Recycling in Chicago

It seems like Chicago's ridiculous blue bag recycling program may finally be on the way out. If Chicago really is a laughingstock around the country, it should be because this program has lasted so long rather than because the city council banned one of the most repugnant forms of animal torture, raising foie gras.

The blue bag program, where you put recyclables in a blue bag and throw it in with the rest of the trash, from which it is then sorted at trash receiving stations, has been in place for 10 years now. It generated both low participation and low recovery of recyclables from those that were actually blue bagged. So it's good news that the pilot curbside collection program is being expanded, perhaps eventually to the whole city. It would be worthwhile to contact your alderman and encourage him or her to make the new program permanent.

But the blue bag program is only the beginning of Chicago's atrocious record on recycling. An outstanding recent article in The Reader revealed that even if the curbside collection program is adopted citywide, it will only cover about 25 percent of the garbage produced in Chicago - that coming from houses, two-flats, and other smaller residences. The other three quarters of waste comes from commercial properties and apartment buildings, each accounting for an equal share.

Chicago has a good law mandating commercial and large residential recycling, but as The Reader article detailed, the city has refused to enforce it since it was adopted in 1995. So there's two things we can do. First, talk to your landlord and tell her or him that they must provide recycling services to be in compliance with the law. Most landlords aren't even aware of this law, so bringing it to their attention may be enough (unless they figure out the city isn't enforcing it). Second, when you write to your alderman, tell her/him to demand that Daley start carrying out the law on recycling. You can also contact Daley at MayorDaley@CityofChicago.org and tell him the same thing.

1 comment:

Patrick said...

It's a dicey proposition to tell your landlord about the law. Many tenants are in a bind on this because of the (real or perceived; in my case it's real) threat of their rent being punitively raised. Landlords in most situations are limited to rent inflation of "only" 10% per annum, which often leaves a lot of room for reprisal against tenant actions.

A better solution would be an enforcement program from the city, rather than placing tenants in the situation of implicitly threatening their landlords and suffering potential reprisal for it.

I've thought about proceeding with this in my own building. Because of past tenant history and a landlord willingness to use rent increases in a punitive fashion, I think the only smart approach is to organize a petition among all of my fellow tenants and then deliver it anonymously.