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Blue Bag Recycling Sweeps Chicago

Chicago - For the more than 750,000 households served by Chicago's Department of Streets and Sanitation, a new recycling program initiated by the city and Waste Management Inc. (WMI), Oak Brook, Ill., has given residents the chance to help divert waste from the city's landfills by using blue trash bags.

Recyclable waste like cans, glass, milk jugs, newspapers and junk mail can now be placed in these blue bags and hauled along with garbage and yard waste to be separated at four new sorting centers. With a series of more than 2.5 miles of conveyor belts, each sorting facility reportedly can process up to 2,400 tons of waste per day.

The blue bags are separated from garbage bags and yard waste, then separated further into aluminum, glass and paper. All non-recyclable material is collected for disposal, while yard waste is recycled as compost. After only one week of blue bag recycling, city officials estimated that the sorting centers have diverted 11.5 percent of the city's waste from their landfills.

The numbers reportedly have exceeded the minimum contracted performance rate for the first full year. A seven-year contract requires diverting 10 percent of landfill waste in the first year and 25 percent each year thereafter.