Need to Know

Chicago Going “Back to Basics” to Revive its Recycling Rate

Letters are being sent to residents and a town hall in March hosted by Streets and Sanitation.

Chicago’s struggles with recycling have been well documented. It’s recycling rate has dropped below 10 percent.

In December, 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.

In November, new data showed the city’s recycling rate had dropped below 10 percent.

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.

The latest initiative the city is undertaking is a “back to basics” campaign in the city’s 7th Ward. Letters are being sent to residents and a town hall in March hosted by Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Charles Williams, Waste Management officials and the local ward superintendent will stress what needs to happen to boost the rate.

The Chicago Sun Times has more:

“If we just stick to the basics, we can see if we can increase the rate that way. . . . Instead of asking yourself, `Do I recycle this?’ you just know you can go to these three things. It’s not as daunting to people who may not have the time.”

The city also plans to implement a new system for tagging carts to better explain which prohibited items were inside, prompting Waste Management crews to bypass those carts in favor of city pickups. That forces Chicago taxpayers to pay twice.

Finally, City Hall will follow up by putting up door hangers and, in some cases, literally knocking on doors to engage homeowners with the most contaminated carts in a conversation about their recycling habits — or the lack of them.

“You have to throw everything you can at the wall to see what sticks and try and ingrain it into our culture. We’re doing that,” McGann said.

Read the full story here.

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