Obviously, I was very interested in this class topic since it covered waste and the point of this blog is to not be so wasteful!
First of all, why should we care about waste?
- it does not go “away”
- litter is ugly
- water quality is diminished
- climate change due to more methane from landfills
- these are just a few reasons!
We have all learned about the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, but there are more important steps that need to be included as well. The conversation we usually have starts with recycle, when we really should be starting at the top with refuse. If we refuse something, it cannot become waste in the first place. Zero-wasters are very familiar with this part of the pyramid! So refuse those plastic bags and straws, for they will never go away!
Chicago throws away 7.3 million tons of trash annually.
In 2009, the city conducted a waste characterization study, where our trash was sorted into 81 different categories.
The top three items by weight were:
- Paper (29.5%)
- Organics (29%)
- Plastic (12.5%)
All of these things can be recycled or composted, not sent to a landfill!
We have a big issue with recycling in this city if you have not noticed from my posts on my experience of trying to get a recycling cart.
The biggest issues we discussed in class are access, expense, contamination, and education.
As I discussed here, residential buildings with 4 units or less have access to the city recycling service. Larger, multi-unit buildings, on the other hand, use a private hauler. So depending on what type of building you live in, your recycling rules may be different.
We do not pay to recycle our materials, unlike the tipping fee required to dump one ton of trash into a landfill. So the City is actually saving money when every ton of recyclables does not go into a landfill. Last year, the City saved $4.5 million.
In Illinois, It is cheap to dump into a landfill compared to other states. New York, for instance, is running out of landfill space and thus charges much more per ton.
In addition to the list of what should be recycled, there are also a lot of items that do not belong in our blue carts. Here is where you can recycle common things that are not allowed:
- Chemicals & Electronics – Household Chemicals & Computer Recycling Facility
- Pharmaceuticals- Chicago Police Department drop off locations
- Plastic bags- many grocery stores and pharmacies
There are different messages for different audiences, especially if they use city recycling or not. Language is also an issue, but for the most part, there is a lack of staff to help implement. Maybe they need to hire someone like me!
Additional Recycling Resources: