For seven years, Chicago landlords have been required to provide recycling bins and materials to their occupants. But with weak enforcement of the law — if any — thousands of residential buildings still did not provide the means for their tenants to easily dispose of paper, plastic, glass and metal materials.
A new City of Chicago ordinance, which went into effect Jan. 1, aims to change that lack with extensive fines for building owners who refuse to provide their residences with proper recycling options that allow materials to be made for reuse.
There have been mixed opinions on the recycling mandate, with many residents in favor of enforcing the option to recycle. But some landlords are unhappy because they have to pay a high cost for recycling bins, educate residents and hire a private waste company to pick up the recyclables.
Jenna Severson, a senior women’s studies and gender studies major at Loyola, said her Rogers Park apartment does not supply recycling bins, but she would be in favor of having the option to recycle at home.
“We attempted to fight with our landlord over the fact that this building does not have a recycling bin. He was unresponsive,” said Severson. “Since the beginning of January [when the ordinance took effect], I suppose I have noticed a few more recycling bins [around the city], but not many.”
Severson and her roommates cannot use a recycling bin at a neighboring building because that’s illegal according to Illinois law. While the 22-year-old was not aware of the new fines until The Phoenix informed her, she said she hopes landlords will now follow the recycling rules.
Rick Olsen, Severson’s landlord, said he is not in favor of the new fines.
“We don’t offer recycling right now, but we’re going to have to. I’m well aware of the new law and … I don’t think it’s a good idea,” said Olsen. “It’s too much money.”
Most large recycling bins alone cost upward of $500 each. The landlord said that Scavenger, the private waste company that he has employed to pick up recycling from his apartment, will provide him with recycling bins and signs.
The Apartment Building Owners and Managers Association declined to comment on the mandate.
Emma Hall, a senior anthropology major, lives in an off-campus apartment, but she said her landlord provides recycling bins in the alley near her apartment.
“I do think that landlords should be responsible for providing renters with recycling bins and amenities, and that they should be fined for not providing these to their renters,” said the 21-year-old.
Fines for noncompliant landlords range from $500 to $1,000 for a first-time offense, and up to $5,000 for three offenses within one year. Condominium associations and residence owners are given a 30-day warning period before tickets and fines are issued, according to the ordinance.
Because the ordinance went into effect Jan. 1, buildings could start to receive fines as early as Feb. 1.
“The role of the new ordinance is to increase compliance, not generate income,” said Ann Hinterman, staff assistant to Alderman Joe Moore (49th), who represents Rogers Park. “There had been a law on the books for many years that required all buildings to recycle, but it lacked enforcement measures.”
The enforcement was so weak that one report lists more than 2,000 Chicago buildings that do not provide recycling amenities to tenants, with nearly 300 reported addresses in Rogers Park.
Hinterman said the strict enforcement is worthwhile because it’s important to push for more recycling.
“Increasing our recycling efforts as a city is the bare minimum we can do in our efforts to be more environmentally responsible, and we are looking forward to all residents having equal access to effective recycling,” Hinterman said.