Chicago recyclingChicago (pop. 2,714,856), the third-largest city in the U.S., has the difficult and massive task of operating an efficient citywide recycling program for its nearly 3 million residents. The Windy City’s program is run by the City’s Department of Streets and Sanitation, which operates curbside service for single-family (four-residential-unit buildings or smaller) and a network of 38 drop-off recycling locations. Though 600,000 residential buildings were planned to be serviced with single-stream recycling, due to budgetary constraints, only 240,000 buildings have been served thus far. The city plans to continue to expand its single-family curbside service throughout 2013. Multifamily residential buildings (five units or larger) are serviced by private, contracted waste haulers. Update: Citywide expansion of Chicago’s recycling program is set for completion by the end of October 2013.

Materials recycled

Paper Including milk, juice and other waxy cardboard containers; newspapers and inserts; paperback books; paperboard; paper towel and toilet paper rolls; junk mail; paper bags; flattened corrugated cardboard; phonebooks; magazines; catalogs; office paper and file folders. Plastics Plastic bottles and containers numbered #1 through #5 and #7 accepted. No Styrofoam. Rinsing is not necessary. Metals Aluminum cans, steel cans, tin cans, aluminum trays and aluminum foil are accepted. Rinsing is not necessary. Glass Glass jars and bottles. Rinsing is not necessary.


Curbside recycling pick-up occurs on a biweekly basis, same day as trash. Collection dates are broken up by regional zones. A map and pick-up schedule are available online.

Other programs

The Chicago Recycling Coalition, a nonprofit that advocates for the growth of recycling in the area, operates 38 drop-off recycling locations scattered around the city. These locations accept all of the above-listed curbside materials. The City of Chicago allows for multiple battery-recycling options. Alkaline and rechargeable batteries can be dropped off at any Chicago Public Library or Walgreens location in the city. The Illinois EPA also hosts household hazardous waste drop-off events throughout the year. Chicagoans can drop off oil-based paints, paint thinners, household batteries, used motor oil, herbicides, drain cleaners, insecticides, lawn chemicals, pesticides, solvents, old gasoline, antifreeze, pool chemicals, hobby chemicals, cleaning products, aerosol paints/pesticides, mercury, fluorescent light bulbs, asbestos (double bagged and wetted) and old/outdated pharmaceuticals and medicines. Each year, one Saturday in January is dedicated to Christmas tree recycling. Chicago residents can take their trees to one of nearly two dozen city parks for disposal. A listing of all participating parks can be found here.

More information

Visit the Chicago Recycling Coalition website for more recycling program info.