Chicago “Managed Competition” Recycling Program In Third Month

Thousands of Blue Carts sit in a Chicago warehouse. Will they, and the thousands more now on order get used soon?

Chicago is in the middle of  yet another attempt to expand recycling in Chicago.  (The city has provided maps and schedules of the new “managed competition” system here.)  As the Chicago Reader reported last year, Chicago’s recycling program has a very low recycling rate — and the city pays millions of dollars each year to maintain the program.  The trial program divides many of the single-family households in Chicago into six zones serviced by two companies and city workers in the hopes of providing more homes with Blue Carts at a lower price to the city.

Within four months, the mayor has promised blue-cart recycling will come to 20,000 additional households in Wicker Park, Bucktown and Logan Square.

Six months into the competition, a cost-benefit analysis will determine how city employees measured up against two private contractors: Waste Management and Midwest Metal Management.

Gazette Chicago recently provided an update on the program:

Private vs. union recycling battle continues on
December 1, 2011

The City is paying close attention to a heated battle taking place along the alley ways of Chicago’s neighborhoods. Two vendors, Sims Metal Management and Waste Management, are vying with Laborer’s Local 1001 for a lucrative contract to handle the City’s residential recycling.

Lakeshore Sanitation also is on the job as a subcontractor hauler for Sims.

The contest came about because the City wants to trim costs and balance its budget, but many worry that pitting private and union options against each other will eliminate union labor.

In response, Local 1001 has cut the number of trucks it uses from 22 to 19 in the two residential sections in which it is competing to reduce expenses. The union hopes to decrease that number further to 15 trucks by January 1, which would cut expenses even more.

Reducing truck numbers and expenses will allow the union to compete better with the private firms. “We’re happy with our expenses right how,” Local 1001 business manager Lou Phillips said. “It’s early in the competition, but I think that we’re going to win this contract. We’re pulling together and getting it done.”

Roosevelt Professor Carl Zimring discusses the business of recycling in his book Cash for Your Trash: Scrap Recycling in America and taught about it last year in the first offering of SUST 240 Waste. For more information on the seminar or any other of our courses, visit our Sustainability Studies website, call 1-877-277-5978 (1-877-APPLY RU) or email

This entry was posted in news, policy, recycling, waste. Bookmark the permalink.