Fall 2020 Household Hazardous Waste Update

Explosive. Corrosive. Flammable. Toxic.

A comprehensive description of 2020? No. Well, maybe. But these terms do capture another topic of imminent concern: Household Hazardous Waste. Household hazardous wastes are substances that can harm human health or the environment.

This year McLean County residents have been carving out space for home offices and homeschooling. As residents have been cleaning out garages, sheds and basements, the Ecology Action Center has received a great many inquiries about proper HHW disposal practices, drop-off sites, and collection events. We know that getting hazardous household waste items out of your way has been a priority, and we’re glad to hear from so many members of our community acting on that personal responsibility to protect the environment by disposing of items with warning labels. What can you do to safely and lawfully dispose of cleaners, batteries, fluorescent bulbs, oil-based paints, antifreeze, pesticides, and similar hazardous household products? Here are your options:

Community Reuse

The fastest, easiest, and most environmentally sound way to get these items out of your way is to donate them to someone who will use them. Online platforms like FreecycleFacebook Marketplace, and Nextdoor.com offer convenient, safe venues where community members can offer or seek items for reuse. If you’ve hesitated or shied away from these online platforms because you’re not sure how to use them, we’ve created a step-by-step guide to help you get started: https://ecologyactioncenter.org/guide-to-community-reuse/


Some hazardous items can be recycled, or materials reclaimed. Automotive fluids such as oil, antifreeze, diesel and gasoline can be reclaimed through local drop-offs. Automotive batteries and used tires can also be reclaimed, and are accepted by some local retailers. Visit RecycleBN.org or download the Recycle Coach app for up-to-date listings, hours and contact information.

HHW Collection Events and Collection Sites

These events/locations do not accept:

  • Latex paint – because it’s not hazardous. If unable to find someone who can use it, dry it out completely and discard with trash.
  • Smoke detectors – due to radioactive content, these should be routed back to the manufacturer.
  • Needles or controlled substances – use proper sharps containers/services to dispose of needles. There are several pharmaceutical drop-off locations in the area – see RecycleBN.org for more information. Call ahead to verify hours and procedures, and please note that these sites generally do not take liquids, lotions, ointments, or inhalers.
  • Automotive batteries – see Recycle Coach for local reclamation options.
  • Propane tanks, fire extinguishers, or explosives – check with manufacturers for disposal options
  • Non-residential items such as agricultural chemicals and business wastes – contact a commercial disposal service such as Safety-Kleen

Locally Funded Collection Events

At the last McLean County HHW Collection in the fall of 2019, our new drive-through appointment system worked wonders to increase efficiency. The average time on site for a drop-off was under 20 minutes, and some residents were in and out in as little as 7 minutes! Fundraising is now underway for the fall 2021 McLean County HHW collection event. We need your help to make this happen! Please donate today at HHWmclean.org.

State-Funded Collection Events

The Illinois EPA is increasing the number of one-day HHW collection events and hopefully will soon fund another McLean County event.  Meanwhile, there are other events within a reasonable drive; as these are state-funded, they are open to any Illinois resident bringing residentially-generated hazardous waste items.

October 10, 2020
Iroquois County Administration Building
1001 E. Grant St.
Watseka, IL 60970

November 7, 2020 **
Illinois State Fair Grounds (specific location TBD)
801 E. Sangamon Ave
Springfield, IL 62702
** This event requires registration in advance.  Register at www.springfield.il.us/hhw

HHW Permanent Collection Sites

The State of Illinois provides four household hazardous waste drop-off facilities. Though they are not conveniently located for central Illinois residents, they do provide an outlet when other options simply won’t work for you. Just like the HHW collection events, these facilities accept residential waste only. In some cases storage capacity may be limited, so please phone ahead before dropping off items.

City of Chicago – Goose Island
(312) 744-7672
1150 N. North Branch / Chicago, IL
Tue 7:00 am – 12:00 pm
Thu 2:00 pm – 7:00 pm
1st Saturday of every month 8:00 am – 3:00 pm

(630) 420-6095
156 Fort Hill Drive / Naperville, IL
Sun 9:00 am – 2:00 pm
Sat 9:00 am – 2:00 pm

Rock River Reclamation District
(815) 987-5570
3333 Kishwaukee Street / Rockford, IL
By appointment only

Solid Waste Agency of Lake County
(847) 336-9340
1311 N. Estes St, Gurnee, IL 60031
By appointment only

The Ecology Action Center is always available to answer questions, provide community education, offer alternative options when possible, in order to help ensure these substances are handled properly so they don’t end up in our regional landfills or waterways. We continue to monitor policy and new developments surrounding safe disposal of HHW. We are working very hard to meet the needs of McLean County residents, and are optimistic about our prospects for more convenient options in the near future.  Your help and financial support can help make that happen.

You can help!

  •  Reduce – purchase only as much hazardous substance as you need
  • Route usable materials for community reuse
  • Recycle when possible
  • Take unusable portions of non-recyclable hazardous products to a collection event or site
  • Donate today at HHWmclean.org to support our next local HHW collection event, anticipated for fall 2021 OR to help support a future local permanent HHW collection facility.

McLean County Waste Rates Converging: 2019 recycling rate dips slightly while waste landfilled continues to decrease

PRESS RELEASE: For immediate release July 13, 2020
Michael Brown 309-454-3169 x.11

McLean County’s recycling rate stayed relatively steady from 2018 to 2019 with only a 1.4% decline. The Ecology Action Center’s annual calculation of community-wide waste generation and recycling shows that the County reached a recycling rate of 45.74%, dropping from the all-time high of 46.44%. As a result, the County maintained progress towards the new community-wide recycling rate goal of 50% set in 2017 under the new 20-year solid waste management plan.  No single category of recyclable materials saw significant fluctuations from the year prior, while there were minor fluctuations across the board in all material streams.

  2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Total MSW Recycled (tons)  73,833 85,196 81,302 83,335 88,459 94,804 88,330
Total MSW Landfilled (tons) 121,991 141,068 154,662 120,815 124,364 109,467 104,772
Total Municipal Solid Waste Generated (tons) 195,824 226,264 235,964 204,150 211,230 204,271 193,102
Percent Change from Previous Year 6.96% 15.54% 4.29% -13.48% 3.47% -3.29% -5.47%
Recycling Rate 37.70% 37.65% 34.46% 40.82% 41.88% 46.41% 45.74%
Percent Change from Previous Year 3.43% -0.13% -8.49% 18.47% 2.59% 10.82% -1.44%

With the closure of the McLean County Landfill in late 2018, the Ecology Action Center continues to focus on waste management priorities as outlined in the Twenty-Year Materials Recovery and Resource Management Plan for McLean County, Bloomington, and Normal, Illinois. This includes diversion strategies for waste that would otherwise require landfill disposal further away from the source of origin.  The impact of the new multifamily recycling ordinance in Normal was undetermined as of yet with only a partial year of the program activity.

McLean County waste rates are converging

The Ecology Action Center annually collects waste and recycling data to calculate the amount of municipal solid waste generated and recycled for all of McLean County as a lagging indicator of the impact of local recycling and outreach programs.  Among other services, the EAC acts as the solid waste agency for Bloomington, Normal, and McLean County and provides technical assistance, recycling promotion, household hazardous waste coordination, education and outreach.

Information on residential recycling, recycling of nontraditional materials, and information on disposal of household hazardous wastes is available by calling (309) 454-3169 or visiting ecologyactioncenter.org.  Find comprehensive online listings for recycling and waste disposal at RecycleBN.org.


EAC Statement on Racial Injustice


CONTACT: Michael Brown, 309-454-3169 ext.11                                   

The Ecology Action Center condemns the inordinate use of force against people of color across the country.  The EAC recognizes the disproportionate impact of pollution and other environmental problems on communities of color due to systemic racism.  The Ecology Action Center staff and board believe that black lives matter and pledge to actively partner with our local communities of color to address environmental issues.

The mission of the Ecology Action Center is to inspire and assist our community 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.






Earth Day 2020 Live Online!

April 22, 2020 Schedule of Events

10 a.m. McLean County State of the Environment Panel Discussion Live

50 years ago the modern environmental movement was launched on the first Earth Day, April 22, 1970.  This single event turned around a dangerous decline in environmental conditions impacting public health and the survival of many endangered species as it inspired the establishment of the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act, and much more.  We’ve come a long way and yet today we are facing unprecedented rollbacks of environmental regulations.  What are the significant areas of progress we have seen in the past five decades and what does the future hold?

A panel of local environmental professionals explore these questions and take your questions live via Zoom chat.  Confirmed panelists include:

  • Shannon Fulton, StraightUp Solar
  • Todd Shumaker, Midwest Fiber
  • Krista Kirkham, The Nature Conservancy
  • Michael Brown, The Ecology Action Center
  • Terra Brockman, Founder of the Land Connection
  • Moderator: Julie Elzanati (first Community Energy Coordinator for the EAC, first Director of the Green Institute at Heartland Community College, instrumental in the creation of the Illinois Green Economy Network)

Attendees will have the option to participate via Zoom Webinar and engage with the panel, asking questions by chat.  Alternately, viewers can watch the live stream of the panel discussion via EAC’s Facebook Live.

Noon:  Launch of Green Reads Book Club Zoom Discussion Group

limited space available-registration required

4 p.m. Importance of Renewable Energy for the Environment and the Economy

Hosted by StraightUp Solar.  Learn how solar plays an intergral role in a sustainable future.  Full details and registration via EventBrite.

5:30 p.m. EARTH DAY LIVE 2020

Join us for a short online family-friendly celebration of the 50th anniversary of Earth Day including a live reading of the Dr. Suess classic The Lorax, music by Bruce Bergethon, and a special compilation of crowd-sourced environmental activities.  You don’t want to miss this once-in-a-lifetime production!

Viewers can watch the live stream of the event via EAC’s YouTube channel or Facebook Live.

7:30 p.m. Local premiere of “The Story of Plastic” – Virtual Showing with limited seating!

4/22/2020 7:20 p.m. update: VIRTUAL SHOWING NOW OPEN!


We are in a plastic crisis.

Plastic pollution is everywhere we look, smothering our oceans and poisoning communities around the world. Meanwhile, Big Plastic only plans to expand production. We need to chart a different course.

Plastic pollutes at every step.

Long before it reaches the environment, plastic harms people and the planet. From production to disposal, our plastic obsession has serious consequences.

As part of Earth Day 2020 observations, the Ecology Action Center is proud to host the local premiere of the new documentary, The Story of Plastic, as a virtual showing.

The link to the virtual showing will be provided on this page at 7:30 p.m. on Earth Day, April 22, 2020.  We anticipate that our limited number of views will run out–please plan to start watching the film on Earth Day evening to ensure that you don’t miss your opportunity.  Please bookmark this page and mark your calendar to join us for this special Earth Day 2020 virtual showing of The Story of Plastic.



Green Reads Book Club

The EAC launched Green Reads, our first community-wide book club, in April 2020 in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day, and as a way to build community during the pandemic.

The purpose of Green Reads is to create opportunities to build knowledge, deepen commitments, and take further action to protect clean water, improve air quality, reduce carbon emissions, improve energy efficiency, and reduce waste, for a more sustainable a healthy local environment for all.

There are two ways to participate in Green Reads:

Green Reads Facebook Group:  The Facebook group membership will be not limited in size; anyone can keep pace with the reading assignments there and engage in discussion with other readers.  Please join us on Facebook! 

Green Reads Zoom Group:  Green Reads Zoom participants will participate in real-time book club meet-ups using Zoom remote meeting platform every other Friday from noon to 1 p.m. starting September 11, 2020 through December 18, 2020.  Participation in the Green Reads Zoom Group is limited to twelve participants in order to allow for a small enough group to allow for easy discussion and participation by all of those attending.  Please only register for this if you are available at this weekly meeting time.  Participation in this limited group is first-come, first serve.  The Green Reads Zoom Group registration is open until full using the ONLINE REGISTRATION FORM. Once the group has reached capacity, this link will be deactivated.

Upcoming Books:

Starting Friday, September 11, and meeting every other week through December 18 we will focus on the topic of Climate Change, and methods for rebuilding a a sustainable green economy.

Our first book will be The Story of More: How We Got to Climate Change and Where We Go From Here by Hope Jahren.  Meeting dates for this book are the following Fridays from noon-1:00pm:  9/11/20, 9/25/20, 10/9/20, and 10/23/20.  

“Hope Jahren is an award-winning scientist, a brilliant writer, a passionate teacher, and one of the seven billion people with whom we share this earth. In The Story of More, she illuminates the link between human habits and our imperiled planet. In concise, highly readable chapters, she takes us through the science behind the key inventions–from electric power to large-scale farming to automobiles–that, even as they help us, release greenhouse gases into the atmosphere like never before. She explains the current and projected consequences of global warming–from superstorms to rising sea levels–and the actions that we all can take to fight back. At once an explainer on the mechanisms of global change and a lively, personal narrative given to us in Jahren’s inimitable voice, The Story of More is the essential pocket primer on climate change that will leave an indelible impact on everyone who reads it.”

On November 6 we will begin discussing A World of Three Zeros: The New Economics of Zero Poverty, Zero Unemployment, and Zero Carbon Emissions by Mohammed Yunus.  Meeting dates for this book are on the following Fridays from noon-1:00pm:  11/6/20, 11/20/20, 12/4/20, and 12/18/20.

“Muhammad Yunus, who created microcredit, invented social business, and earned a Nobel Peace Prize for his work in alleviating poverty, is one of today’s most trenchant social critics. Now he declares it’s time to admit that the capitalist engine is broken–that in its current form it inevitably leads to rampant inequality, massive unemployment, and environmental destruction. We need a new economic system that unleashes altruism as a creative force just as powerful as self-interest. Is this a pipe dream? Not at all. In the last decade, thousands of people and organizations have already embraced Yunus’s vision of a new form of capitalism, launching innovative social businesses designed to serve human needs rather than accumulate wealth. They are bringing solar energy to millions of homes in Bangladesh; turning thousands of unemployed young people into entrepreneurs through equity investments; financing female-owned businesses in cities across the United States; bringing mobility, shelter, and other services to the rural poor in France; and creating a global support network to help young entrepreneurs launch their start-ups. In A World of Three Zeros, Yunus describes the new civilization emerging from the economic experiments his work has helped to inspire. He explains how global companies like McCain, Renault, Essilor, and Danone got involved with this new economic model through their own social action groups, describes the ingenious new financial tools now funding social businesses, and sketches the legal and regulatory changes needed to jumpstart the next wave of socially driven innovations. And he invites young people, business and political leaders, and ordinary citizens to join the movement and help create the better world we all dream of.”


*The links provided for the books link to Bookshop.org. Purchasing books online through Bookshop.org supports independent booksellers across the country, including our own local independent bookstore – Bobzbay*

NOTE: Participation in either the Green Reads Facebook Group or Green Reads Zoom Group is limited to individuals 18 years old or above.  This is an adult level discussion group and the Ecology Action Center has no responsibility for the opinions or comments presented by any participants.  At the same time, participation is contingent upon respectful conduct.  The Ecology Action Center reserves the right to mute, remove, or block any individual at any time.

City and Town Select New Electricity Supplier for Ameren Customers

The Town of Normal and the City of Bloomington participate in municipal aggregation, which allows them to select and alternate energy supplier for Ameren residents. Both municipalities currently use MidAmerican as the current supplier, in a contract that expires at the end of June 2020.  Both have selected Homefield Energy for a new 24-month contract beginning in July 2020.

Bloomington customers’ two-year rate secured through Homefield Energy is $0.04333 per kilowatt hour – this is a “green” energy option. Through green plans, the energy supplier pledges to buy renewable energy credits or RECs from a company that produces power from renewable sources, such as wind. That renewable energy producer agrees to produce and deliver an amount of renewable energy to the grid that is equal to the amount of energy you consumed. The new Homefield rate is lower than the current MidAmerican supply rate of $0.0507 per kilowatt hour and the current Ameren supply rate of $0.04707 per kilowatt hour.

Normal customers do not have “green” energy offered as the default. Instead, the two-year rate secured through Homefield Energy is $0.0424 per kilowatt hour. Normal customers interested in the “green” option can talk to Homefield and switch.  The “green” rate is $0.0433 per kilowatt hour. These new rates are lower than Normal’s current rates through MidAmerican aggregation of $0.0498 and $0.0507 per kilowatt hour for green energy, and Ameren’s rate of $0.04707.

Participation in municipal aggregation is not required. Customers will have the opportunity to “opt out” of the program by May 1, 2020 to avoid having their supply switched, or at any time after service starts, without penalty. Homefield Energy will contact eligible customers by mail with details and to provide opt-out information. Customers who opt out of the program will remain on their current electric supply choice, whether that is Ameren Illinois Basic Generation Service (BSG), Power Smart Pricing, or another retail energy supplier. Be on the lookout for opt-out letters.

Customers that do not opt out, and start getting their electricity supplied by Homefield in July will not receive an additional bill. You will still receive your Ameren bill (in the mail or electronically if you do e-billing) and under supply, Homefield Energy will be listed as your electricity supplier.

There are many options for energy supply and energy production, and right now in Illinois the renewable energy market is growing due to the Future Energy Jobs Act. The Ecology Action Center is here to help you make sense of all the options available to you, so please reach out if you have questions about electrical aggregation, alternate energy suppliers, community solar, or rooftop solar. Contact Larissa Armstrong at 309-454-3169 x15 or [email protected].

Please share your photos and videos of environmental activities past and present

In order to compile a multimedia showcase of how our community celebrates Earth Day and our commitment to improve our local environment, the Ecology Action Center seeks your contributions of photos and videos of activities past and present that demonstrate efforts for a better environment.

We are interested in documentation of environmental activities from years past; as well, we are also interested in examples of beneficial environmental activities from the present day – the Coronavirus Era.  How are you and your household continuing to work towards a better environment while at the same time maintaining necessary social distancing practices and while protecting yourselves and others?  Examples might include time outside in nature, recycling, conserving energy, activities that protect clean air or clean water, or other creative ideas!

Please help us inspire others to continue environmental efforts in celebration of 50 years of Earth Day by sharing photos and videos from recent activities or years past.  Deadline for submission is midnight on Sunday, April 19.  Accepted submissions will be compiled into an online story to be released on Earth Day, Wednesday, April 22.

Please note that all individuals visible in submissions must agree to the usage of their likeness; all minors must have the approval of their parents or legal guardians.

Thank you!

Ecology Action Center cautions residents in selection of alternative energy suppliers

For immediate release
November 3, 2019
Contact: Larissa Armstrong
Phone: (309) 454-3169 x.15

The Ecology Action Center has received numerous inquiries lately regarding letters or postcards people got from Arcadia Power offering energy savings through community solar, or other renewable energy sources.  One of our roles as an energy educator in the community is to ensure residents are able to make informed choices about their energy consumption, and understand different ways to reduce energy costs through efficiency upgrades and renewable energy investment.

The Illinois Attorney General’s office has noted that the majority of residents that switch to alternative energy suppliers end up paying more for their energy.  There are a few key elements to understand and consider before signing up with an alternate energy supplier or third party energy broker.

What is an alternate energy supplier?

Illinois has a deregulated energy market, which allows alternative energy suppliers to sell energy to customers. Alternative energy suppliers are for-profit companies that sell electricity and natural gas to consumers. They offer the exact same energy that your traditional public utility provides, but they can charge higher prices because their prices are not regulated by the state. If consumers choose to receive energy from an alternate supplier, they still receive a monthly bill from Ameren and their alternate supplier is listed on the bill next to the supply rate.
Arcadia Power is not an alternate energy supplier, but instead a third party energy broker. They do not sell energy users power directly – they contract through other alternate suppliers the same way consumers or municipalities can directly.

What is municipal aggregation?

Municipal aggregation is an option for a municipality to choose an alternate energy supplier for their community. Bloomington and Normal both have municipal aggregation agreements for Ameren residents through June 2020. Through those agreements, residents receive their energy supply from MidAmerican Energy.

Renewable Energy Credits

Some alternate energy suppliers offer “green” energy through Renewable Energy Credits or RECs. MidAmerican offers a green energy option through Bloomington and Normal’s municipal aggregation program. In Bloomington, the green energy option at 5.07 cents per kWh is the default. In Normal, residents could choose from a base rate of 4.98 cents per kWh or select the green energy option at 5.07 cents per kWh.
Through green plans, the energy supplier pledges to buy RECs from a company that produces power from renewable sources, such as wind. That renewable energy producer agrees to produce and deliver an amount of renewable energy to the grid that is equal to the amount of energy you consumed. In this case, MidAmerican purchased RECs from a wind producer that generated wind electricity in Texas.

Participating in a green energy program where the supplier uses the REC system does not mean your home is being powered by renewable energy. Instead, it is an investment in renewable energy; but not necessarily an investment in renewable energy here in Illinois.

Arcadia Power is offering renewable energy through this same REC process. Any offers for community solar would also use RECs because Arcadia Power is not one of the developers that was awarded a community solar array project here in Illinois through the Illinois Power Agency’s lottery. Again, they are not a direct energy supplier, so any energy they sell you, whether renewable or not, is through another energy supplier and they are just the third party broker.

There will be options to invest in community solar in Illinois in the near future when some of the arrays that were selected through the lottery process are completed and developers begin selling subscriptions.

Community Solar

Community solar is an option for Illinois Ameren and CommEd residents to purchase subscriptions to large solar arrays operating in their utility territory. Purchasing a subscription to a community solar array will give consumers credit on their energy bill for energy produced by their portion of the solar array.

If the subscription fee consumers pay for their community solar is at a rate lower than their current electricity supply rate, investing in community solar will help them invest in renewable energy in Illinois, and reduce their energy costs at the same time.

Energy Supply Rates

Choosing alternate energy suppliers or third party brokers comes down to understanding the current price you pay for your electricity and the price the other vendors are offering.

Ameren is the default public electricity utility for Bloomington and Normal (for residents and businesses that are not in Corn Belt territory). The current Ameren rate is 4.715 cents per kWh for October through May 2020 (historically it was 4.658 from June – October 2018, 5.038 from October – May 2019, and was 4.561 from June – September 2019). As mentioned in the municipal aggregation section above, Ameren territory residents that did not opt-out of the aggregation program have paid a flat rate of 5.07 cents per kWh in Bloomington and either 4.98 cents per kWh or 5.07 in Normal depending on whether or not residents chose the green option. These rates began July 1, 2018 and end June 30, 2020.

The Illinois Attorney General’s office reported that between June of 2014 and May of 2018, customers in Illinois overpaid for alternative electricity by over $600 million.
Regardless of what salespeople for alternative energy suppliers tell you, you are not required to enroll with an alternative supplier. Taking no action will leave you with the supplier chosen by your municipality – which has contracted a flat rate for two year, or with your public utility (Ameren in our area) as a default – and their rates are regulated by a state agency.

The Ecology Action Center wants to help consumers understand all these elements, so if they choose to utilize offers from alternate suppliers or third party brokers, they can make the choice from an informed position, and avoid paying more for the energy supply in the long run.