Chicago Recycling, By the Numbers

Chicago’s Department of Streets and Sanitation is preparing to launch a public service campaign with the hope of changing one key statistic: the city’s embarrassingly low recyling rate of less than 10 percent.

The percentage of Chicago’s total waste that is recycled through the city’s blue cart program: 9.71 percent.

By comparison, cities like San Francisco and Seattle have recycling rates near 60 percent. 

As the city looks to boost recycling efforts, Chicago Tonight toured a recycling facility in Forest View where many of the city’s recyclables are delivered, sorted and shipped off to companies that purchase aluminum, plastics and other recycled materials. 

Here are a few more numbers related to Chicago recycling at the Forest View facility.

Tons of recycling processed per day, on average.

Percentage “residue” that arrives at the facility but can't be recycled, such as to-go coffee cups, pizza boxes and electronics.

Tons of recycling processed at the facility each hour in May.

Total break time (in minutes) for workers during 10.5-hour shifts ...


Empty can of Spam spotted during a tour of the facility.

Types of material eligible for city’s blue recycling carts.

Number of plastic bags allowed in city’s blue recycling carts.

Annual cost—in millions—of city’s contracts with private recycling vendors.


Where Does Chicago’s Recycling Go?

June 27: What happens to Chicago’s recycling after it’s hauled away from neighborhood alleys and sidewalks? We tour a massive processing facility and watch sorting in action.


Chicago’s Trash Doesn’t Go to Waste at Pontiac Landfill

June 26: About 5,000 tons of trash from the Chicago area is dumped every day at a landfill in Livingston County, but hardly any of it goes to waste. How yesterday’s trash becomes tomorrow’s energy.


‘I Lost My Wedding Ring’ and Other Stories of Chicago’s Accidental Trash

June 26: From lost jewelry to criminal evidence, a Pontiac landfill that receives trash from Chicago has plenty of bizarre waste stories.


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