Chicago Apartment Residents Say They Want to Recycle, But Buildings Don't Provide It

City law requires large apartment buildings to provide recycling, but NBC 5 Investigates found the city does not appear to be enforcing its own rules.

If you can’t stand the thought of throwing a plastic bottle in a trash can, try living in a Chicago apartment building. Thousands of apartment residents have reported their buildings do not provide recycling programs, according to a website called

Chicago law requires residential buildings with five or more units to provide recycling options. Public records reveal there have been 73 violations of the Chicago High Density Residential and Commercial Source Reduction and Recycling Ordinance since 2010.

“The problem is that the law is not enforced so these buildings are choosing just not to pay for recycling,” said Claire Micklin, a north side apartment resident who created the website.

There are nearly 2500 user-generated reports about buildings on Micklin’s website. While the reports are not independently verified, users can leave comments.

Comments from frustrated apartment residents include, “I am tired of bringing my recyclables to work with me” and “I wish there was some backbone to the ordinance”.

“It just shows the scope of the problem,” Micklin said. “It’s really kind of a community coming together.”

The Chicagoland Apartment Association represents more than 170 companies who own or manage apartments. It said it expects its members to adhere to local laws.

32nd Ward Alderman Scott Waguespack said the city loses a lot of opportunities by not recycling.

“We’re paying more for filling up that landfill,” Waguespack said. “We’re paying more for the lack of products that are going back into the recycling stream in the long run.”

Waguespack said the city should pressure buildings to recycle.

“Obviously, they’re looking at the bottom line. But when you look at the overall need for recycling, the environmental aspect of it and the city has rules for that, you should be following it,” Waguespack said.

The Department of Streets and Sanitation, which is tasked with enforcing the ordinance, said it is taking steps to update it. The department said changes could include stronger, more direct enforcement language.

“These efforts to reform the outdated ordinance will provide the Department with the framework it needs to better guide high density building owners on ways to offer viable recycling programs,” department spokesperson Jennifer Martinez wrote in an email to NBC 5 Investigates.

On the other hand, management at 1401 South State Street Apartments is increasing recycling options for tenants.

“There’s some inherent costs to it, but aside from that, it’s just the right thing to do,” said maintenance supervisor David Levy.

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