In 1989, Lake County became the first county in Illinois to adopt a solid waste management plan in compliance with the Illinois Solid Waste Planning and Recycling Act. The Solid Waste Agency of Lake County (SWALCO) was formed in 1990 to implement the Lake County Solid Waste Management Plan, and currently is comprised of members from 42 municipalities, including Lake County and Great Lakes NTC, representing approximately 85% of the county's population.

"Solid Waste Management" is the planned and organized management of solid waste in an environmentally and economically sound manner. Solid waste management encompasses management of the generation, storage, collection, transfer, transportation, processing, reuse, recycling, incineration, energy recover and landfilling of solid waste. It includes all administrative, financial, educational, environmental, legal, planning, marketing and operational aspects of the management of solid wastes.  Specifically, SWALCO deals with "municipal waste," which refers to garbage, general household and commercial waste, industrial lunchroom or office waste, landscape waste, and construction or demolition debris.