Chicago Recycling Rules for Chicago Apartments

Whether your tenants live in a 3-flat, a single family home, or a tall residential tower, Chicago’s new Recycling Ordinance applies to your rental apartments. As a landlord, you have four obligations under the ordinance:

  1. Provide recycling services. Chicago landlords must provide sufficient recycling containers to enable tenants and visitors to recycle. Because Chicago has endorsed single-stream recycling, all recyclable materials can be deposited in the same blue cart—you need not provide separate carts for metal, paper, glass, and plastics. Landlords of high-density buildings (5 units of more) must pay private haulers to regularly empty the containers. Chicago apartments in buildings of 4 units or less are served by Streets and Sanitation.                                                                                                                                                 
  2. Adequate signage. Landlords must post a permanent, legible sign in the maintenance and common areas of the premises that informs tenants that local law requires recycling. The sign in the maintenance areas must identify which materials are recyclable, and recycling carts must bear similar signage. You might consider using this flyer, which is available on the city’s website about recycling. Or, ask your private hauler for signage.                                                                                    
  3. Tenant education. The new ordinance requires an “ongoing education program to educate all tenants, residents, and occupants” about the recycling program. At a minimum, landlords must inform tenants of: (a) the materials that are mandated to be recycled; (b) those that are not permitted in the blue carts; (c) how to prepare the materials for recycling; (d) the location of the recycling containers, both inside and outside the building; (e) the name of the private hauler that services the premises and the collection schedule; (f) the name and telephone number of a person authorized to answer questions about the recycling program; (g) any further information that the Commissioner of Streets and Sanitation may require. Ask your private hauler for the education materials.                                                                                                                                                                                       
  4. Lease agreements and lease renewals must include recycling education materials. Effective January 1, 2017, every new Chicago apartment lease, including renewals and extensions, must include a copy of the education materials described in the preceding paragraph.  

You can download the flyer for Chicago Recycling Rules here.                                                    

In previous years, when the city’s recycling requirements applied only to Chicago apartment buildings with five or more units, enforcement was spotty. Many renters tried to push landlords to provide the mandated recycling services by shaming them on a website called My Building Doesn’t Recycle. Even now, Streets and Sanitation intends to rely on tenant complaints to identify non-complaint landlords.  Once Streets and Sanitation issues a ticket, landlords have thirty days to implement a recycling program. Failing that, fines of $500 to $1000 will follow.