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'Disgusting' Garbage Problem Festers in Chinatown, Local Leaders Say

By Casey Cora | September 24, 2013 6:14am
 Groups gathered to discuss solutions to the neighborhood’s garbage problems.
Chinatown Garbage Issues
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CHINATOWN — Civic and business leaders say they're sick of residents who dump their household trash into public garbage cans on Chinatown's main drag, a problem they say leads to festering smells and ugly piles of waste.

The leaders, at a meeting hosted by the Chinatown Chamber of Commerce on Monday, said they are planning an educational campaign to combat the long-standing trash problem.

“The baskets were atrocious,” said Danny Moy, 25th ward superintendent and a Chinatown resident. “It’s very, very embarrassing to live in my own community and see this happening.”

The city’s Streets and Sanitation Department has removed several trash cans along pedestrian-heavy Wentworth Avenue, but it's kept several along less busy Archer Avenue.

“It’s disgusting. This isn’t China. This isn’t Hong Kong,” said Andrew Toy, 55, a residential landlord. "I'll sweep up [around my properties], and people make fun of me for doing it. They say 'Why are you doing that?' and I say 'Why not?' "

During a quick tour of Chinatown's busiest thoroughfares this week, a DNAinfo.com Chicago reporter didn't spot any piles of trash.

Raymond Lee, a co-founder of the chamber and the group’s current treasurer, said there’s a pervasive “take care of my room, but don’t take care of anything outside” culture embedded among some immigrants.

“In this culture, American culture, you have to do more than that,” Lee said.

To that end, neighborhood leaders are hoping to embark on a new educational campaign that will enlist business owners, teachers, clergy and local Chinese media to help spread the word about garbage pickup.

They’ve also kicked around plans to resurrect a twice-a-year neighborhood cleanup days, start a wastebasket adoption program among business owners, and perhaps begin a ticketing campaign for litterbugs.

But will it be enough?

Many in attendance at Monday’s forum said the trash issue has been a lasting problem in Chinatown, so merely talking about the issue might not be enough to resolve it.

"Ninety days later we'll be talking about the same thing," Lee said.

While the heads of various Chinatown organizations haggled over who’s responsible for cleanup, Moy and 25th Ward chief of staff Vince Sanchez presented another solution that might cut down on waste — the city's blue cart recycling program.

The program will begin in Chinatown next month, first with pickup scheduled for residential addresses north of Cermak on Oct. 21. For addresses south of Cermak, pickup begins Oct. 28.