Residents of several communities in Kane, Lake and McHenry counties again will have a place to dispose of their plastic foam waste.
In July 2016, several towns, including Algonquin and Barrington, suspended collection programs for plastic foam, of which Styrofoam is a brand, due to a decline in demand for the recycled material.
The Environmental Defenders of McHenry County has reopened plastic foam waste collection in partnership with the Algonquin Township Highway Department. Collection began Tuesday at the highway department offices, 3702 Route 14 in Crystal Lake. Hours are 6:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. weekdays.
Environmental Defenders already was accepting clean plastic foam products with no food residue, expanded polystyrene and packing peanuts at its monthly recycling drives. A new partnership with U-Haul of Crystal Lake allows the agency to transfer plastic foam waste from collection sites to a 53-foot trailer at an Elgin warehouse.
Dart Container Corp., a manufacturer of plastic foam products, will then haul the materials by truck to its facility in Wisconsin where it will be upcycled, said Ken Santowski, owner of Chicago Logistic Service trucking company in Elgin where the collection trailer will be parked.
Santowski has been leading recycling efforts in Kane and McHenry counties for 30 years.
"Our hope is that we can fill up a trailer a week," he said. "Our goal is to quadruple the amount of Styrofoam that we are keeping out of the landfills."
Santowski previously collected plastic foam waste from Algonquin and nine other sites in Lake and McHenry counties for free for several years. He and his employees would pick up weekly from recycling bins placed at the Algonquin and Nunda townships' road district offices, Lakewood village hall and public works facility, downtown Crystal Lake, Barrington Hills village hall, and a residential neighborhood in Lake in the Hills. Those collection sites were discontinued last July.
Now Dart will recycle the collected materials to either sell or give to other processing plants, Santowski said.
Within the coming months, more plastic foam collection sites will be reopened and new locations established in Algonquin, McHenry, Woodstock, and McHenry and Nunda townships' road districts. Pickups from local businesses also is being considered. Residents of Kane and Lake counties also are welcome to donate at these locations.
"We won't say no to anyone," Santowski said. "We are hoping to get many of the sites that we had opened up again."
Though volunteers will pick up waste from these recycling sites, Santowski urged residents to support the Environmental Defenders with donations to facilitate truck rental. To donate, visit mcdef.org or call (815) 338-0393. Donations also can be made directly to the Styrofoam collection program through Generosity.com.