Saturday, May 03, 2008

City bags the blue bag; a fairy tale ends

We bought the blue bags at Casa Leyhane; we used them. We put them out faithfully each week and watched the massive gears smash and grind our fragile blue bags in with the coffee grounds and food scraps and all the other household garbage.

I wanted so hard to believe that, somehow, our recyclables were really reclaimed from the waste stream.

I clapped and clapped and clapped, hoping that Tinkerbell would make it.

But I can not really claim surprise that the City of Chicago has just bagged the blue bag program.

And -- here in the 41st Ward -- what has the City replaced the blue bag program with?

Nothing. As the map shows, some areas of the City will be receiving "blue carts" that will be picked up by separate trucks every two weeks. A few areas already have them. But there's not even -- you should pardon the expression -- a roll-out date set for the 41st Ward.

And what should we do in the meantime? In the linked Tribune article, Laurie Cohen and Kristen Kridel report that Streets and Sanitation spokesman Matt Smith says that if residents "still choose to put their recyclables in blue bags, the city's private waste contractors will be required to recycle the contents."

On the other hand, according to the same Tribune article, "city officials said that within three months, they will end their contracts with Allied Waste Transportation, the politically connected company that has operated the sorting centers since 2003."

I can't clap any more.

Years ago, the 41st Ward was used as the proving grounds for a "blue bin" recycling program, similar to one that many suburbs have used. Glass and plastics and aluminum -- or at least the little aluminum that escaped the attention of foragers who were engaged in their own private recycling programs -- were collected on a separate truck. Compliance rates were high. Residents could see whether their neighbors were putting recyclable stuff in the open blue bins as they walked down the streets -- there aren't as many alley pickups here in 41 as there are in other wards -- and peer pressure helped ensure greater compliance.

So we proved that urban residents could and would recycle... and then we got the blue bags.

The map shows centers where recyclables may now be delivered, if you want to burn your own gasoline at $4 a gallon to take them. Many schools and churches already have paper or other recyclable collections.

And it appears that -- maybe -- the City has finally opened a place to accept (and responsibly dispose of) used computer equipment, video players, printers and other electronics (ecycling, it's called). The Chicago Recycling Coalition provides a link to this page on the City of Chicago website.

Clicking through the linked City site -- you didn't expect they'd come right out and tell people where this facility is, would you? -- the ecycling facility is at 1150 N. North Branch Street (two blocks east of the Kennedy Expressway at Division Street).

The facility is allegedly open for drop-offs on the following days:
  • Tuesday (7:00 am - 12:00 pm)
  • Thursday (2:00 pm- 7:00 pm)
  • The first Saturday of every month (8:00 am - 3:00 pm)
The City site also provides a list of what it will and will not accept:

Accepted Materials (please drop off):

  • antifreeze
  • unused/expired medications
  • used motor oil
  • old gasoline
  • oil-based paints
  • paint thinners
  • aerosol paints and pesticides
  • herbicides
  • insecticides
  • pesticides
  • lawn chemicals
  • solvents
  • drain cleaners
  • cleaning products
  • pool chemicals
  • hobby chemicals
  • mercury
  • compact Fluorescent lamp and light bulbs
  • computers
  • cell phones

  • Unaccepted Materials (do NOT drop off):

    • agricultural waste
    • smoke detectors
    • farm machinery oil
    • fire extinguishers
    • appliances
  • explosives
  • fireworks
  • business/commercial sector waste
  • institutional waste
  • medical waste

  • The limited hours at this facility have not yet coincided with my schedule. So I can't verify that this operation really exists.

    And I certainly can't promise that the City is really disposing responsibly of items that may be brought there -- although there are valuable materials that could and should be extracted from used electronics in particular. There's not enough of anything in your old VCR to take to a jeweler -- but put a few thousand of them together and there should be.

    So I don't know if this is legit -- but I so want to believe.

    I'll report back when I have the opportunity to check it out personally.

    There's a mock obituary for the blue bag program at Clout City, but I first saw this story at The Sixth Ward.

    1 comment:

    Hugh said...

    Hi Jack,

    The recycling facility on Goose Island is fo' real. I recently unloaded a stack of ancient partial cans of paint there. It's mainly for the nasty stuff, for routine recycling, maybe look into the North Park Nature Center at Pulaski & Peterson.


    Exit the Kennedy east-bound on Division. Cross the bridge on to Goose. Take the first right (south). You're there.

    It's easy to use. You pop your trunk open and gentlemen in Kevlar suits unload you.

    I had no waiting. Yeah, the hours are short, but if you are heading downtown on a Tuesday morning it's a quick detour.