By Herb Meeker
News Report Staff
A recycling study group believes a recent community survey shows many residents believe Effingham County could do better on reducing the waste stream.
“The community as a whole says we need to do better on recycling,” said Sarah Ruholl Sehy of the community survey conducted from November to December of last year by Effingham Recycles, a non-profit group looking into local recycling facts and opportunities.
One change that seemed to be on the mind of most of the 600 respondents was starting a curbside recycling program. The survey had 83 percent stating they would definitely use curbside recycling and another 11.5 percent indicated they “maybe would.” Curbside was requested in 39 of the 130 collected written comments.
“That many respondents said they would use curbside recycling if it was available,” Ruholl Sehy said.
What would be a reasonable price for curbside recycling? The figure of $9.50 per month was the average price respondents indicated they would pay for that service. There is support both for a monthly or bi-weekly pickup program.
This should come as no surprise. The survey showed most respondents were already active in recycling. There were 442 recycling household items like cans. And 541 donate used clothing, furniture or other household goods. A total of 363 survey responders recycle electronic items, including computers. There were 250 working to reduce the amount of waste out of their homes through changing buying or consumption habits, while 217 practiced composting of grass clippings or other yard waste. Only 97 respondents expressed a commitment to hazardous waste recycling, which reveals the limits in that area.
The majority of survey respondents were women, totaling 75 percent. Many of them were longtime residents of the county at 28.4 years. In addition, 78 percent of the respondents work in Effingham County and 62.5 percent reported an education level of at least a Bachelor’s degree.
But the survey showed that even with that group of respondents there is a knowledge gap on available recycling services. Only 37 stated they were extremely familiar with the recycling offered, and only 110 were very familiar. There were 129 slightly familiar and 71 were not familiar at all with what their community offers on recycling opportunities.
There were 23.12 percent stating they do not recycle because they are not aware of the recycling services here.
This lack of awareness was emphasized by some written comments on 21 of the surveys.
“I think people need to know more about recycling. . . . Stress the importance and ease of doing it!” one respondent wrote.
Another stated, “Would like to be better informed of my options and where I can take my recyclables.”
There was a mixed response on satisfaction with the existing private recycling programs through the Paper Depot by St. Francis Assisi Catholic Church at Teutopolis and the bins by Centenary United Methodist Church in Effingham. A total of 36.33 percent of the respondents were somewhat dissatisfied and 24.28 percent were somewhat satisfied.
The local landfill effect was also addressed in the survey with respondents offering concerns on the amount of garbage ending up in the landfill and also the amount of potentially recyclable materials being buried in a landfill. Those responses over reliance on landfills totaled 59.56 percent and 78.09 percent, respectively.
Effingham Recycles believes Effingham County officials should set a tipping fee to supplement recycling costs. The group believes a tipping fee would put Effingham County in line with counties across Illinois.
“The next step for the county is to implement the tipping fee,” Ruholl Sehy said of the long-idled decision by county officials on setting the fee. “We’re one of only three counties not with a tipping fee. And up to 40 percent of the waste going into that landfill is from out of this county.”
Ruholl Sehy said the survey results show local taxpayers want a change in the recycling opportunities in Effingham.
“A community reflects its values through its taxing bodies. With the landfill, we’re not only bearing our own waste, but taking in others’ waste as well.”