A $20,000 Burden

Macomb, IL – Western Illinois' Partners for Paint program ended this month. It was an initiative that encouraged people to bring their old, unused paint in for proper recycling.

But facing serious budget deficits, the state swept money out of the solid waste management fund to help pay past due bills. The fund contained the money for this area's program -- which cost the state roughly $20,000 a year.

Chad Braatz is the Solid Waste Coordinator for the Western Illinois Regional Council. He helped oversee the program, which provided service to 10 counties in western Illinois. He says Partners for Paint provided the only legal, feasible, and economically friendly way to dispose of unused paint. But, he says people still have a few paint recycling options now that the program has been discontinued -- though he recommends none of them.

"One, you can take it out in the backyard and bury it. Two, you can take it out in the backyard and burn it, three, you can try to put in the trash and sneak it to the landfill," says Braatz. "Now, with all three of those options, eventually whatever was in that paint can could eventually make it to the ground water."

The solid waste management fund also contains money that funds paint collection programs elsewhere in the state. The state swept enough money to de-fund downstate programs, but left funding in place for Chicago area collection sites.

That's left some local lawmakers and Partners for Paint administrators in McDonough County scratching their heads.

State Sen. John Sullivan (D-Rushville) has been on the proverbial front lines, fighting to get the funding restored. He says the state is allowed to sweep portions of funds. He says state government deemed the Chicago area collection programs more important than Partners for Paint in western Illinois.

"What they look at is, what programs are providing service to the most number of people," says Sullivan. "Obviously the ones in the northeast part of the state. There's more people, they collect more paint, so that was the first thing they looked at. The other thing is, those are permanent sites. They've been there for many years."

Sullivan also says the programs in the Chicago area collect more than just paint. They also take in motor oil, household cleaning supplies, insectisides, etc.

Sullivan understands the reasoning behind the fund sweep to an extent. But he says the $20,000 a year it costs is not a lot in the grand scheme of things, especially considering the geographic area the program covered, and its importance to area residents.

Though Sullivan says he's actively fighting to get the funding restored, he could not say for sure when, or if, it will happen.