Nick Santoro sat at a large table, sifting through stacks of paper and several dried out pens in order to keep track of all the local companies he needs to contact in the upcoming months.
As the only staff liaison for Downers Grove’s Environmental Concerns Commission, an influx of requests, applications and general feedback makes its way to him before any of the five commissioners of the committee hear about it.
Ironically, Santoro peels through all those wasted papers to find the right companies to use for the annual Recycling Extravaganza, which is expected to be held on Sept. 20 at the Downers Grove Public Works facility.
The Recycling Extravaganza is run by an organization called Scarce. It works with the Downers Grove Park District and the surrounding villages to hold this event, as well as other environmental awareness events, in each town. This is the first year that the ECC will be playing an active role in running the event.
“We are always open to partnering with other communities,” Santoro said. “If a large event would make things easier for residents or allow us to collect different items we otherwise couldn't, we would certainly be open to working with other villages."
A bigger event run by Scarce with multiple villages would be better if the committee could find a larger space, Santoro said.
Commissioner Jim Speta, an active environmentalist and former Peace Corp. member, said that environmental events are important for communities like Downers Grove.
“In order to make a change, you have to start with the local people,” Speta said. “Last year, we had about 93,000 pounds of hard to recycle items come in. It was rewarding to see a 1,000 cars drive in with stuff to recycle and 100 volunteers that cared so much to help.”
Speta and the other commissioners work mostly to network and bring community awareness to the event. The commissioners also bring young people to help out by reaching out to schools.
Speta has also volunteered before in this event outside of his duties as commissioner. He said that most of the items that are brought to the event are not your ordinary plastics, paper, glass or aluminum, though they still appear there and they will be recycled.
Last year’s Recycling Extravaganza included these items and the companies who recycled them:
- Carpet – 12,000 - 14,000 pounds (melted down for plastic) - Go Green Recycling
- Paper - 7980 pounds - (all shredded that evening, returned to pulp, and recycled) - Cutting Edge
- Ink Jet Cartridges- 895 pounds - Scarce
- Cell Phones– 189 pounds - Scarce
- Eye Glasses- 140 pounds - Lions Club
- Electronics- 59,038 pounds - Creative Recycling
- Flags - 105 pounds - VFW 503
- Bikes – 80 pounds - Working Bikes
- Fire Extinguishers – 74 pounds - Cintas
- Propane Tanks- 52 pounds - Amerigas
- Lead-Acid Batteries- 4,500 pounds - Interstate Batteries
- Textiles, furniture, appliances- 3,940 pounds - Goodwill
- Home-building materials and tools- 2,000 pounds - Habitat for Humanity Restore
Santoro is considering the same companies for this year’s extravaganza. The only reason there is a decision to be made in the first place is due to the commissioners discussing what else could possibly be recycled this year or what should not be recycled this year. That will determine who will be a part of this event.
Commissioner James Cavallo, also currently the managing director at Midwest Energy Performance Analytics, Inc., said that he hopes these same companies will be there this year.
“These guys are wonderful to work with,” Cavallo said. “They’re trustworthy, and the community gets to see what happens to their junk and make sure it’s going to good use.”
Cavallo said that these companies should have other opportunities to work with the ECC in other events. Aside from just the recycling event, he said that Downtown Downers Grove could host a biking event with Working Bikes in charge to help bring awareness of emissions from cars causing issues in the atmosphere, while simultaneously promoting health.
Santoro has been open to ideas since January, as he has been active in both the ECC and managing the annual Recycling Extravaganza. There is still a lot to get done before September rolls around.
“The staff is extremely receptive to the opinions of the ECC,” Santoro said. “I'm looking forward to that conversation to see if there's something the community would like recycled that we never thought of.”