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The Bin Myth


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I very much appreciated Mick Dumke's article "The Awful Truth About Recycling in Chicago" [July 21], but I'm afraid it barely scratches the surface of our city's neglect of its own recycling standards (or any other reasonable standards).

I find it particularly amusing that an environmental engineer who oversees green initiatives for the Department of Procurement Services describes the recycling program in city offices as "aggressive" because "you can hardly walk down the hallway here without running into a blue bin." Just because folks who hold titles and supervisory positions feel confident that recycling is happening, just because they can see the bins, doesn't at all mean the materials that get placed in those bins ever arrive at the intended destination, much less are ever actually recycled.

For instance, I witnessed a uniformed facilities worker at the Chicago Public Library Edgewater branch dumping a blue bin into a standard trash bin. With no hint that he thought he was doing anything wrong or unusual, the man rolled a large blue recycling bin out the front door of the library and onto the sidewalk next to a standard city flip-top black garbage bin. He proceeded to lift the nearly full blue bin and dump its contents--what appeared to be almost exclusively 8 1/2 by 11 sheets of paper--directly into the garbage bin, without any kind of bag or indication that the paper should be recycled, nor with so much as a glance over his shoulder to notice anyone (like me) watching.

I really don't think that tripping over blue bins indicates anything more than the city having purchased lovely blue receptacles to help us all feel better about the amount of waste we generate in Chicago. It's a nice blue. It is somewhat tranquil and calming. It just doesn't actually indicate that anything (like recycling) is happening.

Thank you for trying to make something happen.

Lott Hill


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