by Michael Dymmoch
It started small.
A friend’s daughter attended a private school that collected paper to help defray its costs. So I asked my building manager if I could recycle our junk mail. When I asked if I could put a blue recycling container in the mail room, the board not only said yes, they provided a container. I live in a 250 unit condo building, so pretty soon I was hauling 300 pounds of junk mail per week to the school. That gets old very fast, but I’m stubborn. I kept at it.
Then we had a telephone book delivery at my building—250 copies of several different directories. Problem was, most of the residents have computers and internet access. We don’t use telephone directories. We still had most of the directories that were delivered six months earlier. And we don’t have storage space for things nobody wants. So the old directories were dumped in the trash. From which—with the help of one of our building engineers—I rescued them. It took me ten trips to the school to recycle all those directories.
That must have made someone feel guilty, because the building manager soon informed me that the board had decided to put a dedicated recycling container in the trash room—one pick-up a week. They painted it blue and stenciled “RECYCLE ONLY" on the side. And they put up a poster detailing what could be recycled—basically the same things the city accepts in its recycling drop-off centers. I volunteered to keep an eye on it.
It wasn’t long before we were overfilling the container weekly with recyclables, even some things that had to be recycled at The Salvation Army (old clothes) or the Brown Elephant (books) or the City of Chicago Hazardous Waste & Recycling Center (tech trash).
I’m now devoting ten hours a week to breaking down boxes and sorting stuff. And stopping at the Salvation Army and the tech trash place at least once a week. Some days, I feel like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. On the plus side, however, I don’t have to go to the fit center to work out.
At present, we’re filling our recycling container three times a week. And diverting another container’s worth of clothes, books, packing peanuts, plastic bags, and other things away from the landfill.
If your building doesn’t have recycling, and you’d like to start it up . . .
Things you’ll need if you decide to start a recycling project:
Cooperation from your condo board or building manager.
Dedicated (read that moderately obsessive) volunteers to flatten boxes and deal with things left in the recycling container that don’t belong there.
A place to locate your container. (You’ll have to limit public access to prevent fly dumping.) Many apartment and condo buildings have a trash room with space for containers. Most cities have regulations about what you can store on site or outside—check before you start.
A reliable company to haul things away.
Signs telling people what you can accept. And what you can’t. Signs (or, better yet, handouts) telling people where they can take things you can’t accept.
Handouts to let residents know about recycling in your building.
Wear gloves and safety glasses.
Learn the safe way to use a box cutter. Keep it closed and in your pocket when it’s not in use.
Keep waterless hand cleaner, Band-Aids, and Neosporin handy.
Ask your doctor if you need a tetanus shot.
Things to remember:
Start Small. Be sure you can dispose of everything you’ll collect so things don’t pile up.
People don’t read signs. Expect to spend time relocating things that aren’t recyclable.
Many people don’t care. You can change this--be nice.
Don’t lose your cool. People make mistakes that you’ll have to deal with. And you’ll have to deal with the same (to you) mistakes made by different people. Be patient.
Take time for training. Believe it or not, some people don’t know about recycling. If you explain it nicely (without preaching) and point out the advantages, they’ll often get on board.
Anticipate problems. It takes time to iron the wrinkles out of any new project.
Ask for help. If you’re doing it alone, you’ll burn out very quickly, but if you share the work, it’s easier. Take occasional vacations.
If you can figure out a profitable way to recycle polystyrene (i. e. Styrofoam), you may become a millionaire.
Where to Recycle Things In Chicago That The City/Hauler Won’t Pick Up: (Always phone first.)
Batteries, Akaline, Lithium, and All Button Type
Walgreens Stores and Chicago Public Libraries
Books (except manuals and text books)
Most public libraries accept books in good condition for resale to their patrons. Ask yours.
LITTLE CITY (formerly Brandeis) BOOK SALE
Call 847-221-7856 for drop-off locations or pickups (150 book minimum).
3651 N Halsted, Chicago, 773-549-5943
5404 N. Clark, Chicago, 773-271-9382
1459 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, 773-252-8801
Clothes, furniture, household items: (Call for pick-up and information)
Mt. Sinai Hospital Resale
814 W Diversy Parkway
Chicago, IL 60614
The Salvation Army 312-738-4360
Brown Elephant Stores
3651 N Halsted St, Chicago, 60613 - (773) 549-5943
5404 N Clark St, Chicago, 60640 - (773) 271-9382
1459 N Milwaukee Ave, Chicago, 60622 - (773) 252-8801
The White Elephant
2380 N Lincoln Avenue
Chicago, IL 60614
(Most of the above will give you a receipt for your donations that you can use if you itemize on your taxes. Check with your tax preparer.).
Please don’t take them broken, torn or soiled items. They have to pay to dispose of anything they can’t sell.
At Cell Phones for Soldiers,
click on “Help out our troops” and you can print out a postage-paid mailing label to recycle your used cell phones.
Computers for Schools Chicago
3350 N Kedzie, docks # 2 & 3
Dead Computers, Electronic junk, Hazardous materials
City of Chicago Hazardous Waste & Recycling Center
1150 N Branch St, Chicago
7:00 am – noon Tuesday
2:00 PM to 7:00 PM Thursday
8:00 AM to 3:00 PM the 1st Sat of each month
Solid Wast Agency of Lake County (SWALCO) Illinois residents only
Orphans of the Storm Animal Shelter
2200 Riverwoods Road
Riverwoods (Deerfield), IL 60015
Newspapers & Towels:
The Anti-Cruelty Society
510 N. LaSalle
Chicago, IL 60610
12:00 noon - 7:00 pm Monday through Friday.
12:00 noon - 5:00 pm Saturday and Sunday
AnimalCare & Control
2741 S Western Ave
Chicago, IL 60608
noon to 7 pm daily (phone first)
Paper Shopping Bags:
Check with your local resale store (i. e. Brown Elephant, Salvation Army).
And Church rummage sales often need bags.
Call 800-828-2214 for where to take peanuts in your area.
UPS STORES take peanuts.
527 Dundee Road
Northbrook, IL 60062
Many retail stores recycle plastic bags (e.g. Jewel/Osco). If your favorite store doesn’t, ask why not.
Check with your cleaners. Many take back and recycle plastic cleaners bags and coat hangers. (Please package them neatly.)
You can also sell unwanted items on Craigslist or eBay