CHICAGO — Recycling needs to be rebooted. That’s the opinion of experts as commodity prices crash and many residents still can’t recycle right.
WGN Investigates rode along one recycling truck’s route in Oak Lawn and followed it to the yard to see how much of the material residents put in their green carts is actually recyclable.
“Believe it or not we get a lot of diapers,” said Pete Keller of Republic Services which handles waste hauling for dozens of Chicago suburbs.
Twenty to 25% of most loads are unrecyclable, according to Republic.
“There’s actually a term for that in our industry,” Keller said. “It’s called ‘wish-cycling.’ Well-intentioned people doing more harm than good.”
The contamination problem in south suburban Posen is so bad the village president is scrapping the suburb’s recycling program effective in October.
“It’s just not working,” Frank Podbielniak said. "We don’t know any other way to educate the public to do it the right way.”
While recycling advocates say dumping a program is not the right way to go they concede the economics have changed since China decided to stop accepting much of what Americans recycle. Haulers like Republic Services are now cautioning customers that they may soon be asked to pay more to recycle.
“Without the commodity value, without a willingness to pay more, this business is not sustainable long term,” said Keller.
How much more? Watch the full story above.
Wondering what you CAN and CANNOT recycle? It varies by community and waste hauler. Here are some helpful links:
Republic Services: https://recyclingsimplified.com/
Lakeshore Recycling Systems: https://www.lrsrecycles.com/residential/residential-programs/
Waste Management: https://www.wm.com/thinkgreen/what-can-i-recycle.jsp