Single-Stream Recycling: It just doesn’t work

Day 6 “For those of us who spent most of our lives painstakingly separating plastic, glass, paper and metal, single-stream recycling is easy to love. No longer must we labor. Gone is the struggle to store two, three, four or even five different bags under the kitchen sink. Just throw everything into one dumpster, season liberally with hopes and dreams, and serve it up to your local trash collector. What better way to save the planet?”

This is the opening paragraph in an article written by Maggie Koerth for FiveThirtyEight. The article goes on to describe a program that no longer works. Too many contaminated recyclables ending up in the landfill and a change in China’s standard for accepting contaminated recyclables has completely changed the game.

Chicago’s use of the single-stream recycling process is just part of their overall recycling problem. In comparison, the Resource Center separates all their recyclables, reducing the potential for contamination. The key to their success is for those participating in their program to follow the directions and to only drop off items allowed. Placing non-recyclable items in the designated bins is damaging to the program.

So, knowing I needed numerous containers, I got myself to Target and picked up three garbage cans ($10 each). I labeled them (1) plastic (2) glass (3) tin / metal. I also took a large storage bin and labeled it (4) cardboard. Lastly, I took two waste baskets and labeled them (5) paper and (6) aluminum. It quickly becomes clear that a large amount of our recyclables are cardboard and plastic. The plan is to visit the Resource Center twice a month. The tin and glass containers will not need to be emptied as frequently. There’s another plan for the aluminum (to be discussed tomorrow).

In a couple days I will be discussing the 47th Ward’s Green Council. However, I wanted to notify you (if you happen to be a resident of the 47th Ward) of an upcoming meeting, tomorrow, January 7th @ 6:30pm. You can register HERE.

Tomorrow, I’ll reveal the hot new item in our household that is a total flashback to my childhood.

Chicago Recycling: We can do better!

Day 4 – Filling our designated indoor recycle container twice a week and bringing it out to the blue bin has been our practice for years. We thought we were helping and making a difference. Little did we know that it was not making a big impact, or any kind of impact, for that matter. I knew Chicago’s recycling program was not great, but I was definitely in denial as to how bad it really was. As I dug a little deeper, I found that Chicago ranks as the worst major city in the United States for recycling rates in residential areas, with less than 9 percent of waste being recycled. The program is beyond flawed and the solutions do not seem easy to correct.

If you want to read the Better Government Association‘s report on Chicago’s recycling program, click HERE.

So, I was on a mission to find other options. I found a plethora of organizations that will recycle a variety of hard to recycle items. However, it took a little extra digging to find a place that will except my blue bin recyclables. I came across the Resource Center and their North Park Village drop-off location was not too far from home.

North Park Village Recycling Station – 5801 N. Pulaski Road, Chicago, IL 60646 (Hours: 10am-4pm daily)

They accept cardboard and food packaging (made from cardboard), newspapers, magazines, white paper, office paper and shredded paper, metal (tin cans), aluminum, brown and yellow glass, green and blue glass, clear glass (no windows, drinking glasses, nothing “treated”), plastics #1, #2, #3, #4, #5, #7.

In future posts, I’ll discuss the need to find other options and not depend on recycling programs. However, for now, I have found a partner and it’s time to get my recyclables in order!

Tomorrow, holiday cards and their afterlife.