Supporters turn out to lobby for SCARCE funding
Updated: June 18, 2012 8:03AM
Nobody is ready to toss SCARCE in the trash. However, there is consensus that its funding needs to be more sustainable.
About two dozen supporters of School and Community Assistance for Recycling and Compost Education came to the meeting of the DuPage County environmental committee to show their support for efforts to find a way to continue county support of the agency’s assortment of programs, which is on track to dry up June 30.
The county funds $155,750 of the organization’s yearly budget of about $325,000; a separate $63,000 mandated by federal law comes from the Stormwater Management Department and is not threatened. The County Board historically has budgeted its share of the funds using income from development fees and tipping charges levied on waste haulers that use the county’s landfills.
Realizing both of those revenue streams are down, officials last year took $39,250 from contingency funds to fill the gap, but made no follow-up plan to continue their support. They agree a more stable approach is needed to keep the agency going beyond June 30, when the current funding agreement between the nonprofit and the county will expire.
About half of those who attended the meeting cited benefits that have been realized by county residents, business owners, schools, park districts and other public entities through their involvement with SCARCE.
Michael Richards, a corporate representative for Now Foods in Bloomingdale, said his company — the first business to receive the Earth Flag that has become a SCARCE icon — has doubled its business volume and cut its waste volume in half since it began working with the group. Dan Scoles, environmental and safety coordinator at Now Foods and an instructor at College of DuPage, credited SCARCE for the state awards the company has received for its green business practices.
“I would actually like to see the county grow their relationship with SCARCE,” he said. “It’s really kind of a hidden gem.”
According to SCARCE staff member Erin Kennedy, the community events she coordinates are very well received. One recent program geared toward Boy Scouts drew 198 participants, Kennedy said.
Heather Goudreau of SCARCE related that the organization is putting together 13 single-day recycling extravaganzas this year, eight of which have taken place so far. Each of those drew an average of 631 cars bringing in materials for processing, Goudreau said.
Pat Armstrong, a DuPage Environmental Commission member, retired COD professor, itemized some of the strides made by SCARCE-backed activists in the years since the era when she would take her students on field trips to the recycling center that was a predecessor to the curbside collection now available countywide.
“I’m disappointed that they have had their budget cut and cut and cut,” she said.
Kay McKeen, the organization’s founder and president, has seen no letup in the demand for the programs and advocacy offered by her group, and some have had to be turned away.
The most common request from the business sector, McKeen said, is for information about food scrap composting.
SCARCE continues to rely on donations from county businesses and residents.
“We have three full-time people, and we did 57 programs and projects in April,” McKeen said, later noting the 3,500 county residents served by the agency in April did not include the teachers who came for textbooks or school supplies furnished by SCARCE.
McKeen also said neither she nor the other two staff members receive insurance or other benefits in addition to their hourly wage.