In an interview leading up to his reelection (one that a reader forwarded the other day), Mayor Daley reiterated what many of his critics have been saying for years:
“As far as the city is concerned, there has to be more recycling. There has to be recycling in everyone’s home and in every business. That’s all part of it. Whether it’s on the CTA, or on the Metra, or in a city park, there needs to be the ability to recycle. It needs to become everyone’s choice to do it and to make it better. We need to find ways to recycle absolutely everything, to keep it all out of landfills.”
Recycling was pretty much ignored on the mayoral campaign trail this winter—insofar as there was a campaign trail. Though the city’s recycling efforts have lagged since Daley took office in 1989, the mayor preempted election-year criticism with his announcement last fall that a successful curbside recycling program in Beverly would be expanded to seven wards (the rest of the 19th as well as the 1st, 5th, 8th, 37th, 46th, and 47th) by the end of this summer. Recycling advocates praised the move as a good start—but only a start.
Meanwhile, as the pilot programs get under way, city taxpayers continue to pour money into the underperforming Blue Bag program, which ends up landfilling millions of tons of trash that could be recycled. In the last year the city has paid nearly $60 million to Waste Management to process trash and extract recyclable materials from it, according to city records. More than $22 million of that sum went toward the use of garbage storage and transfer facilities that weren’t designed for sifting out recyclable materials.
But, as the mayor suggested, businesses and homes that aren’t served by city sanitation crews could be recycling, too—and they produce the vast majority of Chicago’s garbage. “As we work to create a culture of recycling across the city, it is important to remember that Blue Cart and Blue Bag programs impact the low-density residential waste stream that represent just a small portion of the city’s overall waste stream,” city environment commissioner Sadhu Johnston said in a written statement last fall. “In order to truly make a cultural shift, we must win over these sectors as well.”
Yet both he and the mayor have been quiet about how they think that’s going to happen.