Residents of Chicago are set to finally have citywide curbside recycling, more than fifteen years after the City implemented its first recycling program. Rahm Emanuel announced that the program will go into effect by the summer of 2013, bringing an end the disorganized and counterproductive attempts under Chicago’s previous Mayor, Richard M. Daley, which left 359,000 without their access to curbside recycling programs. As the project expands next year, more than half the City’s residents will no long find themselves tossing recyclables in the trash, or sneakily placing their recycling in the bins of others.
When Mayor Rahm Emanuel took office nearly a year ago, he inherited a recycling program plagued by disorganization. When household recycling was first introduced in 1995, participants were asked to place recyclables into blue bags separate from landfill-bound refuse to be picked up and separated by municipal waste haulage. But with many of the Chicago‘s apartment and commercial buildings serviced by private waste haulage companies, the program struggled to make a significant positive impact in diverting waste from landfills. This relative failure was compounded by muddy statistics from the City. When the City claimed to be recycling 12 percent of all refuse collected, it failed to mention that “half of it was liquid that simply evaporated from the trash.”
This program was thankfully replaced by the more practical Blue Bin program in 2008, however this initial effort at a citywide curbside recycling program also stumbled. While the blue bins were far less likely to be bundled up with landfill-bound trash, it was reported in 2010 that around $1 million worth of blue bins remained stacked in warehouses, unused. At the time Daley cited the City’s economic woes as the reason for the surplus of bins and the shortfall of properties covered by the program, and considered privatizing the effort.
Emanuel introduced a competitive bidding process for citywide recycling in October, which he claims has brought per-cart hauling prices down from $4.77 to $2.38. Speaking to the Huffington Post, Emanuel promised “These savings and efficiencies will help to make citywide recycling in 2013 a reality and further Chicago’s reputation as leader in sustainability efforts. No longer will Chicago be a tale of two cities when it comes to recycling.”