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Recommendations

The following are proposals that the GO TO 2040 Plan may address to insure optimal waste disposal for the Chicago metro region:

Adopt Source Reduction/Waste Prevention

In this method, material is managed so that it never enters the waste stream. Examples include reusable beverage containers and mulching lawnmowers (National Solid Waste Management Association, 2004). Substituting plastic for metal or glass in the manufacture of products so that they can be reused is a form of waste prevention. This also involves Zero Waste which refers to producing, consuming and recycling products without throwing anything away. The USEPA shows that in 2000 Americans source reduced more than 55 million tons of waste. The region can proactively promote these concepts to residents, commercial, institutional and industrial sectors with an ultimate goal for zero waste to be achieved by 2040.

Implement policies for waste reduction in the region

  • Pay-as-you-throw Policies: consumers pay for volume of garbage that they generate and nothing or a minimal fee for recycling. The goal is to provide a financial incentive for recycling while reducing waste.
  • Extended Producer Responsibility: insures that manufacturers are responsible for the safe disposal and recycling of their products post-consumption.
  • Close the Loop- buy recycled: buying products made from recycled or recyclable materials to insure the continuum of the recycling process by creating sustainable markets for goods.

Corporate Recycling Examples

  • HP recycles print cartridges into Scanjet printer
  • Nike converts old athletic shoes into basketball and tennis courts, football and soccer fields and running tracks
  • Stonyfield Farms takes yogurt cups to Recycline company which manufactures the Reserve toothbrush out of the material
  • Tangent Technologies manufactures park benches out of scrap plastic packaging, which are then donated to national parks by Unilever (CNN Money, 2007).

Alternative waste disposal means

As our region's landfills have only 8 years of capacity in them steps must be taken urgently to insure proper disposal of waste once that period passes. Alternative waste disposal methods may result in alternative energy sources as well as innovation in engineering applications. The region should take a leadership role in exploring these methods and implementing them in the most economically feasible manner for residents and businesses. There exists a plethora of options that can be utilized. An example is scrap tire reuse, recycling (round rubber, rubberized asphalt or energy recovery by burning and producing Tire Derived Fuel). Another example is the use of Clean Construction or Demolition Debris (CCDD) as fill in mines, quarries or other excavation. Co-incineration is yet another one, whereby waste is used in high energy demand sectors to provide power thus saving non-renewable resources by substituting fossil fuels.
 

Further Research and Policy Development

Construction and demolition Debris (C & D) constitute approximately 20% of landfill space (Rathje, 1995). This should be the target for future source reduction and recycling programs as well as better legislation to allow municipalities to have such facilities without dependence on specific population figures as is currently the case. This is one example of where future efforts should head for 21st century waste disposal (link to Teardowns).

In Chicago, there are demolition auctions in which buyers can get fixtures and building material for a greatly reduced price from structures prior to their demolition. More like a treasure hunt than a traditional auction setting, buyers are guided from site to site by Murco Recycling Enterprises, Inc. in pursuit of doors, appliances, kitchen cabinets, etc. which they will uninstall and remove at their own expense. (Murphy, 2008- http://blog.teardowns.com/?p=63)

The region could take a variety of directions in its approach to solid waste disposal. Due to limited landfill space within the region and the difficulty of opening new landfills, shipping larger quantities of waste out of the region is a potential strategy. However, shipping waste long distances consumes fuel unnecessarily, with financial and environmental implications. New landfills or transfer stations could be established within the region, but this is challenging due to high land value, few appropriate sites, and local concern about these projects. In the long term, devising new methods of waste disposal in conjunction with resource reduction, recycling, and more research into new technologies, or innovative approaches like demolition auctions are more sustainable measures for waste disposal. Regardless of the approach, CMAP can collaborate with its partners to investigate, explore and propose waste disposal methods that will insure the continued prosperity of the region and its leadership in green technology and enhanced environment.

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