Recycling Market Skyrockets in Auburn Gresham

Perspectives Charter Schools-Calumet Campus students pose for a photo with representatives of Cleanslate and The Shedd Aquarium in front of their school.

Hubert Newkirk

Under the leadership of the Greater Auburn-Gresham Development Corporation (GADC), a targeted area of homes, businesses, and schools within a 1 mile square radius are participating in a litter free and recycling pilot program that’s mimics the City of Chicago’s current environmental action plan.

Not scheduled to participate in a citywide recycling initiative until 2011, GADC’s Executive Director, Carlos Nelson spearheaded the Litter Free Zone Initiative (LFZI).

GADC's Americorp Member Tiffany Horton disposes paper waste into a curbside recycleable bin supplied by GADC's Litter Free Zone Initiative.

Ernest Sanders

This pilot program aims to collect recyclable materials from Auburn Gresham residents and businesses (door to door and curbside) as paper, plastic, glass, bottles, and properly dispose of them in a large recyclable dumpster located at the 17th Ward Aldermanic parking lot.

This initiative also includes participation from 5 local participating elementary and high schools. These schools include Perspectives Charter Schools-Calumet Campus, Simeon Career Academy, and Oglesby Elementary School.

Many other eco-friendly stakeholders from the City of Chicago’s Office of the Mayor, Department of Environment, The Burnham Plan Centennial, and The Boeing Company, to The Comer Foundation, The Joyce Foundation, The Shedd Aquarium, The Field Museum, and The Aspen Institute have taken notice of the LFZI.

Recently The Shedd Aquarium visited the Auburn Gresham neighborhood to get a hands-on idea of how the litter free/recycling operation works. Impressed by the simple approach and alliance with community and school partners, the Shedd asked how they could integrate a similar program into some of their community related projects.

Auburn Gresham’s recycling efforts would be pointless without local support from other key stakeholders as Cleanslate. As part of their collaboration, Litter Free Zone Ambassadors, i.e. Perspectives-Calumet students, summer youth interns, and local community volunteers, along with LFZI Coordinator, Hubert Newkirk go door to door to pick up recycle materials from the front of the residents homes. Students from other participating schools collect recyclable materials within their school and dispose of them through Chicago Public Schools environmental initiatives.

Terrance Samuels, a community volunteer collects several recycleable bags to dispose into the recycleable dumpster at the 17th Ward Aldermanic office.

Ernest Sanders

This pilot program began in April 2008 and has collected (through December 2008) 2765 recycled bags from residents only. This totals approximately 41,475 pounds of recycled materials. The other participating schools are recording their tonnage through the Chicago Public Schools system. Cleanslate records their recyclable curbside pick-ups with their litter prevention totals. Please visit Cleanslate's website for their performance measurements year to date.

When asked about the next phase of this pilot program, Nelson said, “As a direct strategy from the Auburn Gresham Quality of Life Plan, we are genuinely interested in expanding our program to the entire Auburn Gresham community, with an eye towards developing "Green Collar" jobs. Ultimately, we want the LFZI to become a basis of living a healthy lifestyle and providing economic development opportunities for our constituents.”