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

What is Single Stream Recycling

Single stream recycling refers to a system in which all recyclables are mixed together in a collection truck, instead of being sorted by material type (i.e. newspaper, plastic, glass, aluminum, etc.) by the resident.

Instead, the mixed or “commingled” recyclables are sorted at a processing center using technologies both old (magnets, screens, conveyor belts) and new (air jets, infrared readers). The individual commodities are then baled or bundled and sold to manufacturers, who reprocess or refine the materials and to make “new” products.

There are several advantages to a single stream recycling system, including:

  • A lack of sorting means more people are willing to participate in the program and residents tend to recycle a greater percentage of their waste stream.
  • The lack of sorting causes residents to need less space in their home to store recyclables.
  • Single stream reduces collection costs because single compartment trucks are less expensive than multi-compartment trucks, crew can move faster without having to do any sorting at the truck, and single compartment trucks have a greater capacity than multi-compartment trucks.
  • New materials can be added to the program without having to add additional compartments onto a collection truck .

View the Chicago Recycles video to learn more