Recycling in Chicago: It's Getting Easier

The blue cart program and options for those who don't get the service

It's so easy: Instead of throwing it away, recycle.  Almost everything can be recycled (find out what can and can't be here) aside from food waste.  That said, Americans still toss some 220 million tons of garbage each year, according to the EPA .

Julie Steffen, a resident of the Clinton Street Lofts, was one of those Americans.

"We threw everything away. Everything!" she said.

The Clinton Street Lofts were managed by a different company, but about 18 months ago were taken over by The Building Group, a company that, according to president Jim Stoller, is vested in saving the environment and the money of their clients.

"We went from four to two trash cans and from two to three recycling bins in a short time.  We save the environment and our residents money," he said.

The recycling center at the Clinton Street Lofts is rather impressive, housing a place to dump light bulbs, batteries, and even electronics.  The Clinton Street Lofts however, is an anomaly.

Twenty percent of Chicagoland households are currently served by the blue cart program.  That program is planning to expand, according to Sadhu Johnston, City of Chicago's Chief Environmental Officer.

"Our commitment is to have every household in Chicago to have a blue cart by 2011," Johnston said.  

That will bring the number of households served to 600,000.  But it doesn't include the half million households in buildings with more than four units, like high rises!

Mike Mitchell, of the Illinois Recycling Association, said the demand is there, and the law is supposed to support recycling.

"There's more and more people the all the time calling me asking where can I recycle, my building doesn't recycle, how can I at work, at school?"  Mitchell said.   "There is an ordinance in Chicago that requires recycling in all public buildings, businesses."

Mitchell said residents in larger buildings may have to remind the management.

"Worse comes to worse, you call the building manager and say that you are aware that recycling is to be provided; its law," he said.

If you can't sell your management on the earth side of green, sell them on the cash kind. 

"Savings is critical, we are not going to go out and spend money to save money, or save the environment.  Everything we do is cost effective," Stoller said.

If you live in a large condo building, though, the board might take some convincing.  Remember, it can save you money by reducing the number of times your building needs to have its garbage picked up.

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