Recycling in Chicago is a Joke


A few months ago, Mayor Daley announced that the city would be cutting back on their recycling program. The cut backs included less frequent pick up of recyclables and the expansion of the recycling program would be put on hold. Many Chicagoans were outraged by this change and even though I don’t live in a neighborhood with the special recycling cans, I, too, was outraged by the cutbacks.

A few years back we had the blue bag program and the blue bin program. It seems to me like recycling has just caught on in the past few years and nowadays there’s a number of people who understand the basics of recycling. I’m still curious as to where the recyclables go after their picked up and if they’re sorted- the whole process is a bit of a mystery. But I hope for the best and do my best to recycle.

On that note, living in Chicago and attempting to recycle is a pain in the butt. Because I live in a neighborhood that did not receive recycling cans, I have to store my recyclables and then drive them to the nearest drop off site. Luckily, there’s one about 5 minutes from my house. Unfortunately, it’s located in a forest preserve and it’s quite creepy to go there on my own. I did it once by myself and found myself running frantically from my car to the dumpster as creepy men drove by and stared at me. Now, I coordinate my schedule with my Mom and we go together to dispose of the recyclables. Today, we took a trip over the the bin and I was a bit outraged with what I saw:

recycling dumpster

overflowing recycling dumpster

The dumpster was overflowing and some people even started to pile up their recyclables on the side of the dumpster. I understand that the holidays just passed and that we generate more garbage (and recyclables) during that time, but I believe the overflow also has to do with the cutbacks imposed by our lovely mayor. I was unable to dispose of everything so now I have to store the recyclables in my garage until I can make it back out to the drop off site again. Yes, it’s very inconvenient!

I’m sure many people view recycling in Chicago as an inconvenience and don’t even bother to do so. It’s quite easy to separate your recyclables and non recyclables once you get in the habit of doing so- I even catch myself picking toilet paper rolls out of the garbage and placing them in the recycling box. But the inconvenience comes in to play when I have to find a place to store the recyclables and then load them into my car and then drive to a drop off site and then get out of my car and make multiple trips back and forth to throw my items into the dumpster. And let’s not forget how much fun it is to attempt to avoid slipping on the ice on the unsalted area surrounding the dumpster!

The whole recycling process in Chicago is a joke. Our mayor has spent money “beautifying” our parks instead of investing in our recycling program which will make a measurable difference in Chicagoan’s lives (and not to mention the sustainability of the planet). He claims we don’t need weekly recyclable pick ups. No, we don’t need it because I’m willing to bet the majority of Chicagoans don’t know what or how to recycle. Recycling cans are not full every week because people don’t understand just how much can be recycled. I propose we start spending our tax dollars (and maybe some of that meter money) on educating Chicagoans and implementing a recycling program that really works. And then we will all be able to proudly say that we live in a city that is striving to make life better for both the people and the planet.


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