Thursday, August 21, 2008

Covered trash, recycling bins now in area parks

Earlier this summer, I noticed that the black wire trash bins in the park near my house had been replaced with large plastic carts, much like the ones that line the alleys in Chicago's residential neighborhoods. The carts are color-coded-- trash carts are green, and the recycling carts are blue. The lids help to prevent trash from blowing out, and the recycling option is a great and much-needed addition to our parks.

Unfortunately, the program doesn't seem to be as successful as one would hope-- there are only a handful of blue carts in the park by my house, and many of them are either empty or filled with regular trash. Another park down the street from me seems to be faring much better-- almost every green trash cart is paired with a recycling cart and people in that neighborhood seem to be making more of an effort to separate what they throw away.

How can we improve participation in the Chicago Park District's recycling efforts? Through awareness, education, and publicity, of course, but I really think that, for public recycling programs to be most effective, we need to make recycling as easy as-- if not easier than-- just dumping everything in the trash.

I think restaurants such as Potbelly's and Schlotzsky's and retailers like Ikea have the right idea. Their trash cans and recycling bins are in one big receptacle. These restaurants make the openings for the recycling bins just large enough to accept bottles and cans and reduce the size of the garbage cans, and Ikea's receptacles are brightly color-coded and even post pictures of the items that go in each compartment (for those who still can't figure it out).

If all trash bins also had recycling compartments, I think it would be hard not to recycle. Maybe someday even the garbage trucks will be compartmentalized-- the recycling company in downstate Springfield, for example, has trucks like this (minus the garbage portion) so I think it could work. That way, the city won't have to continue to try and make us believe that our recyclables get sorted out of the trash once it's been collected and compacted and arrives at the waste management facility (sorry people, I'm still not buying it!) In the meantime, though, compartmentalized receptacles would certainly be a start!

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