LINCOLN SQUARE — On Jan. 1, hefty fines went into effect to penalize landlords who don't offer tenants an "effective recycling program" — a widely ignored law that's been on the books for decades.
Now the city needs help identifying scofflaws.
The Department of Streets and Sanitation is in charge of ticketing violaters, but its workers don't service the large multi-unit buildings targeted by the fines. (Streets & San collects waste and recycling from buildings with four units or fewer.)
So residents need to be the department's eyes in the alleys.
"I haven't had a flood of calls or complaints, there have only been a handful," said Chris Sauve, director of recycling for Streets & San.
He encouraged people to call 311 or report a landlord via the city's service request website.
The 311 complaint will trigger an inspection by the appropriate ward superintendent, Sauve said.
If the landlord is indeed out of compliance, a ticket will be issued, and the building owner/manager will have 30 days to get a recycling system in place. When the 30 days are up, if there's still no recycling at the building, the landlord will be slapped with a fine of $500 to $1,000.
The steeper fines — a significant hike from the prior $25 to $100 — were passed by City Council last summer and went into effect Jan. 1. They're aimed at building owners who've been flouting the city's recycling ordinance for more than 20 years.
A second violation within a year would result in a fine of $1,000 to $2,500, with subsequent violations meriting $2,500 to $5,000 fines.
Sauve has been meeting with community groups and building owners to spread the word about the ordinance and the new fines.
"This is a new day — a lot of buildings are already coming into compliance," he said. "It's getting that culture change we need."
Without the participation of high-density buildings, Chicago's recycling efforts have fallen behind those in other cities, Sauve said.
"It's always held us back," particularly from spreading a unified recycling message across the city, he said.
Though this may be a case of putting the cart before the horse, Sauve pointed recycling newcomers to the city's recycling website, Recycle By City, for information on do's and don'ts.
Even though building owners are contracting with private haulers, not Streets & San, the recycling practices are the same across the board, he said.
Building owners or managers who are stymied by the recycling ordinance and new fines can also call 311 and ask to be directed to a special Streets and San hotline, Sauve said.
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