Chicago Releases 2021 Waste Strategy, Reframes Roadmap

The City of Chicago, IL has released its  2021 City of Chicago Waste Strategy. The Strategy – which was drawn up in partnership with the Delta Institute, a 501c3 nonprofit that specializes in municipal solid waste management planning – identifies and analyzes existing data, policies, stakeholders, and impacts of Chicago’s waste, recycling, composting, and reuse systems with the end goal of developing strategies for improvement. The University of Illinois at Chicago also provided analysis and current condition assessment that informed the proposed strategies. 

This waste and materials management plan has the goal of decreasing waste disposal and associated negative environmental impacts; reducing costs and increasing efficiency; maximizing economic investment and workforce development opportunities; and addressing social and environmental justice inequities. 

More than 63 strategic recommendations to address waste management have resulted from the study, and 12 have been prioritized by the City to be addressed in the years 2021 and 2022. 

The Chicago Waste Strategy guiding principles include:

  • Reframe Chicago’s materials as resources, instead of waste;
  • Center equity and environmental justice in program design;
  • As the City, identify opportunities for establishing internal and external partnerships;
  • Prioritize initiatives with revenue potential, no/low cost, or a positive return on investment when applied at scale;
  • Identify opportunities to include goal setting, metrics, and data sharing to demonstrate progress and increase transparency; and
  • Equip consumers with the education and tools needed to drive innovation in evolving waste systems.

The Strategy does not set a specific waste diversion target. 

“We did not set a goal because I think for us this is a roadmap to move to a better direction,” said Chief Sustainability Officer Angela Tovar. “I think it would be a big leap to go from the current rates that we have here in the city of Chicago and then to jump all the way to zero waste without talking about the interim steps in order for us to get there.”