Plastic

Back to the Beach Clean Ups

I willingly spent a Saturday morning picking up garbage.

It has gotten to the point where I will stop my run to pick up a plastic water bottle.

Other people don’t enjoy that as much as I do? Hmm.. weird!

Anyway, we are back to the beach clean up season.

Last Saturday, in honor of World Environment Day, I cleaned up Montrose Beach with members of Delta Institute (I serve on their associate board), Alliance for the Great Lakes, and Goose Island brewery.

 

 

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Montrose Beach, Chicago, IL

 

Although it looked pretty clean from far away, in about an hour and a half, our group of three collected:

  • 98 cigarette butts
  • 40 food wrappers
  • 49 foam pieces
  • 110 pieces of glass
  • 108 small pieces of plastic
  • 19 popsicle sticks

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In total, our whole group picked up over 290 pounds of trash!!!

 

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The whole crew

 

 

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Some members of Delta Institute’s associate board, the Delta Emerging Leaders

 

 

Then yesterday, I met up with Alliance for the Great Lakes again and Barefoot Wine to clean up North Avenue Beach to make it barefoot friendly.

 

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North Avenue Beach, Chicago, IL

 

It was a beautiful evening so there were still plenty of people hanging out by the water. As opposed to Montrose Beach, there was definitely garbage that you could easily see.

 

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Ew.

 

I wouldn’t want to play around in that.

This time our group of three picked up:

  • 205 cigarette butts
  • 43 food wrappers
  • 15 popsicle sticks
  • 44 pieces of glass
  • A nearly full box of cookies
  • 14 total pounds

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A lot of the stuff we picked up is small and doesn’t weigh a lot, but once you put all of it together it sure does seem significant.

Chicago Recycling Round-Up (Hint: It’s Not Good)

My experience recycling in Chicago has not been easy, and I have written about it every step of the way.

Just getting a blue cart for our building was a challenge. I mean, it took 79 days, and numerous follow ups for it to arrive on our curb.

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But once the blue cart arrived, it was not smooth sailing.

For a while, I was placated by the multiple notes I noticed taped to the carts, to serve as a reminder that they are for recycling only. I was comforted that someone cared enough to write the note but also annoyed that they were necessary in the first place.

 

After that, the city-wide recycling drop-off centers began to be phased out and the City released a video showing why plastic grocery bags do not go into your blue cart (Spoiler Alert: It seriously messes up the machinery.)

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Goodbye my dear friend

 

A few months went by without too much excitement, but that must have been the calm before the storm. Our maintenance has had trouble understanding how recycling works, making it even more frustrating, thus why so many blog posts were necessary.

 

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Caught our recyclables being moved from the blue cart to the trash cart

 

Hopefully, now that we are nearing the anniversary of the beginning of this struggle, I the next year should be less eventful.

I promise to keep you updated.

The Never Ending Recycling Saga Part II: Caught in the Act

Follow up to The Never Ending Recycling Saga, My Work Here is Done (Probably Not), A Recycling Conspiracy Solved, and A Recycling Conspiracy.


With the very nice (but slightly disturbing) February weather, I have been opening the windows and our fire escape door to get some fresh air into the apartment.

Even with the windows and doors closed, you can pretty much hear anything that is going on outside our apartment or on the sidewalk.

Yesterday, I heard a sustained rustling coming from the side of our apartment where the trash cans and recycling cart are kept.

So naturally, I went to our door and took a peek out.  Our maintenance guy was moving trash from one garbage can to another, which I thought was kind of odd, but not that odd since he has been moving recyclables into the trash can for a number of weeks.

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These pictures were taken through the fire escape, so just ignore the grates! 

I stood, quietly watching to see what he was going to do next.

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Of course, it was time to mess with the recycling bin! He proceeded to pull a bunch of cardboard boxes out of the blue cart and toss them on the ground, most likely destined for the trash can.

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CAUGHT

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IN THE

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ACT!

I could not take it anymore, so I nonchalantly opened the fire escape door and called down to him. Keep in mind this is the same maintenance guy I previously went out of my way to approach about his recycling thieving actions.

“What are you doing?” I asked.

He just looked up at me and didn’t really give a response. I explained again for the millionth time that the recyclables belong in the blue cart and for him to please put them back.

He did.

Then he proceeded to roll the cart out to the curb even though it was not recycling week…

 

The Never Ending Recycling Saga

This seems to never end.

I previously posted about how I finally got our maintenance to stop stuffing the recyclables from our blue cart into the trash cans so they could avoid putting out the blue cart in the first place.

It was a short-lived win.

Today, the garbage cans were out.  There was no blue cart in sight even though it is recycling week (Chicago operates on a once every other week pick up schedule).

Out of curiosity, I went down to check out if there were any recyclables that had been confiscated from their rightful place in the blue cart.

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Sure enough, there were.

And I know these weren’t in the trash can to begin with because those are our recyclables. That’s K’s beer can and our tomato sauce can. I would never have put them in there.

Reluctantly, I trudged to the side of our building to retrieve our blue cart, at the same time that my neighbors were just getting home. I asked if they used the blue cart.

They do, and that launched them into an enthusiastic response of how upset they were that it’s not being handled correctly. They have called and left notes, but alas nothing had changed.

That meant I got to call maintenance again. He is probably going to start screening his calls now. I had to explain yet again that all they needed to do was take out the cart on the same day as garbage. THAT. IS. IT. No extra effort on their part is involved.

 

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Out of pure frustration and annoyance, I took all the recyclables and put them back in the blue cart.

 

 

My Work Here is Done (Probably Not)

An update to the following posts: A Recycling Conspiracy and A Recycling Conspiracy Solved


Last week, I was finally able to solve the conspiracy surrounding the disappearing recyclables out of our blue cart.

After an informative chat with our maintenance explaining that it takes legitimately zero extra effort to put the cart out with our trash, there was a lovely site on our curb this morning.

That’s right.

The recycling.is.out.

recycling-out

Meal-Kit Market Means More Waste

Since I prefer the gift of experiences, K and I were gifted the chance to try out Blue Apron.

Although I like the idea of having all of the cooking ingredients measured and ready for me, I was skeptical of the amount of packaging waste something like this would produce.

Our box arrived on Friday.

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We shall see about that..

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Waste was obviously my biggest concern, so I laid out everything we received in the box. There are even little packets of flour, sugar, butter, etc. in the paper bags. I thought that was unnecessary.

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Blue Apron’s vision is to build a better food system by doing the following:

  1. Developing better standards to grow higher quality ingredients.
  2. Supporting regenerative farming practices to replenish our land.
  3. Eliminating the middleman to deliver fresher food.
  4. Reducing food waste to create better value.

While I applaud the attempt at reducing food waste, there is still excessive packaging waste. Like what am I supposed to do with those 2 giant ice packs? They don’t even fit in our freezer.

From a tastiness standpoint, our meals we made were fine. That’s really all I have to say about them, but I definitely do not think it was worth it.

Have you ever used anything like Blue Apron and discovered all the waste it provides?

I think I would rather just shop at the farmers market.

A Recycling Conspiracy Solved

An update to A Recycling Conspiracy 


As I was putting some food scraps into my compost bucket on the fire escape, I heard some noise coming from below. I stealthily closed the door and took a peek back outside.

To my surprise, there was one of our building’s maintenance men pulling recyclables out of our blue cart and stuffing them into the black landfill cart!

I watched for a few minutes to make sure what I was seeing was correct.

Suddenly I was overcome with frustration and I ran to throw on my coat and go and confront the recycling thief.

Unfortunately, this maintenance worker did not speak much English, so I was not sure how much my message was getting across. I tried to explain that the paper and the plastic we have been painstakingly been putting in the blue cart, should stay in the blue cart, to be recycled.

I did what I could there and went back up to call our usual maintenance man and explain the situation.

Here are some key points from his super logical explanation:

  • Yes, they have been taking recycling out of the blue cart
  • Recycling pick up is not every week so they just can’t take it out
  • The maintenance guy only comes on certain days so he doesn’t want to leave the blue cart out on the curb because people will throw trash in it…..(umm…excuse me!?)

Garbage and recycling get picked up on the same day for us, so he has no idea what he is talking about.

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Basically, it is going to come down to me taking out our blue cart on recycling day. I don’t trust them anymore.

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A Recycling Conspiracy

There is something fishy going on with our building’s recycling cart, and it is about time I figured out what it is.

Since I am often working from home, I am around to never see our cart out on the curb for pick up. Our building maintenance is in charge of these duties, not the residents. When I do see the rest of our street’s blue carts out, ours, mysteriously, is not.

Some days I will go bring stuff down to the blue cart on the side of our building and then the come back the next day to find the cart nearly empty, even though it was never out for pick up.

While putting Christmas stuff away in the basement, I also noticed another blue cart marked with our street address. Hmm…

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The building has been hoarding a blue cart for their own use!

I took a look inside and guess what it is filled with?

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rock salt…

Plastic Filled Great Lakes

Do we really need more findings to come out confirming what we already know?

Basically,  a lot of plastic and garbage gets dumped in not just the oceans, but the Great Lakes too.

Living along Lake Michigan, I take great interest in the goings on and health of the Great Lakes.

On occasion, I voluntarily clean up Lake Michigan beaches from the garbage people leave behind, or the trash that washes ashore.

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Oak Street Beach clean up on Lake Michigan

 

Now imagine 100 Olympic sized swimming pools, which equates to roughly 11 million pounds of plastic debris. That is how much is dumped into Lake Michigan every year according to a new study using computer simulation models at Rochester Institute of Technology.

Lake Michigan receives the most plastic pollution out of all of the Great Lakes due to urban areas such as Chicago and Milwaukee on its shores. These plastic pieces get easily moved around due to winds and the currents, causing most of Chicago and Milwaukee’s waste to end up along the eastern shore of the lake (Sorry Michigan).

Sadly, we are not doing much about this issue. We cannot just address the end point of pollution by continually cleaning it up. We need to start at the source of the problem, which is us, our overconsumption and lack of regard for where our waste ends up.

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Lake Michigan, Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore

 

 

 

No! Not the Recycling Drop-Off Centers!

Compared to other major cities (or any city), Chicago’s recycling rate is pretty dismal. Like really really dismal.

Only 10% of waste gets diverted from landfills.

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That is compared to San Francisco’s 80% and Seattle’s 60%. Yikes.

Anyway, that’s a topic for another day.

The City of Chicago is phasing out its 6 recycling drop-off centers. Back before it took me 79 days to get my Blue Cart, I relied heavily on these drop-off centers to unload my recyclables. I basically used my car as storage until I had enough to warrant a drive over to Lincoln Park.

recycling drop off

Come January 1, all of these will be gone. The new ordinance calls for every Chicago property to have its own recycling program. That is awesome and all, but the drop-off centers should not have to go!

The reasoning for their departure is they need constant servicing and are often contaminated with garbage, clothes, and construction debris. Since all buildings should hypothetically have to recycle or be fined, officials deemed it was ok to scale back on the drop-off centers.

I say hypothetically because larger apartment buildings were already mandated to provide recycling, but it basically was not enforced to the point that the frustrated Chicagoans created www.mybuildingdoesntrecycle.com.

The drop-off centers should stay.

If it took 79 days to get my Blue Cart from the City, I highly doubt buildings are going to get recycling programs set up any faster than that. The centers are great for when you have a lot of large boxes or items that you don’t want to overflow your own Blue Cart with.

For example, our cart is split between the 4 apartments in our building. That’s a total of 9 people and probably some of the neighbors. I can’t just shove a bunch of boxes in there and think it will be fine until it is picked up in 2 weeks.

 

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9 people’s recycling has to fit in here for 2 weeks

To be honest, I have not used the drop-off centers since getting our Blue Cart, but it was still nice to know that it was an option.

If the City is worried about our recycling rate, I think taking away centrally located recycling drop-off centers is a step in the wrong direction.