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Chicago Recycling Program Moves Forward

In an event comparable to Christmas morning, many Logan Square residents woke up last weekend to shiny new recycling bins at their doorsteps.

Durham recycling containers ready for pickup o...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

While residents were very happy to receive the blue bins, many said they were dissatisfied with the long wait.

“Just a few blocks north towards Belmont, people had theirs two years ago,” said Liz Cwick, 54.

Cwick said there have been many calls to local aldermen from her neighborhood seeking recycling bins. She said that recycling is important to her and her neighbors, and the absence of blue bins has been inconvenient.

In the meantime, she and her “whole little block” have managed by taking their recycling to Drummond Montessori, a local school.

“We are all waiting to see how they keep up with it,” she said.

Another resident, 33-year-old Emily Grimm, said she had been hoping for the bins. She usually took recyclables to a distribution center on California Street, but often had to throw them out.

Logan Square is among the first areas to get recycling services this year under Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s effort to expand the city’s program while cutting costs. Announced last July and implemented on Oct. 3, the plan aims to streamline the city’s recycling program with competitive bidding.

A method that has been successfully implemented in Pheonix, Ariz., and Charlotte, N.C., competitive bidding allows the city to contract private companies for recycling services.

The Streets and Sanitation Department has announced in an email that competitive bidding “creates a competitive environment to drive down the costs of service, while increasing the quality and efficiency of services through competition.”

Under the new plan, the city was divided into six service areas: three (including Logan Square) are served by Waste Management Inc., one by Midwest Metal Management and two remain the city’s responsibility.

According to the Streets and Sanitation Department, the city provides recycling services to 260,000 homes. Last year the city collected 53,000 tons of recycling.

As of last summer, recycling cost the city $13.8 million. The two private companies have estimated they could do the same for half that. Streets and Sanitation announced after three months the city has already saved $1 million.

According to the Chicago Recycling Coalition, the city once promised to provide recycling to 600,000 homes by 2011. The Streets and Sanitation Department, however, received no additional funding in 2010 and the number of homes was capped.

As a result of the new plan, the blue cart program will be expanded to 20,000 homes this April, according to the city’s website. Logan Square was among the first beneficiaries of the expansion, as it is surrounded by neighborhoods that already have blue carts, according to Streets and Sanitation.

The expansion area is marked by the Kennedy Expressway to the east, Pulaski Avenue to the west, Diversey Avenue to the north and Grand Avenue and Kinzie Street to the south.

Buildings with between one and four units are eligible for recycling. Residents may request additional bins at no extra charge by calling 311.

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