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Recycling at Commercial​ Establishments

The information in this page is for f​or-profit businesses, non-profit organizations, and institutions, including local, state and federal government offices, places of worship, and both public and private schools, which are collectively referred to here​ as commercial establishments. Commercial establishments that generate recyclable materials on site anywhere in Kane County are required by ordinance to separate recyclables and obtain collection service (Kane County Code of Ordinances, 11-112). For the purposes of the ordinance, recyclable materials include paper fiber and cardboard, metal cans, small plastic containers, and glass containers.

Do you work for or frequent a commercial establishment where recycling is not provided? Please contact us at (630) 208-3841 or recycle@kanecountyil.gov. Your report can be anonymous. It is helpful if you can provide a phone number or email address for an operations manager. When we receive reports, we work with commercial entities to help them understand the ordinance and establish suitable, cost-effective service or to seek a waiver where warranted. Penalties are assessed as a last resort.

See our “Frequently Asked Questions" guide for commercial establishment compliance with the Kane County Recycling Ordinance.

Establishing New Recycling Service

It is strongly recommended that commercial establishments obtain multiple quotes for service since pricing can vary a lot. Managers should also read over contracts carefully, with advice from legal counsel if possible. Things to examine include:

  • What is the duration of the contract?
  • Is pricing fixed during the duration of the contract, or is it variable?
    • If variable, is there a maximum annual increase​
  • How are contamination fees assessed and how large are these fees?​​
  • Under what conditions may the establishment end the contract?
  • What are the penalties for ending the contract early?
  • What happens if the waste company is merged or bought during the term of the contract?

Commercial Establishment Recycling Challenges

When recycling service is provided, there are still some challenges that are fairly unique to commercial entities. The entities (or commercial property managers on their behalf) enter private contracts for service with waste haulers. Some waste haulers assess contamination fees when items that are not recyclable are placed in commercial recycling dumpsters because it costs the hauler money to fish those items out and take them to the landfill (or, if the hauler is dependent on a third party processor, they might be assessed fees for contaminated loads). If contamination is a frequent problem the fees really add up.

There are two main sources of contamination in recycling containers: fly dumping and improper recycling practices by staff, customers, or other people with authorized access to recycling containers.

Fly dumping occurs when people who are not affiliated with a commercial establishment trespass and use the recycling container illegally to dispose of items that are not accepted in the recycling container. Potential solutions to fly dumping include placement of dumpsters in locked or access-limited enclosures, use of container lock bars which can be obtained from haulers, and/or use of surveillance equipment to monitor container use. If surveillance equipment is used, signage indicating monitoring and penalties is also useful.

Improper use occurs when there is misunderstanding or a lack of consideration among staff or customers about what materials can be placed in recycling, or if the garbage dumpster fills up and staff use the recycling container as overflow. If there's a problem with overflow, the garbage container size or collection frequency should be adjusted to fit the need. Other contamination issues need to be addressed through communication to staff and/or customers.

It can be very helpful for commercial operations or facility managers to make a list of disposable items that staff and/or customers routinely encounter on site (both items that are dispensed on location and frequently brought in from off-site). The manager should then go through the list with a representative from the contracted waste hauler to get a full picture of which disposable items are accepted for recycling. The Kane County Recycling Coordinator (contact info below) is also happy to go through these lists with managers. Establishments with a lot of customers or other patrons should consider developing custom signage to post on recycling containers and/or in common areas to help improve understanding.

Plastic bags are a very common contaminant in commercial establishment recycling. Staff or contractors with custodial responsibilities usually need to consolidate recycling from multiple indoor containers and then move it to the outdoor recycling dumpster. Using plastic bags is a convenient and sanitary way to accomplish this. However, almost all waste companies view bagged recyclables as contamination. Plastic bags tangle equipment at recycling sortation centers, and it would take too much labor for workers to empty out all of those bags. Custodians can still use plastic bags to consolidate and carry items but should empty the bags into the recycling container and then throw the empty bag into the garbage container.

Education of staff and customers is critical to reducing contamination of recycling due to improper usage, and Kane County can help at no cost! Here are some options:

  • The Kane County Recycling Coordinator can work with managers or owners to customize and deliver recycling training for staff; and/or
  • We can provide copies of the most recent Kane County Green Guide for staff or customers

We also encourage commercial establishment managers to push their contracted waste hauling company to improve signage/markings on recycling dumpsters and to provide educational material for staff or customers.

If you're interested in working with Kane County to improve recycling at a commercial establishment, contact us at 630-208-3841 or recycle@kanecountyil.gov

Ordinance Waivers

A commercial establishment can request a complete waiver if it can credibly demonstrate that it generates no recyclable materials on site.

A commercial establishment can request a partial waiver that allows it to only separate and recycle a single recycling stream if it can credibly demonstrate that it generates appreciable quantities of only one recyclable material on site.

A commercial establishment can request a partial waiver from the hauling service component of the ordinance if it can credibly demonstrate that it back-hauls its recyclable materials.

To request a waiver, please email recycle@kanecountyil.gov or mail the request to:

Kane County Recycling Program
719 S. Batavia Ave, Building A
Geneva, IL 60134

Please include a mailing address for the commercial entity in your request.

Reducing Food Waste

Does your commercial establishment generate a lot of food waste? In the United States, we collectively dispose of ~60 million tons of food every year - almost 40% of the total food supply. Commercial establishments that specialize in food sales, processing or preparation should get to know the new (2023) EPA Wasted Food Scale and consider operational changes to prevent generation of food waste. See this page for ways to rescue and sell "last chance" food items. Commercial establishments with a lot of non-saleable food waste should consider separate collection of organic material for delivery to a com​post or biodigestion facility. Check out the Illinois Food Scrap and Composting Coalition for resources on how to get started with composting. Also, sign up for the We Compost recognition program!

Recycling & Disposal of Other Materials

Commercial establishments are required by state and federal law to recycle or otherwise responsibly dispose of certain materials that are not usually accepted by traditional waste haulers under commercial contracts. These include electronic devices covered by the Consumer Electronics Recycling Act, white good appliances, and hazardous wastes, including universal hazardous wastes such as fluorescent light tubes and batteries. Commercial establishments​ should seek service from specialty recyclers or hazardous waste disposal companies (see bottom of this page) to meet these needs.

​Materials that businesses, organizations & institutions are required to recycle by law:

  • Paper
    • Office paper
    • Magazines
    • Newspaper
    • Unwanted mail
  • ​Cardboard
  • Small metal containers
  • Small plastic containers
  • Glass bottles
  • ​​Covered electronics
  • ​Fluorescent tubes and bulbs
  • Batteries used in the course of operations​