The Recycling Divide in Chicago

Chicago likes to tout itself as a green city on the rise; just take a look at its official Environment and Sustainability webpage, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel states the laudable goal of making it the “greenest city in the world.” That would make me and a lot of other people happy.

Photo by Pat O'Neil (Chicago Reader)

Photo by Pat O’Neil (Chicago Reader)

But as my friend, co-author, and former Roosevelt University colleague Carl Zimring explains in this recent blog essay, Chicago’s efforts at establishing a bona fide city-wide recycling program continue to fall short, thus creating a class situation of the haves (those who receive blue bin pick-up service) and the have-nots (those who live in multi-family dwellings who don’t have access, yet, to this service). I lived in apartment buildings in Chicago for almost ten years between 1996 and 2005, and had to collect my own recyclables and drive them to a drop-off station elsewhere on the North Side from my Rogers Park neighborhood, thus burning time and gas in the process. (Sometimes, I admit, I would cross into Evanston in order to use their West Side facility, which was closer to me.)

Eight years later, the hundreds of thousands of Chicago residents who live in apartment buildings throughout the city do not yet have dependable, basic recycling services, unless the building owner provides it through a private contractor. There is no enforcement of this guideline, as far as I know. Read Zimring’s post to learn more.

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