The Highland Park City Council was facing a mounting issue in late winter 2010. But it was not due to the mounds of snow that was covering the City but because of another well-recognized white material.
Residents and businesses were at odds over plastic foam #6, which is commonly referred to as “Styrofoam”.
Some residents were becoming concerned over the amount of polystyrene foam in the waste stream and urged the City to consider a proposed ban on foam foodservice packaging. But many restaurant owners wanted the City to reconsider, given the economic impact this could have on businesses in an already tough economy.
Unlike some other cities that have jumped to ban products instead of attempting to address the core issues, the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County and Highland Park decided to work with the manufacturers of polystyrene to develop a short-term and hopefully long-term recycling solution.
When approached by Dart Container Corporation, a leading manufacturer of foam foodservice products, we were anxious to learn more about their successful recycling programs in other communities across the nation. After hearing more about these programs, we decided to explore a recycling program with them, with the goal being to determine if the recycling option is a better solution than a ban.
The partnership ended up being a collaborative effort with Dart Container Corporation, Pactiv Foodservice / Food Packaging, the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County and the City of Highland Park. The program launched with a “Recycling Extravaganza” in January, collecting foam and electronics, including TVs, computers and cell phones.
We are really happy with the program’s success so far and it helps confirm that residents want this recycling option. It’s providing Highland Park residents, business and organizations an opportunity to recycle foam and help divert it from local area landfills. To date, more than 1,500 pounds of foam have been collected, a significant figure given the lightweight of foam! We continue to evaluate the program and are considering extending the pilot on through June 2012. We’ve also expanded it to residents of Deerfield, Lake Forest, Lincolnshire, Lake Bluff and Highwood.
SWALCO and Highland Park continue to challenge the manufacturers to find a long term sustainable method for collecting polystyrene with the ideal solution being incorporating polystyrene into existing residential curbside recycling programs and commercial recycling programs. We have helped coordinate and participated in meetings with recycling facilities in the region that accept Lake County’s recyclables. These discussions are preliminary and hopefully will lead to acceptance of polystyrene in existing recycling programs.
We’re proud of the pilot drop-off established in Highland Park and its growing use and success. We’re helping building a greener and cleaner community in a way that still allows our local businesses and economy to prosper. As the pilot program continues we hope this collaboration will result in a win for the environment and a win for the manufacturers.
Walter Willis, Executive Director
Solid Waste Agency of Lake County
847-336-9340 x 2