Homeowners associations for buildings in Chicago should be prepared for some changes to the city’s recycling ordinance. Effective January 1, 2017, both residential and commercial multi-unit buildings will be required to implement “single-stream source-separated” recycling programs. What does this mean, and how, exactly, should your association’s board of directors go about ensuring that your building is compliant?
Needless to say, it can be challenging (and stressful) to be faced with ordinance changes. You want to follow the rules, but you may not be sure whether you have overlooked anything. That’s when a professional property management company can provide guidance. You may also find it useful to talk to your association’s legal counsel to be sure that you are following the letter of the law.
To help you along, we offer answers to some of the most common questions that board members have about the new recycling ordinance in Chicago.
Does this ordinance really affect our building?
With some exceptions, all multi-unit residential and commercial buildings in Chicago must comply with the new ordinance. This includes buildings that are run by a condominium, co-op or other type of homeowners association.
What is meant by “single-stream source-separated” recycling?
Source-separated recycling means that recyclable items must be separated from other trash. Single stream means you can put different types of recyclable materials together, including appropriate metal, paper, cardboard and plastic.
How should our association go about collecting residents’ recyclable items?
Your association will need to obtain designated recycling containers from your private waste hauler. These containers will need to
  • Clearly identify that they are recycling containers
  • Have a visual or written list of the items that residents can deposit in them
  • Be emptied frequently enough to allow uninterrupted recycling
  • Remain odor free
What items can residents deposit in recycling containers?
The following items can be deposited in recycling containers:
  • Aluminum cans, trays and foil
  • Steel and tin cans
  • Glass bottles and jars
  • Plastic containers depicting the number 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 7 on a chasing arrow symbol
  • Rinsed beverage containers and aseptic containers
  • Paper: office, computer, notebook and gift wrap (no glitter or metallic paper)
  • Newspapers, magazines, catalogues and telephone books
  • Paper bags
  • Junk mail and envelopes
  • Chip board and carrier-stock packaging, such as unsoiled food and beverage boxes
  • Cardboard
  • Paperback books
What items are specifically prohibited?
In addition to any other waste, there are certain items you are prohibited from depositing in recycling containers:
  • Motor oil, insecticide, herbicide or hazardous chemical containers
  • Clear polystyrene or Styrofoam (#6 plastic)
  • Other unauthorized plastic: containers that do not depict one of the approved numbers, plastic sheets, grocery bags, wrap and tarps
  • Expanded foam
  • Reusable bottles, such as Nalgene or baby bottles
  • Any container or paper fiber not otherwise listed
  • Soiled paper fibers, such as pizza boxes, coffee cups or K-cups
  • Tissue paper and napkins
  • Landscape waste
Are there any signage requirements?
Yes, the recycling ordinance specifies that you must post signs in maintenance and common areas to notify residents of the recycling requirement. Signs must also list the items that residents are required to recycle and describe the collection procedures.
How should we inform residents about the new recycling requirement?
The ordinance has a provision mandating that you educate your residents about the program. The two elements that you must have as part of your educational effort are
  • Flyers. Flyers must include a list of materials that residents are required to recycle, a list of those items they cannot deposit in a recycling container and instructions for preparing items for recycling. They must also provide the location of all recycling containers on the property, the name of the private hauler and the collection schedule. In addition, you must add the name and contact information of someone who can provide additional information and answer any questions that residents may have.
  • Written notice of changes. Anytime there are changes to the recycling program, you must provide residents a written notice of any changes within 10 calendar days of the change.
Will we be penalized if we don’t comply?
Yes, violators are subject to fines that can range from $500 to $1,000 per offense. Keep in mind that each day you are out of compliance is treated as a separate offense, so the penalty can become steep very quickly.
Make sure you are ready for the new ordinance by arranging to have the appropriate number of containers onsite, getting your signage in place and making up and distributing flyers. Sure, there will be some costs involved, but your board can make it more acceptable to residents by pointing out the positive—You’ll be doing your part to reduce Chicago’s waste. As of 2015, Chicago’s citywide recycling rate was only 10 percent, largely due to contamination and poor information. Getting your management team involved can also be a big help. They can do the legwork to get your building on track, inform residents about the requirements and solicit everyone’s support.
To find out more about this ordinance, as well as the many services that an experienced property management company can offer, contact FirstService Residential, the leading property management company in the Chicagoland area.
Monday December 19, 2016