Thursday, June 24, 2004

Chicago Tribune | Daley defends blue-bag program

Chicago Tribune | Daley defends blue-bag program

By Gary Washburn
Tribune staff reporter
Published June 24, 2004

Mayor Richard Daley insisted Wednesday that the city's blue-bag recycling program is not a failure despite declining performance, and he held out hope for a turnaround by making it easier for people to participate.

If "20 or 25 percent" of the city's glass, paper, cans and other trash is diverted from the waste stream, "it is better than nothing," Daley said. "Most cities have stopped it. New York stopped their program last year."

Streets and Sanitation Commissioner Al Sanchez on Tuesday told unhappy aldermen that the city's recycling rate, once as high as 25 percent, had fallen to 22 percent in the year ending June 2003. It was the poorest performance of the blue-bag program since 1998.

Under an experiment announced in February, residents of the North Side's 47th Ward will receive free stickers for regular garbage bags that are used for recyclables.

"One of the problems is buying blue bags," Daley said. "We think we should be doing something like this" to increase participation.

Adopting a curbside pickup of materials in bins, similar to what some suburbs do, would be too expensive, Daley said.

Despite declining numbers, switching oversight of the blue-bag program from the city's Environment Department to the Department of Streets and Sanitation 18 months ago was the right move, Daley asserted.

"It did not work in Environment," he said. "They are sitting over there in the 39th floor. They know nothing about an alley. They know nothing about garbage ... Sanitation picks up garbage."

But it was Sanchez who took the heat Tuesday from aldermen who questioned his department's efforts. He was told that he has four months to answer their concerns with plans for improved performance.

On another front, Ald. Edward Burke (14th) and Ald. Danny Solis (25th) introduced a measure that would grant official city recognition of identification cards issued by all Latin American countries that operate consulates in Chicago.

Burke was the sponsor of a 2002 ordinance to recognize an ID card, known as the matricula consular, issued by the Mexican Consulate here.

The cards can be used for everything from applying for library cards to cashing checks.

Critics of the cards contend accepting them as IDs condones illegal immigration. Supporters counter that the cards acknowledge that undocumented workers make significant contributions to the U.S. economy.

Meanwhile, the City Council approved:

A plan to acquire nearly 20 acres along the western edge of the North Side's Rosehill Cemetery to create a public nature preserve;

An ordinance that will help clear the way for construction of a $122 million rental housing development at 13th Street and Michigan Avenue. The complex, with 502 apartments, will benefit from $95 million in tax-exempt bonds to be used for financing and a $14 million city subsidy;

Copyright © 2004, Chicago Tribune


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