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Group: No state budget equals more trash

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Workers at the Southern Recycling Center in Carbondale sort plastics.

SPRINGFIELD — If you think Illinois's budget mess is a bunch of rubbish, you're almost right.

Environmental groups are warning that the possible layoff of the workers who oversee statewide recycling programs could mean an increase in the amount of garbage heading to the dump.

In a message to members, the Illinois Environmental Council sounded a warning about cancellation of recycling grant programs overseen by the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

"Suspension of the DCEO recycling and food scrap grants program will send additional waste to Illinois landfills," the organization noted.

As part of his answer to the lack of a spending plan for the fiscal year beginning July 1, Rauner announced a series of layoffs and closures designed to keep the state afloat until a budget is approved.

For now, those layoffs are on hold while a judge weighs arguments brought by labor unions representing the workers.

Three people who oversee grant programs designed to divert waste from landfills were set to be laid off on Oct. 1. Among the programs is one that diverts food scraps from the landfill

In 2013, Western Illinois University was among those receiving a grant to help jumpstart a campus food waste composting program. The $24,000 grant allowed WIU to purchase collection bins and special composting bins that turn leftovers from the dining hall into soil.

At the time, officials said they were collecting about 100 pounds of food waste a day -- a figure that could double with the new equipment.

Future expansions of programs like the one at Western are on hold while Rauner and Democratic lawmakers engage in their political fisticuffs.

In the spending proposal he outlined in February, Rauner called for a slight increase in the recycling program budget. The $7.1 million program would have seen one fewer employee under his blueprint.

According to figures outlined in the plan, recycling programs diverted 79 million tons of material from landfills last year.

"It's unfortunate that this is going on," Michelle Lechner, executive director of the Illinois Recycling Association, said of the budget problems. "Hopefully things will get back up and running when they get a budget."

kurt.erickson@lee.net / 217-782-4043

On Twitter: @Illinois_Stage

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