With the state of Illinois in a budget crisis, government officials are looking for ways to cut down on statewide costs to balance out their debt and are looking to recycling programs as their target. However, environmental groups are warning that these cuts could mean an increase in the amount of garbage piling up in the state’s dumps.
According to a 2011 study, 94% of Americans now have access to recycle plastic bottles. Thanks to new recycling products, 40% of Americans also have access to recycling programs that can reuse other types of plastic containers, such as yogurt cups, dairy tubs, and lids. With the proposed budget cuts, recycling workers and environmental groups worry that the cuts will make it more difficult for consumers to recycle their everyday products, thus leading to more reusable products rotting in landfills.
Members of the Illinois Environmental Council sent a warning message to all of their members about the potential cancellation of recycling grant programs provided by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity (DCEO). This includes the suspension of DCEO recycling grants and programs that collect food scraps, according to the Herald Review.
Vice President of the Illinois Recycling Association Melville Nickerson fears that the cuts will lead to more waste in the state’s landfills. He says that their $7 million annual budget helps divert millions of pounds of garbage away from landfills. These programs also help fund recycling programs for both private and public businesses and create new jobs.
“For every dollar in grant money that’s put forward, at least an additional dollar is being spent in order to leverage good recycling outcomes,” Nickerson says.
The cuts will include massive layoffs for recycling programs statewide. However, these layoffs have been put on hold until a judge is able to weigh the arguments of the labor unions, who represent the concerned workers.
According to figures outlined in a spending proposal released back in February, recycling programs diverted roughly 79 million tons of material from landfills last year.
“It’s unfortunate that this is going on,” says Michelle Lechner, executive director of the Illinois Recycling Association. “Hopefully, things will get back up and running when they get a budget.”