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Study finds waste diversion could create 39,000 Chicagoland jobs by 2040

10.30.14 | Press

Media Contact: Katie Yocum Musisi, 312-651-4344,


CHICAGO (October 30, 2014) – A study released today by Chicago-based nonprofit Delta Institute projects that the Chicagoland region could add 39,000 local jobs by 2040 by diverting more waste from landfill. Read the report here.

Currently, the Chicago Metropolitan Region’s waste management statistics lag behind the national averages, with Cook County residents generating 2.6 more pounds of waste per day than the average American and Cook County’s 29% recycling rate trailing the national average of 34%. Concerned by Cook County’s above-average waste generation and below-average recycling rate, Delta Institute sought to determine the existing conditions of the region’s waste management system and its environmental and economic impacts.

In the study, “Waste Management: Unrealized Environmental and Economic Benefits for Chicagoland,” Delta Institute analyzed waste management practices of twenty municipalities across the Chicago Metropolitan Region to determine environmental and economic costs of current practices, then modeled those costs under three future scenarios in the year 2040, including: 1) Status Quo in 2040; 2) 40% Recycling Rate in 2040, and 3) 60% Waste Diversion Rate, where waste diversion includes recycling and compost, in 2040.

Key findings of Delta Institute’s study include:

  • At 60% waste diversion, the region can add 39,000 waste-related jobs by 2040.
  • Waste diversion can more than offset all waste management-related greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Consumer education is needed to reduce contamination and improve recycling rates.
  • Access to curbside recycling varies in and among communities.
  • Local government leadership on waste management is critical.
  • Collection is the most expensive cost component of waste management.

“This report is a call to action for local government, waste industry, and our nonprofit partners,” said Delta CEO Jean Pogge. “It’s clear that if the Chicagoland region continues on its current waste management path, we will miss out on opportunities for local job creation and emissions reductions. If we cooperate across sectors to build a more environmentally sustainable waste system, we get the added benefit of a more economically sustainable region.”

In order to achieve a 60% waste diversion rate, the region would need to optimize its existing waste infrastructure, expand infrastructure to offer recycling in all Chicagoland communities, and effectively address organics, including food and yard waste, which comprise 15% of our regional waste stream.

In September 2014, Delta Institute convened municipal leaders, policymakers, industry representatives, and nonprofit partners for the first multi-disciplinary symposium on waste management in the Chicagoland region. The “Transforming Waste in Chicagoland” symposium gathered key regional decision makers and leaders to discuss regional best practices and opportunities, as well as areas of particular concern, including food scraps and a need for comprehensive consumer education efforts.

“Waste practices in Cook County have come a long way in the last few years, with the passage of the Demolition Debris Diversion Ordinance in 2013 and the Solid Waste and Recycling Ordinance in 2014, but much work remains,” said Deborah Stone, Chief Sustainability Officer for the Cook County Department of Environmental Control. “In bringing together the diversity of players in our regional waste system, Delta’s waste symposium was an essential first step on the long path ahead.”

The regional symposium and waste study were made possible with support from Searle Funds at The Chicago Community Trust.  In addition, Delta would like to thank the organizations that played a key role in supporting Delta’s regional waste study, including: Cook County, City of Chicago, the Illinois Environmental Council, Research Triangle Institute, South Suburban Mayors and Managers Association, Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County, National Waste & Recycling Association – Illinois Chapter, and the 20 municipalities that participated in this study.

Read the report.


About Delta Institute: Established in 1998, Delta Institute is a Chicago-based nonprofit organization that works throughout the Great Lakes region to build a resilient environment and economy through sustainable, market-driven solutions. Over the last 16 years, Delta Institute has built a diverse portfolio of waste management work, including waste reduction, diversion strategies, landfill capacity analysis, and modeling of the environmental, economic, and social impacts of waste management strategies. Visit online at