An occasional drive by the recycling center on South Second Street in Pekin is a clear indication that many people do not understand the dos and don’ts of making Tazewell County recycling work well for all at the center and at the curb.

Pekin residents have curb side pickup of recyclable materials, as do a handful of other communities in the county. The Tazewell County Board and the city of Pekin have an agreement for a county wide recycling center at South Second Street and Cynthianna Street, where any resident of Tazewell County can bring recyclable materials, said Robert Shaw, city of Pekin operations supervisor for streets and solid waste.

But people tend to abuse both the county and the city curb side recycling programs.

People drop off everything at the center including tires, plastic toys, siding, electronics and tons of other materials — none of which can be recycled. Those items have to be hauled away by the city at the city’s expense. The city on June 12 picked up garbage and a huge tractor tire. Glass was busted intentionally around the back of the bins. The very next day the city had to stop again to pick up stuff that cannot be recycled.

Shaw said that the city has installed a new infrared camera system to help catch people who come to the center after dark to dump illegally. The infrared will make it easier to get license plate numbers. The camera feeds to the solid waste department computer system for monitoring.

Area Recycling is required to take the huge bins on Second Street to empty three times a week, but when people find the bins are full, they leave their bags of recyclables piled against the bins.

“People complain that the city doesn’t empty the bins,” said Doug Arrowsmith, Pekin solid waste route foreman., “But the city doesn’t do that — we don’t even have any truck to empty that. That’s a roll-off bin.

“Area Disposal picks up on Monday, Wednesday and Friday. If the bin is full on Tuesday, they don’t come and get it until Wednesday.”

Area recycling puts the excess materials that have been left at the side of the full bin and place it in the new bin, so the bin can already be half-full on pickup day, said Shaw.


Pekin’s recycling

Some have been upset that the small city red recycle bins are not picked up at the street in Pekin anymore. The city has moved away from the small bins and now have wheeled recycle totes with red tops, said Arrowsmith.

“(The small red boxes) tip over, they’re unwieldy, people get them to heavy,” said Arrowsmith. “I used to do recycling routes, and people would load them up with paper. And it’s difficult to lift that to the truck.

“We’re trying to go to the toter just like the garbage (department) did. So if you’re going to produce enough recycling that you need more totes, you can always get another toter.”

Some people want to keep the small red plastic boxes to use for other purposes and they can keep them, but they cannot be used for recycling at the street.

When the city first started the recycle totes, the city offered them free if people got them before a certain date. There was a huge demand for the totes. The new totes can hold a lot more materials and can be lifted by recycle trucks. 

“It was a lot more than estimated,” said Arrowsmith. “We couldn’t figure out the reasons why.

“I think people found that they could get them swapped out for free. And that was good for us, because we want them to recycle. But I don’t see that (free bins) coming back.”

Shaw said the city spent well over $100,000 in the tote swap program giving away free recycle totes.

“It’s not cheap,” said Arrowsmith. “We started last year and had to order toters three times (to fill the demand).”

Route drivers passed out 3,000 fliers last year to let people know about the swap. The city ordered 3,500 toters in all. The recycle totes may now be purchased for $60 for a 64 gallon tote.

Recyclable materials are cheaper to take in to the recycle center than garbage to the landfill. If the market is favorable, the city can even get paid for recyclable materials. The recycle program has evolved over the years.

In the early days, all materials had to be separated out by type of materials — cans, newsprint, plastic and so on. Now, the city and the recycling center accept commingled materials — everything can go in one recycle tote. The recycle center has a system of conveyors that sorts the materials.

More people are recycling, said Arrowsmith, as is evidenced by more stops on the route. He said he is still delivering recycle totes to new people who want to start. Some people have even bought the 96 gallon garbage tote, painted the lid red and are using it for a recycle tote.

“As long as they’re painted red, the drivers can tell the difference,” said Arrowsmith.


What can be recycled

Every community has different rules about what can be recycled.

The city receives a lot of calls from angry people that some things are not taken.

“Basically you can recycle about anything except glass and Styrofoam and plastic bags,” said Arrowsmith. “Walmart and other stores have places to take plastic bags.

“A big bag full of plastic bags or plastic wrap off of your TV, recyclers don’t want that. They don’t want the styrofoam or any glass. What we get is, people put out a big TV box and that’s a lot of cardboard, bulky, to put in the garbage. We can’t take that Styrofoam, so if they take the Styrofoam and the plastic out and put it in the garbage, then put the TV box out, we can recycle the TV box.”

If the box is bulky, the resident may need to cut it down and tape the sheets together.

“It’s just easier on the drivers if they’re not picking up 50 cardboard boxes when they can pick up two bundles,” said Arrowsmith.