Chicago Tonight, on WTTW channel 11, compared Chicago and Los Angeles with respect to garbage pickup. Recycling is also discussed. It aired on December 17, 2009, but the problem remains today: less than half of Chicago households have “curbside recycling”, recycling rates remain low, and garbage collection costs a lot of money. Will the new Chicago mayor address these issues?

Jay Shevsky says, “Garbage collection is one of the keys to staying in office.” Switch to Alderman Bernard Stone (50th ward, 10th term): “An alderman is judged mostly by his garbage collection. You can pass all the legislation in the world, but if you’re not a good housekeeper, you’re not going to get re-elected.”

Watch the video on WTTW’s website.

To Bernard, Ward-based garbage pickup, a superintendent (making $70k – $113k per year) and a refuse coordinator (making $51k to $86k per year) constitute a “personal touch” which “saves money in the long run.”

“There’s absolutely no reason why any Chicagoan needs to call the alderman in order to get a new garbage can.” – Laurence J. Msall, president of the Chicago Civic Federation.

A city worker picks up garbage on Michigan Avenue in Chicago in December 2010. Photo by John W. Iwanski.

Matt Smith, spokesperson for the Department of Streets and Sanitation (and still today), says that the recycling pickup is routed regionally to be most efficient, but about changing the Ward system for garbage pickup to a grid or regional system, he said you have to analyze that to see if it would be the right change. No word on if they have made such an analysis. “Sure we want to do it as efficiently as possible… but you want to ensure that any changes you do are gonna benefit you, they’re gonna be the most effective.”

Los Angeles uses 1 worker per truck – the driver. They pull up the truck next to the garbage bin and a robotic arm grabs the garbage bin and dumps it on the top. In Chicago, there is 1 driver and two laborers. Our other differences include:

  • Los Angeles is larger: 600 square miles versus Chicago’s 470
  • Los Angeles has more households: 750,000 versus Chicago’s 600,000
  • Los Angeles picks up more garbage: 1.4 million tons versus Chicago’s 1.1 millon
  • And they do it all with fewer trucks: Los Angeles uses 224 while Chicago uses 350 trucks

Host Phil Ponce closes the TV segment by mentioning that Alderman Fioretti said he will introduce a resolution in 2010 to examine switching to a grid system. I don’t know if he did this or not (neither the 2nd Ward or City Clerk’s websites are ideal news or document repositories).