages and homes.

Mary Allen, its recycling education director, was initially hired part time, but the need for many programs caused the position to become full time for her.

“Our primary mission is educating residents about solid waste technology and informing them on solid waste challenges,” she said.

“We show people how they can reduce waste and about the toxicity of waste in the environment, like flushing medications down the drain,” she added.

The Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County also sponsors several document destruction and electronics recycling events each spring.

From 9 a.m. to noon Saturday, July 19, 2014, Glenview will host such an event at Glenview Police Department, 2500 East Lake Ave.

As residents drive up, workers will unload the paper documents and electronics.

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