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Chicago Recycling Privatization: Mayor Daley Moving To Sell Service To Waste Management

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One of the broad themes of the Daley administration has been a belief in private industry to handle typically government-run services. Selling control of the city's parking meters to a corporate conglomerate is only the most notorious case; the Chicago Skyway deal also handed over that piece of urban infrastructure to a corporation, and Daley has argued for privatizing Midway Airport and the city's water system in recent years as well.

As his last term in office runs out, the mayor is reportedly hoping to push one more big privatization through before he goes.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the mayor is intending to sign a deal in early April with Waste Management and other companies to run the city's troubled recycling program.

Lou Phillips, business manager of Laborers Local 1001, tells that paper that the city will be divided into six zones, of which four will be run by WM. At least one will go to Brackenbox, a local waste disposal company.

To date, the city-run recycling program has been the picture of inefficiency. Chicago changed to "blue-cart recycling" in 2008, after the blue-bag system it had used before was deemed a failure. But the carts still haven't been deployed in large areas of the city, and nearly $1 million worth of carts are stacked in a warehouse on the Far South Side (see photo) while only one third of Chicagoans have access to the service.

The Daley administration hopes that, beyond an influx of cash, a privatization of the recycling program will streamline it and bring about its more efficient and rapid deployment. But even those most eager to recycle are hesitant to see another privatization deal go through, according to ABC:

Alderman Danny Solis, 25th Ward, is reserving judgment on the privatization possibility even though he says his constituents are clamoring for carts.

"We have to analyze what the problems are, what the potentials are in terms of resolutions and then we will make decisions, " Ald. Danny Solis said.

Mike Nowak with the Chicago Recycling Coalition says that while expanding the city's program is a good thing, there's no reason to rush into it. Nowak thinks the city, which has had years of problems with its recycling program, should wait until Mayor-elect Rahm Emanuel is in place.

"Why now? Why not wait a month and have the Rahm Emanuel administration come in and look at the issue and do it right?" Nowak said.

The city's Procurement Services department says that no deal has been finalized yet, and that "bids are still under evaluation." Companies were invited to pitch proposals to the city starting in January.

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