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Household Recycling in Peoria Picks Up During Pandemic

With the passing of another Earth Day this month, the number of homes participating in Peoria’s recycling program remains under 40 percent.

“The good news is that the number is increasing every year,” said Brian Rhoades, business development manager for the recycling division of PDC, the company that has garbage contracts with Peoria and a number of other communities in central Illinois.

“It just depends on a variety of economic conditions and the level of importance that local municipalities place on it. The number of homes participating in the recycling program in Morton approaches 70 percent, for example,” he said.

While the amount of materials recycled from households increased during the pandemic, commercial volumes went down, said Rhoades.

“With people ordering more online, there’s been a lot more corrugated cardboard showing up,” he said, adding, “Cardboard is the biggest commodity we reclaim with paper second—in terms of weight.” 

Some plastic grades also have taken on more value. “An empty plastic milk jug is now worth more than an aluminum can,” he said.

Glass, on the other hand, remains a recycling issue, said Rhoades. “It’s very heavy and expensive to haul. It’s hard on the equipment and doesn’t have a lot of value,” he said.

While Peoria residents should continue to include glass in recycling bins, PDC is looking to collect the material separately in the future, said Rhoades, noting that walk-up containers for glass alreadyare being used in Pekin.

Plastic recycling efforts aren’t doing enough to contain the flow of plastic into the environment, said Jennie Romer, author of “Can I Recycle This?”

Plastic production is expected to double within 20 years and quadruple by 2050 when plastic waste entering the ocean will outweigh fish without significant actions, she said.

Romer, a San Francisco attorney, has been involved with plastic recycling for 15 years. “I was there (in California) when plastic bags were initially being banned,” she said.

Efforts to reduce the flow of plastic have been met with resistance by the plastic industry, said Romer.

“The American Chemistry Council is a huge lobbyist on the federal level. They have a lot of front groups with progressive-sounding names like the American Progressive Recyclable Bag Coalition. These are the groups that are pushing back against bag laws,” she said.

But progress has been made to curtail the use of plastic bags, said Romer. “Nine states have adopted statewide laws and 500 local jurisdictions have adopted bag laws,” she said.

“We’re also talking about federal legislation and shifting the cost of recycling and disposal of plastic to manufacturers,” said Romer, who urged consumers to curtail their use of plastic with their own bags and containers whenever possible.

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Steve Tarter retired from the Peoria Journal Star in 2019 after spending 20 years at the paper as both reporter and business editor.