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Chicago’s Dismal Recycling Rate Targeted By Mayor Who Wants To Study How Other Cities Do It Better

Chicago's recycling rate of just 8.8 percent is far below the national average of 35.2 percent.

Chicago's recycling rate keeps getting worse.
Benjamin Woodard/DNAinfo
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CHICAGO — The City of Chicago is looking to take action to improve on its dismal recycling efforts, with Mayor Lori Lightfoot commissioning a study of how other cities do so much better.

Lightfoot asked the Department of Streets and Sanitation to launch the study, which will look at how other regions recycle to determine “best practices,” according to the Sun-Times.

Those practices could then be applied in Chicago to make the city more sustainable. Chicago recycles just 8.8 percent of its waste, according to a recent report.

In comparison, Cook County suburbs had a recycling rate of 19 percent. The United States’ recycling rate was 35.2 percent in 2017, the most recent year for which data is available, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

“Our first step is making sure we do a comprehensive look at what we’re seeing in other markets, what the data is telling us, and then we’ll have a better sense of how we go forward,” said Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Monday. “The market for recycling goods has changed fairly dramatically, which has absolutely had an impact on our ability. But we’re looking at a lot of different options, but we’re going to be driven by what the study and what the data tells us.”

The study will be done this year, but “other details are still a work in progress,” said Marjani Williams, a spokeswoman for the Department of Streets and Sanitation.

An investigation by the Better Government Association in 2019 found there’s little enforcement of recycling requirements for larger landlords. The watchdog news group also found private haulers have labeled more than 577,000 recycling bins as “contaminated” — which means all of their contents are sent to landfills — since 2014.

Lightfoot promised during her campaign to revamp recycling and crack down on contractors who part of the Blue Cart program, according to the BGA.

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