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State not doing enough to recycle, Illinois officials say

Submitted on Thu, 07/05/2007 – 14:25.
Story by Keri Lynch
Illinois is taking steps to reduce global warming emissions, but much more could be done to improve the state’s recycling programs, say members of the Illinois Green Government Coordinating Council, managed by Lt. Gov. Pat Quinn.

“Current practices are detrimental to total recycling,” said Marc Miller, senior policy analyst for Quinn, who coordinated the council’s quarterly meeting in Chicago in late June. “This is the view, voiced numerous times, of this council.”

In Springfield, where thousands of state workers are based, only cardboard is recycled from paper waste, said George Vander Velde of the Illinois Waste Management Research Center, a division of the Department of Natural Resources that analyzes waste issues. “The current status of recycling is inadequate.”

At the council’s last meeting, agency representatives announced that a new five-year recycling contract was signed for state offices in Springfield that maintains the current program. This prompted Quinn to ask if the Thompson Center – where his office is located and where the meeting was held – and other state buildings in Chicago were recycling.

Council members agreed that this contract – and Illinois’ recycling programs in general – needs to be reviewed on a broader level.

“It’s embarrassing,” Quinn said.

The state is working on goals set for the Illinois Climate Change Advisory Group, established by executive order of Gov. Rod Blagojevich in October 2006. Its members, which were assigned by the governor, represent government agencies, industry, labor unions and environmental organizations

The 40-member group was given a June 30, 2007, deadline to submit a detailed proposal to reduce Illinois’ greenhouse gas emissions. In addition, the order states that Illinois should join the Chicago Climate Exchange (CCX), a greenhouse gas registry, reduction and trading system, with the aim of reducing governmental emissions 6 percent by 2010.

“We’ve met three times to discuss myriad strategies,” said Illinois EPA Director Doug Scott. “There are about 100 things we could do, and we’ve narrowed it to a universe of about 70.”

Those 70 possible strategies were carefully reviewed by sub-groups, Scott said, which identified 24 strategies they shared with the larger group. Although the group missed its June 30 deadline, Scott said they are working fast and making progress on a complex problem other states took years to begin to address.

Work is now being done “to see how much greenhouse gas emissions could be reduced and also the economic impact,” Scott said.

Council participants praised the advisory group for being open and transparent. Group members, meetings and documents are all posted on Illinois EPA’s web site. Scott said the group will bring recommendations for the governor to the advisory group’s next meeting on July 10 at the Thompson Center.

“And we hope to have a final vote to give the governor,” Scott said. “We also hope to publish the recommendations and proposals flushed out with modeling work and also comments, pro and con.”

The council also reviewed environmental legislation in progress in Springfield:

*Phosphorus Bill (HB819/SB376) would eliminate or reduce phosphorus in detergents, which adversely affect water quality in rivers and streams after going down drains. The legislation would ban the use, sale, manufacture and distribution of cleaning agents with more than 0.5 percent phosphorus in Illinois starting July 1, 2010.

“We’re starting to see a log jam breaking on this issue,” said Miller of Quinn’s office. “This bill is on the governor’s desk, and we hope to have it signed in short order.”

*Green Clean Schools Act (HB895) would require elementary and secondary schools to establish green cleaning policies and purchase environmental cleaning products within 90 days of passage, if economically feasible. The bill is on the governor’s desk.

*Electronic Scrap Recycling Act (SB1583) would establish a statewide system for managing electronic waste. It also would prohibit the sale of devices containing mercury, cadmium and lead and prohibit disposal of electronics in landfills or by incineration.

Electronics retailers would be required to post recycling information and manufacturers could establish recycling programs if they met certain guidelines. The current language of the bill, still being debated in Springfield, states that sections of the law would take effect as early as Jan. 1, 2008.

Part of the problem is infrastructure and whether the state has sufficient capacity to manage electronic waste, and part of it is resistance, said Joe Shacter, senior policy advocate for the Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center, which is involved with the e-scrap legislation and the green council.

*Green Government Illinois Act (SB46) would officially create the Green Government Coordinating Council and assist its efforts with state agencies, local governments and educational institutions. This bill is also on the governor’s desk.

“We have to have a green way of thinking, starting now in a new fiscal year,” Quinn said. “We can be a leader in this area.”

With the anticipated passage of the Green Governments Act, the council expects to gain more authority and cooperation with its ongoing environmental efforts to make Illinois even more sustainable

“The government has the opportunity to encourage better (greener) behavior,” Miller said. “We can lead by example.”

Eco & Environment Public Statewide
climate change epa globalwarming illinois green government coordinating council lt. gov. pat quinn recycling

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