Image of boy putting recyclable materials into a Blue Cart for recycling
City Services

Resources and Frequently Asked Questions for Multi-Unit Recycling

What Can Residents Do?  
As a resident in a multi-unit building, you understand that you have a responsibility to recycle in your unit and participate in your buildings recycling program. Additional information for residents, such as suggestions and ideas on how to increase recycling in your unit or building and answers to frequently asked questions (FAQs) related to waste and recycling, can be found by clicking on the links below.

If you live in or own a building with five units or greater (referred to as a 'multi-unit building'), you are served by a private waste hauler for pick up of both trash and recycling. A source-separated, single stream recycling method, similar to Chicago's Blue Cart program used for single-family homes and buildings with four units or less, is recommended for multi-unit buildings.

What are building owners, governing associations and/or condominium boards required to do for their residents?
The Chicago High Density Residential and Commercial Source Reduction and Recycling Ordinance (Chapter 11-5 of the Chicago Municipal Code) requires building owners, governing associations and/or condominium boards to offer residents an effective recycling program. In some buildings, these entities hire a property manager whose responsibilities may include fulfilling this requirement. An effective recycling program is defined by the following:

  1. Source separation of at least three recyclable materials (such as newspaper, glass and plastic). This means that recyclable materials are separated from other solid waste before the point of collection and kept separated until they can be recycled. In special cases, a waste service can collect only two materials if the building also implements two waste reduction measures in the building or their office, such as using energy saving light bulbs and reusing supplies.

    If your building does not currently recycle, one of the easiest things you can do is call your hauler today and request source-separated (such as single stream) recycling services.
  2. Each building must maintain a written recycling plan detailing its program and make it available to all residents. At a minimum, the plan should include:
    - The three recycled materials and any source reduction measures your landlord uses.
    - How to prepare recyclables and what happens to them once the waste hauler picks them up.
    - A summary of the education program.
    - The contract with the waste hauler.
    - Semi-annual waste hauler quality reports and any reports of contamination.
  3. Each building must implement an educational program that informs new residents, and at least annually all residents how to participate in the building's recycling program including what can be recycled, how to prepare it and where to take it. Residents must also be notified about changes in the recycling plan 10 days before they happen.

What if my building doesn't have a recycling program?
In many cases, although you want to recycle, your building may not have an effective recycling program or one that is convenient to use. Click here to learn how you can start or improve a recycling program in your building, determine if your building's program is effective, and challenge other residents to reduce and reuse to minimize the building's waste.

How Do I Complete a Recycling Plan for my Building?
Document or plan the specifics of your building's recycling program by filling out this Recycling Plan and calculating how much waste and recyclables your building generates.

Whether you have one already or are just beginning, you will learn about the specifics of your building's current program by filling out this Recycling Plan and calculating how much waste and recyclables your building generates. It will also help you to become compliant with the Chicago High Density Residential and Commercial Source Reduction and Recycling Ordinance, which requires that each multi-unit residential building maintain a written recycling plan.
Recycling Plan and Waste Generation and Recyclable Collection Worksheet

Who provides recycling services to multi-unit buildings in Chicago? 
This list provides the names and contact information of vendors that provide waste and recycling services to multi-unit residential buildings across the City.
Vendor Contact List

How does the size of a building affect its recycling program?  
Learn about how each building's unique characteristics affects recycling programs.

Implementing a recycling program will vary as each building has its own unique characteristics. Typically, buildings of the same size share similar characteristics which can either offer obstacles or opportunities to recycling. Before fully implementing a program, it's important to plan the recycling program around these characteristics.