Despite the various new technologies that are emerging for solid waste disposal, landfilling still remains the most common solution in the northeastern Illinois region. The establishment and closure of landfills could pose a potential hazard to ground water, due to leachate seepage, and air quality due to gases released. Unless proper maintenance and management is sustained for a fairly long time (30 years), public health may be compromised as a result. Such management is costly and potentially dangerous if faulty. Thus, a safer and more sustainable approach may be minimizing the number of landfills constructed and insuring their longevity so as not to continue taking viable land for waste disposal. It is therefore critical to divert waste from landfills through reduction and recycling.
The Chicago metro area produces the most waste per capita in the state in spite of advanced and available resource reduction and recycling options. If we continue on this trend, we will face grave consequences by 2040 or before. Clear and decisive actions must be taken today to avert costly and environmentally compromising means for disposing of our waste in the future.
There seems to be significant awareness of the importance of recycling in the region, however not all communities have curbside collection at single and multi-family homes, specifically in the unincorporated areas. Generally, businesses in the region do not have a mandate or incentive to recycle other than consumer appeal which does not necessarily prompt them to partake in these activities. Open/illegal dumping and burning of unacceptable wastes has been listed by several solid waste professionals in the area whom we surveyed. Although these experts are in consensus that landfilling waste is the most economical disposal method, they also agree that more recycling and resource reduction should be attained to reduce the continuous need for landfills. That said, not all counties have recycling ordinances, the main reasons being political opposition and lack of funding for personnel to propose, monitor and enforce regulations. The various counties and municipalities will have to collaborate to reach a comprehensive solution that addresses solid waste disposal regionally. CMAP can play an important role towards that end in proposing policies and techniques that will handle this issue in an innovative and sustainable manner.