OIG Finds That the Department of Streets and Sanitation Is Not Enforcing Recycling in Commercial and High-Density Residential Buildings or Ensuring Proper Documentation from Private Waste Haulers

The City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) has completed an audit which finds that the Department of Streets and Sanitation (DSS) does not ensure commercial and high-density residential building (i.e., those with five or more units) owners provide recycling services as required by the Chicago Recycling Ordinance. The City is required to provide buildings found in violation of this requirement 30 days to come into compliance; continued noncompliance can result in fines ranging between $500 and $5,000 per day. OIG also concluded that DSS does not ensure that private haulers submit complete, accurate, and timely reports detailing the buildings they served, and the amount and type of materials hauled.

OIG made several recommendations to help DSS consistently record and monitor the outcomes of recycling inspections as well as proactively enforce the Recycling Ordinance. OIG suggested that DSS should,

  • work with the Department of Law (DOL) and the Department of Assets, Information and Services (AIS) to configure its Mobile E-Ticket system to allow users to issue citations for violations of the Ordinance;
  • consistently record and monitor whether building owners received 30-day notices and the outcomes;
  • ensure that private haulers submit complete, accurate, and timely annual reports;
  • review the design of the annual reports to ensure it supports the City’s recycling goals;
  • develop procedures to incorporate private haulers’ diversion data into a citywide waste diversion rate; and
  • ensure that private haulers report customers who decline recycling services.

In response, DSS agreed with our recommendations and stated that it will continue working with DOL and AIS to revise citation processes and add the Ordinance to the ticketing system, as well as develop a proactive enforcement strategy concerning recycling services once the City’s comprehensive waste study is completed.

“Proper recycling in commercial and high-density residential buildings, the latter of which make up more than 40 percent of households throughout Chicago, can help reduce the City’s dependence on landfills, which emit greenhouse gases that harm public health and natural habitats,” said Inspector General Joe Ferguson. “While the City of Chicago has implemented a variety of recycling programs throughout the years, it has historically struggled with low participation rates. The Chicago Recycling Ordinance was amended in 2017 to include stronger enforcement provisions, but our audit shows that this responsibility has not been met and significant barriers still exist. As we await the City’s comprehensive waste study and its eventual impact on a proactive enforcement strategy, we are encouraged that the Department of Streets and Sanitation agreed with our recommendations and has begun collaborating with other departments to improve its citation system and address compliance issues.”

The full report can be found online at OIG’s website: bit.ly/DSSRecycling

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The mission of the independent and non-partisan City of Chicago Office of Inspector General (OIG) is to promote economy, effectiveness, efficiency, and integrity by identifying corruption, waste, and mismanagement in City government. OIG is a watchdog for the taxpayers of the City and has jurisdiction to conduct investigations and audits into most aspects of City government. If you see corruption, fraud, or waste of any kind, we need to hear from you. For more information, visit our website at: www.igchicago.org.