Chicago needs to improve on recycling | Editorial


Chicago needs to step up its recycling game.

A report released Wednesday included important recommendations to boost recycling in Chicago. We hope the city will do all of this and more.

Chicago generates over 4 million tonnes of waste every year, and it needs to improve to recycle as much of it as possible. Last fall, officials said the city’s recycling efforts diverted between 8% and 9% of the waste produced each year from landfills, compared to 76.4% in Los Angeles. And for Chicago, it was an improvement over its historically weak efforts.

Obviously, Chicago needs to step up its recycling program. Hurry.

The recommendations, released Wednesday by Mayor Lori Lightfoot in partnership with the Delta Institute, included 63 recommendations that would reduce landfill costs, contaminate less recyclable material, prevent some communities from becoming landfills for waste, and offer others. benefits.

We are happy that the city is seriously considering improving its recycling. We cannot overstate how critical this is. But the most important step is to go beyond the studies and get the job done.

The Delta Institute report includes ideas such as a move to “multi-stream” recycling, in which residents sort items into separate bins; re-establish the city’s Ministry of the Environment; setting up a central website or application for Chicagoans to opt out of spam; establishing “repair cafes” to keep loose items such as appliances, electronic waste and textiles out of curbside collection and waste streams; recycling and reuse of construction and demolition debris; and setting up drop-off points for garden waste and food scraps.

Other initiatives are already underway. To help reduce the amount of waste in Chicago, Ald. Scott Waguespack (32sd) next week, will introduce a new version of an order it introduced last year to reduce the amount of foam containers and single-use plastics generated by foodservice in Chicago. Ald. George Cardenas (12th) and Ald. Samantha Nugent (39th) introduced a more restrictive ordinance that would ban the automatic distribution of single-use plastic dishes in restaurants. The board did not enact Waguespack’s original order due to concerns about restaurants’ ability to comply during the pandemic. Now is the time for the council to adopt it.

The state must also accelerate

Chicago, and the rest of Illinois, could use help from the legislature. On Tuesday, the governor of Maine signed the country’s first law that requires packaging producers to be financially responsible for recycling their products. Large packaging producers will be responsible for the collection and recycling of cartons, plastic containers and other packaging materials. They will also be responsible for the disposal of non-recyclable packaging.

In Illinois, manufacturers salvage and recycle certain electronics and thermostats that have mercury switches. But manufacturers don’t do this for packaging materials. Passing a law similar to Maine’s would go a long way in increasing the amount of recycled materials. The city should not be responsible for the waste from manufacturers.

The legislature could also enact a bottle deposit law similar to Michigan’s 45-year-old law. Michigan requires a 10-cent deposit on beverage containers which is refunded when the containers are returned for recycling. Colorado on Tuesday banned polystyrene packaging and single-use plastic bags from 2024, with exemptions. When it meets, the General Assembly is expected to take action to reduce the amount of waste generated in Illinois.

More and more officials across the country are realizing that more waste needs to be recycled or reused. On Thursday, the national Recycling Is Infrastructure Too campaign released its own list of 50 recommendations to reduce waste, encourage product reuse, and boost recycling and composting.

Chicago has a long way to go to have a robust recycling program. The important thing is to start now.

Send letters to [email protected].


About Jonathan Bell

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