The Chicago Recycling Coalition champions environmentally and fiscally sound management of solid waste through research, education, and advocacy, emphasizing waste reduction, reuse, recycling, composting, and buying recycled.

We work to serve the community in an educational and advisory capacity.

The State of Recycling in Chicago

June 19, 2019 

Read our memo to Mayor Lightfoot

Blue Cart Recycling Program Managed Competition Issue Paper

June 19, 2019 update CRC has created an issue paper with recommendations for evaluating the City of Chicago’s managed competition program for Blue Cart Recycling.  CRC recommends an independent audit of the past 8 years of managed competition and details which data from the program should be made publicly available. 

Read the full position paper

Recycling in Chicago:  The Real Story
May 19, 2016

You may have seen WGN’s recent story about how plastic bags are causing problems for the City’s recycling efforts. This is not, however, news as plastic bags have never been accepted in the blue carts. The real news that this story unveils—straight from Department of Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Charles Williams—is that “only about 10 to 12 percent of what is picked up” from the blue carts is being recycled.

Doing some quick math on the most recent numbers available about Chicago’s waste stream, this means that a mere 1.1% to 1.3% of waste from City residents who live in one-to-four unit buildings is being recycled. This is far less than the already disappointing 11.07% recycling rate claimed in that same report, especially compared to the diversion rates of other cities like San Francisco (80% in 2012) and Portland (70% in 2014).

In the WGN story, Commissioner Williams also claims that he’d like to see the diversion rate at 80%. Much needs to be done by both the City and its residents to get to that goal. The City needs to do a better job of:

  • educating residents about what is accepted in blue carts,
  • enforcing the High Density Residential and Commercial Source Reduction and Recycling Ordinance that requires recycling programs in residential buildings with 5 or more units and in commercial buildings
  • providing better and more timely information about what is being recycled and what’s going to landfills and about the ongoing “managed competition” among the private recycling haulers that contract with the City to ensure those companies are diverting as much as possible from landfills and participating in educational efforts.

Each of us also needs to do our part by:

  • Only placing accepted materials in the blue cart. See links below to this information.
  • If you live in a building with 5 or more units that doesn’t have a recycling program (which is required by City ordinance), report your building at My Building Doesn’t Recycle and work with your landlord and neighbors to implement a program.
  • If you live in a building with 5 or more units that does have a recycling program, make sure you are placing only accepted materials in the recycling containers and work with your landlord and neighbors to expand the program.

Acceptable blue cart materials:

Resources for buildings with 5 or more units:

The Chicago Recycling Coalition presents a new paper, entitled “Recycling Policies in Chicago and Beyond: Failures in Information Collection and Provision,” by Professor Matthew Shapiro (IIT) and Graduate Student Matt Lithgow (DePaul)
October 9, 2015

This paper assesses and evaluates the existing recycling metrics for Chicago and other comparable municipalities. The patchwork system of Chicago’s recycling collection limits our ability to calculate an accurate recycling rate for the city, and this is a function of the city’s limited access to and provision of recycling data. Municipalities must establish policies that make sense, enact laws that embody those policies, create a framework for accountability, and actually hold residents and businesses accountable. To this end, Chicago must provide recycling and composting services to everyone, recycling must be tracked and the attendant data must be made readily available, and its educational initiatives must be overhauled in order to decrease contamination of the recycling stream.