DNAInfo provided a look at what ends up in the city’s blue carts as it struggles to boost its recycling rate.
Last month, a report indicated that the recycling rate in Chicago in 2016 has dropped to just 9.09 percent. The recycling rate has been moving in the wrong direction. It hit 11.08 percent in 2014 and fell to 10.23 percent in 2015.
Earlier this month, the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation launched a pilot program, a "blue cart buddy" bag at 5,000 households, designed to encourage recycling of items from the kitchens.
The city has also tried to do what it can to encourage recycling at multifamily units within the city. A proposal under consideration includes fines that range from $1,000 for the first offense and up to $5,000 for a third offense within a year.
For now, the city wrestles with oddities detailed in the DNAInfo report:
"We've seen furniture, engine blocks, car bumpers," said Hector Fonseca, plant manager at Waste Management's CID Recycling Center on the far South Side.
Add to that list VHS tapes, pool liners, garden hoses and steam irons.
Some days, the amount of "contamination" — the industry term for trash mixed with recyclables — can reach 30 percent, Fonseca said.
During a recent visit to the center, DNAinfo witnessed a number of the wackier items Chicagoans have attempted to recycle, pulled fresh from that morning's conveyor belt.