Recycling in America Goes Home, But Can it Go BIG?

2017 Illinois Sustainable Award winners recycle

Recycling was the number one achievement of 2017 Illinois Sustainability Award Winners.

Happy America Recycles Day!

 

This annual upbeat reminder that “we use too much, buy too much, and toss too much” shines a light on a society that more and more gets it.

 

At our homes and schools, the interest and the opportunities for recycling keep growing, slowly. Here in Champaign, IL, two collection events this year gathered 146 tons of electronics for recycling.

 

But as much as we waste at home — over-consuming our disposable goods — that is a small fraction of the estimated volume of non-household waste (i.e. industrial, manufacturing, commercial, construction, mining, etc.).

 

A new analysis of winners of the 2017 Illinois Sustainability Award suggests many of those big players get it too. The number one sustainability initiatives by ISA winners was for waste reduction. When AbbVie took down three buildings on its North Chicago campus they wasted nothing. All of the metal was recycled and all of the masonry and concrete was crushed for current and future use.

 

illinois sustainability award winnerCaterpillar, Inc. knows big. When its Surface Mining and Technology site in Decatur committed to a Zero Landfill goal, they created a by-product catalog, devising a “plan for every waste.” The result has been an average recycling rate in the 90s.

 

Dynamic Manufacturing Inc. in Melrose Park is in a recycling business of sorts. They restore used automotive transmissions and torque converters for reuse “as-new.” By installing a solvent recovery system, they now recycle 35,000 gallons for reuse on-site rather than transporting it for disposal.

 

What was number two? Maybe better news – process upgrades, optimization, and planning. These achievements eliminate waste before it exists. Here is where sustainable supply chains, sustainable product design, and better packaging open doors to easier recycling and hopes of a circular economy.

 

The third most prevalent achievement leading to a 2017 Illinois Sustainability Award was community involvement. That brings us back home. These companies value recycling and that is reinforced by employees and their communities. Marion automotive parts maker Aisin Manufacturing Illinois purchased four collection trailers for the Recycle Williamson County program. Caterpillar in Decatur encourages its employees to reduce waste and recycle by donating all recycling proceeds to local charities and agencies, also nominated by those workers.

 

That’s a Happy America Recycles Day.

About Jim Dexter

Communications Coordinator, Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, Prairie Research Institute, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
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