The executive director of the Ecology Action Center in Normal said there are signs the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) is emerging from years of financial constraints and government deadlock.
Michael Brown said he is optimistic the agency will resume residential hazardous waste collection on a broader scale.
The Ecology Action Center has coordinated a public private coalition of McLean County municipalities, businesses, and not for profits to conduct three previous collection events over the last decade and another planned event in September. Each one costs about $140,000, depending on the amount of material collected and the disposal costs, said Brown.
“We found a system that works, at least for the time being in the interim, until state funding does return to a more reliable cycle where we can count on that. Our program really wasn't intended to be a permanent replacement for state funding. The state has always had responsibility to help local communities on this, and we do hope that that's returned at some point,” said Brown.
Brown said this year, the IEPA has recently scheduled up to 15 events for household hazardous waste collection and environmental awareness around Illinois.
He said it's possible the September collection planned at the Rivian plant in Normal will be the last the community has to pay for.
“That would be exciting to me, to not look to the local governments to help provide you know, actually the bulk of the cost of the event that would help everybody and free up resources for other needs in the community,” said Brown.
According to Brown, without these services, three-quarters of household hazardous waste is poured down drains or put in landfill trash. As a result, hazardous wastes can potentially eat through landfill liners and contaminate groundwater, he said.
“We got to make it more accessible, more available, more convenient, just like single stream curbside automated recycling reduced the participation barriers for most households Bloomington-Normal and really increased participation rates and volumes of materials recycled. We need to come up with similar strategies to reduce the barriers for participation in proper disposal of hazardous waste,” said Brown.
Brown said one of the ways to reduce these barriers is to build a permanent hazardous waste facility.
Brown estimated the upcoming McLean County household hazardous collection event in September will cost the Bloomington-Normal community about $140,000. The Ecology Action Center is seeking at least $35,000 in private donations in addition to cash or in-kind contributions from nine community partners to cover the cost of the disposal.
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