CN November 15 2018 Madison Hodges


(this segment begins at 37:20 0n the video above.)

The BGA’s Madison Hodges recently revealed some goofiness in the City’s Blue Cart program that’s so crazy it’s almost difficult to describe in a serious news story.

“So we are now collecting less recycling than we were when the Mayor started this whole program to revamp recycling in Chicago and make us a greener city,” she begins.

It was supposed to be a vigorous competition between one mega-corporation, (Waste Management) a smaller, established recycling company (Lake Shore Recycling) and Streets and Sanitation’s own crews working with City trucks. Could the City do the job as efficiently as the private market? Well, as the BGA found out pretty quickly, the playing field was anything but level. And if there’ve been cost savings, they’s extremely difficult to discern.

“Streets and Sanitation doesn’t even issue exactly how much it has spent into this,” Hodges reveals, “but we know that just about on average it is costing about $20-million a year. So it’s been going about seven years, you’ve got to think it’s about $140-million so far into it.”

The City announced during the early stages of the Emanuel administration that that after about six months of competing, the City would pick a winning contractor, or a least a winning strategy. It never happened.

“But here we are about seven years later and there’s no winner named,” Hodges tells us. “And what’s more we found during the investigation is that they never even really conducted an audit or an investigation of the program to establish what that winner would be or to justify to just indefinite continuation.

These circumstances would be comical were it not for the “contamination” issue. Waste convinced the city that they can’t pull plastic bags out a a recycling cart, so therefore any cart with a bag is contaminated and they don’t have to pick it up. The City does it for them.

“But they don’t specify how strict they should be with that,” Hodges continues,” so that means that some collection crews could see one plastic bag or one greasy pizza box and determine that the whole thing is contaminated, and when they do that they leave a tag on it. They don’t pick it up and they wait for the regular city garbage crews to come by and pick it up to dump the whole thing in a landfill, and not try and sort out any of the good clean recyclables in there. And the two contractors are paid exactly the same as if they actually pick-up the materials in the blue cart, bring it to their facilities and recycle them or say they were contaminated.”

And there’s one final issue: Those landfills where the waste from blue carts goes, even thought it may be only mildly contaminated, and even though the City pays the cost of hauling it – some of those landfills are owned by Waste Management. So in some cases Mayor Emanuel’s managed competition picked up the carts the private company didn’t want to, paid the cost of hauling the stuff across the city to a dump and paid a disposal fee, often to the same company.

Now that’s managed competition!

You can watch the show by tapping the image above and moving to the :37:20 mark.

You can listen to the show here.

You can read a CN November 15 Madison Hodges


About Ken

Ken's the host of Chicago Newsroom. A former news director, reporter and radio program host, he's also a past Vice President of the Chicago Headline Club.
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