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CHICAGO — A change in guidelines by Chicago’s Department of Streets and Sanitation is causing some confusion for hundreds of residents who are trying to recycle.  The city is no longer allowing plastic bags to be dumped into the recycling carts.  The bags damage the machines at the recycling center and slow down the process.

One resident on the Northwest Side recorded video of his recycling being dumped into a Waste Management truck along with the rest of his garbage.  He mailed the video to WGN and was upset over what he fears is a flaw in the recycling system.

Commissioner Charles Williams, who oversees the recycling program, says only about 10 to 12 percent of what is picked up is meeting the standards for the city’s recycling program.  The garbage that doesn’t meet standards goes straight to the landfill.

The Department of Streets and Sanitation has mailed out notices but says a large percentage of residents have not caught on to the change, leaving them with no choice but to haul the garbage off to the landfill.  Workers have started to tag recycling bins with warning stickers, letting you know when a cart is contaminated with regular trash.

The city is pushing for more recycling.  Williams says, “When an item goes to the landfill we pay for that.  When it goes to the recycling center we make money from that.”

They estimate that in 2015 the Department saved $4.5 million from recycled items.

If you put these items in your recycling, they will NOT be recycled by the city of Chicago:

  • Plastic bags
  • Styrofoam
  • Glass other than bottles and jars
  • Electronics
  • Cords
  • Lightbulbs
  • Coffee Cups and other cups
  • Greasy cardboard (like pizza boxes)
  • Napkins

For more on what you can and can’t recycle in Chicago, go to