It’s hard to believe, but less than half of Chicago’s residents currently have access to the city’s recycling service. A program initiated in 2008 gave blue carts to a third of city residents for weekly roadside collection, while others have the option to bring their recyclables to overloaded collection sites. Thankfully, after only a few months in office, new Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, has plans to vet private service companies against city employees in a trial program that will expand a home recyclables collection service without breaking the budget.

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Photo credit: Edgewater Triangle Neighbors Association

Emanuel’s plan will the divide the city into six regions. Four of the areas will be serviced by privately run Waste Management and Midwest Metal Management. The remaining area will be covered by city employees. The goal is to rate the cost and efficiency of going private through a comparison study. Some see this as a political bargaining to ease the anger of the unions that could likely be replaced by less costly private collection companies. Many Chicagoans are skeptical, since privatizing some of the other city services has not worked out too well, like the bad deals made contracting the city’s parking meters.

Emmanuel made a statement saying, “I promised the people of Chicago that my administration would work to deliver the best services in the most cost-effective way possible…delivering our Blue Cart recycling program at a lower cost to taxpayers is the first step in making recycling collection available citywide.”

If the strategy goes well, the new Mayor’s move will be a huge step for Chicago’s sustainability. As a resident of the windy city, I would next love to see that all large apartment buildings, condo complexes, and commercial structures be required to hire recycling services, or have a fine imposed!

Lead photo by Dane Brian