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Committee Scraps 'Simple Recycling' Plan

A plea from Goodwill Industries fearing an interruption in their “crucial donation stream” led the City’s Administration and Public Works Committee on Feb. 12 to reject a proposed contract with Great Lakes Recycling that would have offered free pick up of “soft recyclables” from Evanston homes. There would have been no cost to Evanston residents, and in fact Simple Recycling would have paid the City a modest sum based on the goods collected.

Under the proposal, GLR would have provided Evanston households with bags in which to place items Evanston’s recycling program does not currently accept, such as shoes, toys, pictures, mirrors, blankets, pillows, rags, small furniture, small appliances, TVs, lamps, hairdryers, tools, toasters, microwaves, household or consumer electronics, dishes, pots and pans, glasses, and similar items. Bags would be set on the curb and picked up on the same day as the normal trash and recycling pickups.

GLR would have picked up anything, keeping materials out of the landfill and potentially lowering the amount the City pays to Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook Count for landfill tippage, according to a memo from City staff. By recycling more, the City would throw away less – at least in theory. The “bag-on-the-curb” program would not require a trip to a recycling or donation center.

Several communities have signed on, including Skokie last September.

Paul Gardner, a representative of Simple Recycling who handles local marketing, said the “highest and best use” for the materials they collect is sale in a domestic thrift shop, but some of the clothing and other products are shipped out of the country for use elsewhere. He said the company, founded in Cleveland, has been in operation since 1959.

The company’s status as a “for profit” entity, however, seemed to weigh on the Committee’s mind.

Joan Farrell, the Vice President and General Counsel of Goodwill Industries of Southeastern Wisconsin, addressed the committee on Feb. 12 to emphasize “how crucial the donation stream and recycling stream is to Goodwill.” She said many of the items that would have been left for Simple Recycling are the same items that would instead come to Goodwill.

“We restock Evanston’s entire store only with donations received in Evanston,” she said. The store also pays property taxes and sales taxes in Evanston, she added, and “we can’t do that without a solid donation stream.”

“So are you asking us to vote ‘No’?” asked Alderman Tom Suffredin, 6th Ward.

“Yes, I am asking you to vote ‘No,’” said Ms. Farrell. She said Goodwill takes everything, including the mismatched sock and stained shirt, even items that they will not resell. Anything that does not go onto store shelves is sold to the secondary recycling market, much like with Simple Recycling.

Goodwill has no plans to pick up donations from people’s homes or curbside, said Ms. Farrell. “We can’t afford to do that,” she said, though some other not-for-profits do.

Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward, expressed concern about the donation stream not only to Goodwill but also to the Evanston School Children’s Clothing Association.

 Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, asked about Simple Recycling’s financials and headquarters, but it was clear no more information would be available that night. When it came time to vote, only Ald. Suffredin voted in favor. Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, joined Alds. Rainey and Fleming in voting “No.”

“This does not go to Council,” said Ald. Rainey.


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