Put a lid on it: recycle without being blown away

By on May 13, 2011

by Lynn Meredith
Elburn—A group of Blackberry Creek subdivision resident-volunteers picked up 50 bags of refuse that had blown from recycling containers on just one clean-up day last weekend.

As a member of that group, Elburn Trustee Jeff Walter joined with the rest of the Elburn Village Board to take a closer look at Elburn’s Trash and Nuisance Ordinance. Guess what they found? It turns out the law currently on the books calls for lids on all refuse—and that includes recycling bins.

Only one problem—the containers provided by the garbage collection companies do not have lids. The result is that on windy days—frequent in this part of Illinois—plastic bags and newspapers litter the streets of Elburn.

“At the last minute, people place their newspapers on top (of the bin), and they blow away. They place their plastic bags on top, and they blow away,” Village President Dave Anderson said.

The board was supportive of the ordinance that required recycled items to be controlled. The only discussion was how to go about letting the residents of Elburn know that they need to make some changes.

“Give the Police Department some authority to give out P-tickets,” Walter said. “For somebody who is being neglectful, I wouldn’t be opposed to saying that the trash at the curb has to be bundled or otherwise (controlled).”

Trustee Jerry Schmidt agreed that enforcement was the way to go to get the problem under control as soon as possible.

“If you get just one ticket, that’s it: (You’ll change),” Schmidt said.

With the law already on the books, enforcement could conceivably start right away. Village Administrator Erin Willrett wanted the board to understand that they were agreeing to using police staffing hours in service of this ordinance, and that could use up a certain amount of time. Walter suggested a compromise.

“We don’t have to crack down right away. We could start with knocking on doors or leaving warnings first,” he said.

Other members wanted to highlight education over enforcement by taking the approach of educating the public first before enforcing the law.

“I’d like to continue with the educational format,” Ken Anderson said. “You can’t change human behavior by continuously enacting laws.”

Ken Anderson and Willrett expressed concerns that people might discontinue recycling if they cannot use their existing bin. Willrett plans to get the information to the public in the village’s June newsletter.

“There are ways to phrase it by saying that we are a green community and encourage recycling. We want to minimize refuse going into landfills, and the downsides to doing that are that on windy days, the trash is blowing all over,” Ken Anderson said. “If we see a change in people’s habits, then we know we’re going in the right direction.”

In the end, the Board decided to first get the information out to Elburn residents about the need to put a lid on their recycling containers. They would then begin enforcing the ordinance. They also may talk with the garbage collection companies about taking back the old containers.

“I’d like to see the entire community do (what BBK did with their clean-up day) a few times a year,” Dave Anderson said. “(Otherwise) we’re expending taxpayers’ money somewhere down the line to clean up.”

Recycling must be
contained from blowing

To comply with the ordinance currently in effect, all recycling must be contained in a way that prevents it from blowing away. It is the responsibility of the homeowner to provide a covered container.
1. Residents can modify their existing containers with a lid in any way that keeps papers and bags from blowing away. That might mean covering the items with netting or placing items in a tied plastic garbage bag.
2. Residents can purchase garbage cans with lids for recycled items.
3. Residents can rent or purchase 65-gallon containers with lids from the garbage collection companies.


  1. RM

    May 14, 2011 at 6:41 AM

    It would help if there was an ordinance prohibiting people from putting out their trash the night before pickup. There is no reason for putting out trash the night before especially if a storm is expected only to find trash up and down the street by morning. These folks should be fined. It’s absurd that we should be expected to rent trash containers with lids. We pay enough for trash pickup already. I just don’t bother to put out paper on windy days – simple common sense solution. The other recyclables aren’t so much of an issue except when the garbage collector dumps them on the street and leaves them behind. Hard to imagine picking up 50 bags of garbage in Blackberry. Sounds like people there are pretty thoughtless about their trash. Don’t see that volume of trash blowing around the rest of the area.

  2. RM

    May 14, 2011 at 6:43 AM

    Ken Anderson says, *You can’t change human behavior by continuously enacting laws.” Perhaps not but you can change behavior by ENFORCING them! Why do you suppose folks drive through stop signs and red lights?

  3. elburn1

    May 18, 2011 at 8:34 AM

    So Elburn Village Hall has been handing out these “illegal” recycle containers for free to residents and now wants to issue tickets for using them?

    As for Blackberry Creek getting 50 bags of garbage…I could believe it. But it’s not all from the Wednesday garbage blowing around. There is quite a bit of dumping happening (I’ve seen bags of garbage & lots of beer cans/bottles) in the empty lots & not yet developed areas.

  4. JLS

    May 18, 2011 at 1:32 PM

    We are constantly picking up trash that is blown out of our neighbor’s bin. He never weights anything down and of course, puts the light stuff on top. Common sense would go a long way but he is generally lacking that.