EAC seeks nominations for 2019 McLean County Green Awards


For immediate release
September 30, 2019

Contact:   Michael Brown
Phone:     (309) 454-3169 x.11

The Ecology Action Center presents the annual McLean County Green Awards to recognize local efforts to improve our environment.  Nominations are now being accepted for the 2019 awards, with recipients being named in November at the EAC’s annual fall event, the Sustainable Gourmet.

The McLean County Recycling and Waste Reduction Award identifies businesses, schools or organizations with outstanding recycling programs or waste reduction efforts or individuals who have played a role in a successful program or effort. While nominations will be accepted for any recycling or waste reduction project, areas of growing interest include source reduction efforts, especially alternatives to single use items (plastic or paper grocery bags,

The Anne McGowan Making a World of Difference Award recognizes outstanding projects, activities, or individuals in McLean County who promote environmental awareness or natural resource conservation. The EAC dedicated the World of Difference Award in memory of McGowan, an early director of the EAC, due to her ability to inspire and motivate others to take action.  Former EAC Executive Director Michelle Covi described Anne as a catalyst for action.

She was energetic and never hesitated to get her hands dirty. Her natural curiosity and love of the natural world fueled her passion for wildlife exploration and preservation. She shared her love with children and adults alike when she conducted nature walks, wildflower walks, and nature programs. She inspired and nurtured life-long dedication to environmental awareness and conservation in children, college students, and adults whose lives she touched.

In the spirit of Anne, the EAC seeks nominations of worthy projects, organizations, or individuals in nomination for the Anne McGowan Making World of Difference Award or the McLean County Recycling and Waste Reduction Award. Current EAC Executive Director Michael Brown suggested, “if more of us followed the outstanding example set by Anne McGowan, the world would be a much better place.”

Nominations may be made online at ecologyactioncenter.org/green-awards/ or by stopping by the Ecology Action Center at 202 W College Avenue in Normal; all submissions are due by Thursday, October 17, 2019 at 5 p.m. The recipients of the 2019 awards will be named at the EAC’s annual Sustainable Gourmet event on Thursday, November 14, 2019. 

The Ecology Action Center is a not-for-profit environmental agency with a mission to inspire and assist residents of McLean County in creating, strengthening and preserving a healthy environment.  The EAC acts as a central resource for environmental education, information, outreach, and technical assistance in McLean County.

Ecology Action Center launches HHW Fund Campaign for a fall 2019 McLean County Household Hazardous Waste Collection; private donations needed to reach goal


Contact: Michael Brown, (309) 454-3169 x.11
For immediate release: June 17, 2019

With early support from numerous local partners and sponsors, the Ecology Action Center (EAC) is optimistic about a local hazardous waste collection in the near future. Illinois Farm Bureau® (IFB), Compeer Financial, Rivian Automotive, Republic Services, Henson Disposal and Recycling, and Area Disposal Services have all pledged their support for the tentative fall 2019 McLean County Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) collection event. These entities join the City of Bloomington, McLean County, and the Town of Normal as part of a unique public-private partnership led by the EAC.

“We are one of only a handful of Illinois communities stepping up to provide for HHW collection in the absence of reliable Illinois EPA funding and the only community anywhere that I am aware of that provides this service through a combination of public and private funding,” said Michael Brown, Executive Director of the Ecology Action Center. “We encourage all local residents to donate to the McLean County HHW Fund and support this important effort.”

As the solid waste agency for McLean County, Bloomington, and Normal, the EAC is responsible for coordinating Household Hazardous Waste Collection for the community. However, the traditional funding for these events through the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) has become very irregular and infrequent. The McLean County HHW Fund was created to meet the need and has provided for three successful local HHW collections and nearly 75,000 gallons of hazardous wastes collected for safe disposal.

The EAC has set a fund raising goal for the 2019 HHW Fund of $35,000 to allow for a growing awareness of the need for proper hazardous waste disposal and related increases in attendance at the fall HHW collection. The EAC asks local residents to make tax-deductible donations at HHWmclean.org; businesses interested in sponsorship opportunities can contact Michael Brown at [email protected] or 309-454-3169 x.11.

Improper disposal of household hazardous wastes pollutes local water supplies and the environment. Whether it is thrown out with regular trash going to a municipal waste landfill, dumped illegally down the drain, storm sewer, or in a ditch, these actions compromise the safety of drinking water thereby threatening the health and well-being of area residents.
More information on hazardous waste disposal and nonhazardous waste disposal are available at HHWmclean.org or by calling 309-454-3169. Free resources include a notification email list for HHW updates, instructions on disposal of nonhazardous latex paint, suggestions on alternative (non-hazardous) products, and information on the EAC’s Yard Smart program, promoting sustainable landscaping and gardening with less synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

The Ecology Action Center is a not-for-profit environmental agency with a mission to inspire and assist local residents in creating, strengthening and preserving a healthy environment. The EAC acts as a central resource for environmental education, information, outreach, and technical assistance in McLean County.

EAC seeks proposals for hazardous waste collection and disposal

The Ecology Action Center of Normal, Illinois, is soliciting proposals for a fall 2019 Household Hazardous Waste collection event for the residents of McLean County, Illinois.  Please download the full Request For Proposals (pdf) and bid sheet for completion.  Sealed proposals are due to Executive Director Michael Brown by 2 p.m. (CST) on Friday, July 12, 2019.

The Ecology Action Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit environmental agency in McLean County, Illinois. Among other roles, the EAC acts as the community solid waste agency for the City of Bloomington, Town of Normal, and McLean County.

Expanded Recycling Options Continue to Grow in Downtown Bloomington

For immediate release
May 13, 2019
Contact: Michael Brown
Phone: (309) 454-3169 x.11

Local residents and visitors to Downtown Bloomington have access to eight new and conveniently located recycling bins in the area for the first time this summer. In early 2018, funding awarded to the Ecology Action Center (EAC) through an Illinois Prairie Foundation Grant – IPCF Annual Campaign Fund Green Endowment allowed for the installation of four permanent recycling receptacles at the four corners of the McLean County History Museum. The EAC’s partner on this project, the City of Bloomington Public Works Department, provided a match for the grant funding.

In late 2018, the EAC leveraged the success of the initial program to secure donations for the addition of four more recycling receptacles for the downtown area. Midwest Fiber, Henson Disposal & Recycling, Area Disposal, and Republic Services generously provided donations to fund the purchase and installation of four additional receptacles that have been installed in the downtown commercial district.

The nearly 90,000 visitors passing through and attending events such as the annual Farmer’s Market can now easily divert recyclable items away from the landfill with these receptacles located in areas of high pedestrian traffic. All eight receptacles accept common recyclable items that are currently accepted in Bloomington’s and Normal’s single-stream curbside recycling programs. To date, over one ton of potential waste has been diverted through the four original receptacles alone. This number is expected to increase over the coming months as other outdoor events resume and overall activity in the commercial district spikes with the arrival of more favorable outdoor weather.

This program coincides with the long-anticipated closure of the McLean County Landfill which stopped accepting waste on September 30. The landfill closure strongly reemphasizes the need for more sustainable methods of waste reduction as iterated in the updated 20-year Solid Waste Plan for McLean County. It is anticipated that a continual increase of available recycling options will help improve the County’s updated recycling rates goals over the next twenty years.

The Ecology Action Center is a not-for-profit environmental agency with a mission to inspire and assist local residents in creating, strengthening and preserving a healthy environment.  The EAC acts as a central resource for environmental education, information, outreach, and technical assistance in McLean County.

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Popular Grow Solar Bloomington-Normal program returns for 2019, helps property owners lower the cost of going solar

: Larissa Armstrong 309-454-3169 x.15 or Peter Murphy 262-573-3089

The Ecology Action Center (EAC) of Normal, Illinois and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association (MREA) are launching Grow Solar Bloomington-Normal, the third iteration of the successful solar group buy program. The program uses the power of volume purchasing to make solar more accessible and affordable for home, business, and farm owners throughout McLean County. “We are excited to partner with MREA again to bring the group buy back to McLean County, providing another opportunity to expand solar in our community,” said Michael Brown, Executive Director for the Ecology Action Center. “The 2016 and 2018 programs were big successes, and we are confident Grow Solar Bloomington-Normal will help our community continue to expand its renewable energy efforts.”

The Grow Solar Bloomington-Normal group buy program offers multiple free, public, one-hour informational sessions called Solar Power Hours to educate the community about the benefits of solar. Navigating the solar market can be intimidating, creating barriers for solar adoption. The Solar Power Hours answer questions about installing solar, helping reduce those barriers. “This year we’re partnering with key local organizations to help spread the word about the program and host the Solar Power Hour presentations,” said Peter Murphy, Solar Program Manager for the MREA. “The presentation provides folks the information they need to determine whether solar is right for them.”

The first Solar Power Hour will take place Monday, May 13 at 6:30 pm at the Bloomington Public Library at 205 East Olive Street.  Other community partners hosting Solar Power Hours include Green Top Grocery, the Children’s Discovery Museum, and the YWCA of McLean County. All four organizations are assisting with the program because educating the community about, and ensuring increased access to solar aligns with their missions.   Solar Power Hours are scheduled through the program participation deadline of September 30, 2019.  All are free and open to the public. The full Solar Power Hour schedule is available at solarbloomingtonnormal.com.

The Grow Solar Bloomington-Normal program enables residents to improve local energy security through the generation of renewable energy while simultaneously conserving energy and reducing long-term energy costs at their homes or businesses.

The Ecology Action Center is a not-for-profit environmental agency with a mission to inspire and assist our community in creating, strengthening and preserving a healthy environment.  MREA’s mission is to promote renewable energy, energy efficiency, and sustainable living through education and demonstration.


Recycling Not in “Crisis” According to Local Recycling Companies


On an almost daily basis, more reports are appearing in the news about the a perceived recycling crisis related to the Chinese “Green Fence” ban on imports of many types of waste materials that went into effect in China at the beginning of 2018. Even worse, rumors are spreading that recyclers are secretly landfilling the materials they collect for a lack of markets.
Recyclers in Bloomington-Normal say that’s not the case—they would lose more money if they were to do that. Collecting and transporting recyclables to their sorting facilities only to turn around and pay to have them landfilled simply doesn’t make economic sense. But what is true is that weak markets and high contamination rates are real challenges that have real impacts.
According to local recyclers such as Midwest Fiber and Area Disposal Service Inc., increased rates of contamination are making recycling more difficult and more expensive. The more contaminants mixed in with recyclables that enter a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF), the more work it takes to sort the recyclables, removing the bad from the good. Increased contamination requires more people on the sorting lines and the conveyors to move slower, so processing costs per ton go up.

Local recycler Area Disposal Service Inc. is even currently phasing out glass as an “acceptable” material for recycling due to high direct and indirect costs for processing and recycling glass, including wear and tear on sorting equipment. Current and new residential and commercial customers of Area Disposal will be notified to no longer include glass in their recycling carts.
The Ecology Action Center, working with local recyclers and as part of a statewide anti-contamination initiative launched last year, has completely changed their recycling messaging to help reduce contamination. “It’s really simplified at this point—there are no gray areas,” says Michael Brown, Executive Director of the EAC. “The new messaging clearly illustrates what materials are acceptable in curbside recycling programs. Anything that is not shown as acceptable is now unacceptable—we need to err on the side of caution to reduce the contamination rates sufficiently.”
The EAC’s new recycling flyer is available for download as a pdf file at recyclebn.org/#newrecyclingguidelines or is available for free by stopping by the Ecology Action Center during regular business hours or the City of Bloomington Public Works Department or the Town of Normal Public Works Department.


On America Recycles Day – Are You Recycling Right?

Bloomington-Normal, IL-  Nov. 15, 2018 –  On America Recycles Day, local government leaders, multiple organizations and the waste industry, are asking consumers if they are recycling right.  Based on audits performed by the recycling industry, one in four items placed in the recycling cart is not recyclable which has led to increased contamination.

To tackle the issue of recycling contamination, the National Waste and Recycling Association (NWRA) and Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) formed a state-wide task force to bring the recycling industry – haulers and sorting facility operators – together with government and business to develop simple, cohesive recycling education materials to help residents better understand what items should and should not be placed in recycling carts.

“Recycling is more highly contaminated with non-recyclable garbage than ever before,” said Walter Willis, SWALCO executive director and co-chair of the NWRA – SWANA task force.  “The non-recyclable items weigh down sorting facilities, reduce commodity prices, and affect the re-manufacturing markets,” continued Willis.

“Recycling facilities report contamination from 25% to over 35% in some of the recycling streams,” said Lisa Disbrow, vice chair of the Illinois Chapter of NWRA and co-chair of the NWRA and SWANA task force. “As recycling facilities add labor to help remove contamination and slow lines to improve recovery, these additional costs are passed along which may increase costs for local governments, and ultimately residents,” commented Disbrow.

The task force identified the most common items placed in the recycling cart that are not recyclable including plastic bags, tanglers (i.e. garden hoses, wire, cords, clothing), food waste, medical waste including syringes, and batteries.  As a result of the task force discussions, guidelines were developed to represent the common recycling denominators of all programs throughout the state, and the goal is to have them as go-to guidelines for all programs, all haulers, and all educators throughout the state. Participating in the discussions at the task force, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency developed and launched a new webpage this month to answer recycling questions for Illinois residents: https://www2.illinois.gov/epa/topics/waste-management/Pages/recycling.aspx

“Plastics are the most commonly misunderstood items,” explained Marie Streenz, Operations Analyst with Midwest Fiber Recycling in Normal. “The resin identification code number in the triangle does not mean that a plastic object is recyclable!  Plastic containers – bottles, tubs, jugs and jars – are the only plastic items recyclable in your curbside carts. Please keep all flexible plastic packaging, pouches, bags, and wraps out of your recycling!”

To both reduce contamination and simplify the message, a streamlined recycling flyer has been developed that is virtually universal across Illinois.  “Beyond that, if local residents want detailed answers of what is and what is not recyclable, they can always call us at 309-454-3169 or check out our easy-to-use Recycle Coach app at RecycleBN.org,” said Michael Brown of the Ecology Action Center.