Highland Park has always been a leader. Whether it’s the Frank Lloyd Wright houses or the world famous Ravinia Festival, our town has always blazed its own trail.
And that’s true of our environmental policies as well. A few years ago, our city became concerned about products that we were not recycling and how it was impacting our community and natural resources. With input from the community, environmental organizations, and the Solid Waste Agency of Lake County (SWALCO), we sought a solution that would work for everyone.
Launching a new chapter for Highland Park, the city began working with Dart Container, one of the leaders in foam foodservice products, to help us develop short and long-term plans in addressing this issue. This company had produced results in recycling in other places around America. We decided that their experience would pay dividends with us.
We began a recycling program that grew into a partnership with not only Dart Container but also Pactiv Foodservice/Food Packaging. At the outset, our goal was to determine if recycling this product could work and if it could eventually be a curbside recyclable item in our community.
It began with the launch of the “Recycling Extravaganza” in January 2011. The idea was simple: bring in and collect foam and electronics of all kinds. People responded by bringing their old televisions, computers and cell phones. We could tell from the start that the people of Highland Park were responding to the call to recycle.
While we acknowledge that foam was the not the only product that was not being recycled, it has ushered in a new mentality on how we approach our sustainable future in Highland Park. Since the “Recycling Extravaganza,” the campaign has continued to experience enormous success. In one year, 4,417 pounds of foam have been collected at the Firearms Training Center. And now the program may expand to surrounding areas including Deerfield, Lake Forest, Lincolnshire, Lake Bluff and Highwood.
Here is the best part about the Highland Park foam recycling effort: if it can work here, it can work anywhere. This November 15 is “America Recycles Day.” Since 1997, communities across the country have come together on November 15 to encourage recycling. It is one day to educate and motivate. One day to get our neighbors, friends and community leaders excited about what can be accomplished when we all work together. One day to make recycling bigger and better 365 days a year.
This day celebrates the fact that recycling works. In fact, the national recycling rate has increased every year since 1980. The current recycling rate is 34 percent but it can be higher. “America Recycles Day” encourages people to do two simple but important things. First, learn about what materials are collected for recycling in their communities; and second, it encourages each of us to take action by reducing our own waste and personally committing to recycling.
Recycling works. We know that in Highland Park because we’ve done it and we’ve seen amazing results at a city-wide level. We encourage every member of our community to do the same. It’s smart, it’s simple and it saves both jobs and the environment. Now is the time to be a leader in your own home.
Highland Park City Councilman
Lake County Board-elect