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Chico: Use regional grids, truck and cart ads to pay for recycling

Updated: January 18, 2011 12:06AM

Mayoral challenger Gery Chico said Thursday he would shift from a ward-by-ward to a regional grid system of collecting garbage — and put advertising on city trucks and blue recycling carts — to bankroll a citywide switch to curbside recycling.

Laborers Union Local 1001 and mayoral candidate Miguel del Valle have suggested imposing a monthly fee for recycling pick-ups to extend curbside recycling to the 359,000 Chicago households without the service.

Chico disagreed. He argued that recycling pick-ups to 241,000 households are done on a grid system that averages “significantly more pick-ups” for each route.

Doing the same for routine garbage would save $30 million “in the first year alone,” sharply reduce city waste-hauling costs and landfill fees and generate more recyclables that can be sold for profit, he said.

“These savings would be used to expand recycling services to all Chicago households without charge. That’s the key,” said Chico. “Some people want to impose a fee. I want to bring recycling to every household in Chicago without charge,” he said.

To generate sorely-needed revenue, Chico said he would also sell advertising on blue recycling carts and city garbage and recycling trucks.

“CTA buses have ads plastered all over them. I haven’t gone by a bus where the side or the back isn’t telling me something. Nobody’s complaining. Why not allow a private company to promote itself in a tasteful way?” he said.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported last summer that thousands of blue recycling carts — with a price tag of nearly $1 million —are stashed away in a Far South Side warehouse because City Hall bought them to make the citywide switch to curbside recycling, but ran out of money a third of the way through.

Mayor Daley’s final budget calls for privatizing curbside recycling in 2011. Final bids are due back next week.

But the lame-duck mayor has acknowledged the savings generated by a private contractor would not be enough to expand recycling beyond the 241,000 households that already have the service.

That leaves 359,000 households in the lurch, whose only recourse is to take their recyclables to 35 regional drop-off centers.

“I’m imagining myself getting in my car with my garbage, if I have a car. Or maybe I can get on the CTA,” said Chico, who favors his plan over privatization. “We’re basically a city of have’s and have-nots. Some people have blue carts. Two-thirds of the city doesn’t. We can and must do better.”

Mayoral challenger Carol Moseley Braun has declared her opposition to privatized recycling.

Mayoral challenger Rahm Emanuel has promised to wring as much as $65 million of the city’s annual garbage collection costs by implementing a four-step process that could end in at least partial privatization.

He would start by establishing a “benchmark” price-per-ton after comparing the cost of collecting Chicago’s 1 million tons of annual garbage to costs in 10 major cities.

Emanuel would then give the city’s 1,142-strong, $173.7 million-a-year refuse collection army a chance to generate the savings necessary to meet those benchmarks. If they can’t, he would switch to a grid or zone system of collecting garbage, Emanuel has said. And if all else fails, he would implement a “managed competition” between city employees and private companies to achieve the desired savings.

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