ROCK ISLAND, Ill. — The Rock Island County Waste Management Agency met to approve its 2023 budget, but it won't include restoring its four drop-off recycling sites.
In September 2021, RICWMA closed its four drop-off sites in Rock Island, Moline, East Moline and Milan, citing a significant drop in tipping fees to pay for the service. The tipping fee is money made from dumpsters being emptied at the landfill, and the agency had said less trash came into the landfill throughout the year.
County residents unhappy with the decision proposed that the agency amend its budget to help restore recycling options for those who don't have access to curbside recycling. The group "Bring Back the Bins" said more than 30% of county residents don't have curbside recycling, such as those living in rural areas and those living in multiple-resident properties.
"When I go to recycle these days to the Scott County facility, that is a 15-mile round trip for me," said Rock Island resident Tamara Felden. "At current gas prices, this is a cost that some of my neighbors cannot afford. So if we want to support recycling, we need to actually support recycling and we need to provide drop-off points, and so I encourage you to move in that direction."
"Those of us who use Amazon a great deal accumulate a lot of cardboard," said Moline resident David Anderson. "It's easier for me to recycle it by taking it to the car to the recycle center than to walk to the bin."
Rock Island resident Bev Wilt pointed out all the businesses that are on 53rd Street near the Scott Area Recycling Center in Davenport and is worried that more Illinois residents will start shopping there when they go to drop off their recycling.
"I really wished the county would have looked at this much closer and kept the businesses that we do have," Wilt said.
The group proposed that RICWMA combine two lines in the budget, each for $40,000, for "County-wide Waste Resources Outreach" and "Drop-off Recycling Fund," and designate the $80,000 to the existing "Drop-off Site Subsidy" line item. They said RICWMA could use the funds to offer subsidies to two vendors to operate two free drop-off recycling sites on private land.
RICWMA staff coordinator Brandon Melton said the cost to operate the sites was also increasing, and $80,000 alone isn't enough to restore the four original sites. During the budget meeting, he told the city and village representatives that operating a single site would cost an estimated $69,320 a year.
RICWMA Chairman Mike Waldron ultimately did make a motion to combine the two lines and create "Recycling Opportunities and Incentives."
"The new budget line item that was proposed will be inclusive of recycling activities in the county," Melton said. "That could be support for a drop-off recycling site, it could be a number of different activities relating to recycling. But the bottom line is that there was $80,000 that was allocated towards improving recycling in the county."
Moline-based recycling company Midland-Davis Corporation began accepting bulk recycling drop-offs, including the same business and residential materials allowed by the former RICWMA drop-off sites, earlier this year. Helping improve that drop-off site is an option for RICWMA under its 2023 budget.
"There's some things that they can use help with improving their signage and improving some outreach to make folks aware that that's a resource available," Melton said. "So that could be a potential use. And we would be looking at other proposals from our members relating to drop-off recycling in their communities."
For now, "Bring Back the Bins" is considering their movement a tentative success.
"Once we get some clarification and know what kind of progress Rock Island County Waste Management Agency is doing, I think we've accomplished our goal of getting recycling available free to the public that don't have curbside recycling," said "Bring Back the Bins" chairman Phillip Dennis. "We may have won in making a big step forward, but we have to see how it turns out."
The Midland-Davis drop-off site, located at 3301 4th Ave, accepts bulk recyclables like cardboard, paper, aluminum, glass, and more. The site will be open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday through Friday and from 7:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Saturdays. The site is closed on Sundays.