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Big Apartment Buildings Not Recycling, and City Doesn't Really Care: Report

By Jen Sabella | April 20, 2015 10:37am
"My Building Doesn't Recycle!" is a new website that catalogs residential buildings across Chicago without recycling services. Buildings with fewer than five units are covered by the city's Blue Cart recycling program.
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My Building Doesn't Recycle! and DNAinfo/Benjamin Woodard

CHICAGO — Do you live in a big Chicago apartment building? If you don't have recycling, you are most certainly not alone. And even though it's illegal, the city probably won't do anything about it.

WBEZ's Curious City looked into the city's extremely laid back stance on big building recycling, and found that while they seem to love writing parking tickets, they don't ticket landlords who fail to offer recycling. Some history from WBEZ:

"Micklin did a little more research and learned the city passed a law in 1993 called the Chicago High Density Residential and Commercial Source Reduction and Recycling Ordinance (more commonly referred to as the Burke-Hansen ordinance, for the aldermen who drafted it). The ordinance made owners of large apartment buildings (defined as having at least five units) responsible for their own recycling, because the existing requirements for garbage pick-up made the same distinction. The city gave multi-unit building owners until 1995 to establish programs that would collect at least two kinds of recyclables. By 1996 they were all supposed to collect at least three. If they didn’t, Chicago’s Department of Streets & Sanitation could issue fines to the building owners for $25 to $100 per day."

Up to $100 per day? You would think the city would be all over this, right? Not so much:

"Since 2010 records from Chicago’s office of Business Affairs & Consumer Protection show only 69 citations were issued for not recycling in commercial or residential establishments, and no warnings or fines have been issued since June 2011. "

Only 69 citations despite the fact that more than 1,300 Chicagoans have gone out of their way to report a lack of recycling on MyBuildingDoesntRecycle.com.

Claire Micklin, who helped start the site, told DNAinfo in January she hopes it forces the city to enforce its own ordinance.

"It's not about getting the landlord to do something," Micklin said. "It's about telling the city to enforce the law."

Read or listen to the WBEZ report here.

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