A free public recycling program in Chicago was recently halted by Mayor Rahm Emmaunel, and the development has been causing quite a stir. The recycling cans were installed at some of the trendy Wicker Park neighborhood’s busiest intersections, however the initiative was pulled after just a few months due to accusations that it was actually being used for political campaigning by Alderman Proco Joe Moreno (the cans were printed with a photo of him). We understand that it’s important to keep things on the up and up in government but this particular scenario looks like it might be a case of politics overshadowing sustainable progress.

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Last September, Alderman Moreno, who oversees the city’s 1st Ward district, supported the installation of 20 trash and recycling cans from a program call Free Green Can, which provides collection services at no cost to tax payers. Sponsorship and advertising on the sides of the cans allows for these services to remain free to the community. Well it just so happens that on these 20 cans, Joe Moreno chose to use an image of his face along with text that states his support of the program. It was not until very recently that the cans raised any eyebrows, and that is because it is now campaign season, and Joe Moreno is running for committeeman.

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Siting a law that states that campaigning on public property is illegal, the cans were pulled. There has also been a question on the lack of permits for the cans to be installed. Those against Moreno’s can program also call his actions an illegal play to help a private business win a city contract. See an image of the branded cans here. Many call the claim that Moreno was trying to illegally win a city contract for Free Green Can completely false, especially since this company already has a deal with the city for placement of 2,000 cans (installed downtown only, and not in the residential areas of the 1st Ward).

Those that think this is a political stomping of a great program point out that although the cans feature the Alderman’s photo, they do not mention anything about his run for election. The cans had been in place for over six months before being questioned for political campaigning and lack of permit charges.

It is also noteworthy that Alderman Moreno has been the city’s most active Alderman (there are 50 in total) when it comes to sustainable initiatives. For example, he has supported pilot program for permeable “Green Alleys,” stood behind the construction of the LEED certified Green Exchange, and incentivized neighborhood condo buildings to hire private recycling services with a refuse rebate program. Would anyone think an Alderman known throughout the city for his green leadership would really be trying to use a recycling program to benefit his own campaign?

Decide for yourself if the cans were removed due to Moreno’s bad practices or if this was a case of the government pulling a political maneuver against the Alderman. The true victims of the squabble are residents of the 1st Ward (this writer included) and the environment, since free access to recycling at bus stops and busy intersection has been wiped out.

+ Free Green Can