The Boom Town

A DEVELOPMENT BOOM in Chicago has the Windy City launching an effort to increase the recycling of construction and demolition (C&D) debris. Starting next year, general contractors must meet mandatory minimum recycling thresholds at their C&D sites, or they will face fines.

According to the newly imposed regulations, a contractor that receives a building permit on or after Jan. 1, 2006, must recycle at least 25 percent by weight of the C&D waste produced by the C&D site. In January 2007, the mandatory minimum rate jumps to 50 percent.

If contractors fail to meet the requirements, the city will try to hurt them where their wallet is. For projects larger than 10,000 square feet, the Department of Streets and Sanitation will assess fines of $5,000 for each percentage point of difference between the actual recycling rate and the required rate. For smaller projects, the fines will equal $2,000 for each percentage point of difference.

To prepare contractors for the upcoming requirements, Chicago has started an educational program. Throughout the year, Chicago officials will be conducting a series of free, two-hour seminars at the city's Center for Green Technology to inform contractors about the requirements and the importance of recycling C&D waste.

The recycling requirements are part of an ordinance that also includes provisions mandating that contractors take certain steps to ensure the cleanliness of their sites. Under these rules, which went into effect in mid-March, contractors must install fencing and mesh to control debris and dust, and they must neatly stack materials and tools not in use.

“We have seen an aggressive building boom taking place throughout Chicago's neighborhoods and have come up with an equally aggressive plan to make sure that contractors do their job without doing a number on their neighbors,” says Al Sanchez, commissioner of the Streets and Sanitation Department. “We will come down hard on anyone who puts completion of their projects ahead of the health, safety and well-being of our residents.”

As the city's economy has rebounded, hundreds of construction projects have sprung up across the area, Chicago officials say.

In other recycling news, Chicago recently awarded five grants totaling $50,000 to community organizations to implement programs that promote recycling and landfill diversion. The Garfield Park Conservatory Alliance was one of the recipients and will use its grant to establish four composting education centers and a composting hotline to answer the public's questions. The alliance also will distribute 1,200 compost bins to city residents. The city estimates that the program will divert approximately 250 tons of organic waste from landfills during its first year.

Other projects funded by the grants include a program that will teach multi-cultural businesses about recycling options, the development of a corrugated cardboard recycling program in the city's East Edgewater community and the promotion of recycling in the city's high schools.