by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producerBy CBS 2 Chicago Staff

CHICAGO (CBS) — Chicago has struggled for years to increase a miserable recycling rate, but a new report shows to make matters worse, city officials aren’t doing enough to enforce existing rules for large apartment and condo buildings or businesses.

A report from City Inspector General Joseph Ferguson’s office found Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation workers can’t even issue citations to building owners who don’t live up to the city’s requirement to provide recycling services to tenants.

The Department of Streets and Sanitation itself is responsible for the city’s blue cart recycling program, which is only available for single-family homes and residential buildings with no more than four units.

But nearly 500,000 Chicago households live in buildings with five or more units, where property owners are required to provide private trash and recycling hauling services, accounting for 41% of the city’s overall households. In addition, nearly 60,000 businesses also are required to hire private garbage and recycling haulers.

Violators face fines of $500 to $5,000 a day after receiving a 30-day notice from the city to come into compliance.

However, the mobile e-ticketing system used by ward superintendents charged with inspecting such buildings does not include coding for violations of the recycling requirements, according to Ferguson’s report on the city’s recycling efforts.

Ferguson’s office found Streets and Sanitation also does not enforce a requirement in the city’s recycling ordinance that 15 private hauling firms submit annual reports to the city about which buildings they serve, and how much material was diverted from landfills.

In addition, the city does not maintain a list of buildings that are subject to the private garbage and recycling hauling ordinance, or a list of customers served by private haulers. Nor does Streets and Sanitation consistently record the outcomes of inspections, leaving it unclear if a building is in compliance.

“Without enforcement of the Ordinance, many of these households and businesses may not be recycling,” Ferguson’s report states.

Ferguson’s office said the Department of Streets and Sanitation did not dispute the findings, and has agreed to a series of changes to improve enforcement.

The inspector general’s office has recommended Streets and Sanitation work with the city’s Law Department and Department of Assets, Information and Services to update the mobile e-ticketing system so ward superintendents can issue citations for recycling violations; record and monitor whether building owners who violate the ordinance were given 30-day notices to come into compliance; ensure private haulers submit the proper annual reports; and make sure private haulers report customers who decline recycling services.

“Proper recycling in commercial and high-density residential buildings, the latter of which make up more than 40 percent of households throughout Chicago, can help reduce the City’s dependence on landfills, which emit greenhouse gases that harm public health and natural habitats,” Ferguson said in a statement.

Ferguson’s office said some of the changes Streets and Sanitation agreed to will be delayed until after Streets and Sanitation completes an ongoing study of the city’s garbage and recycling policies, expected to be completed next year.

During annual budget hearings, Streets and Sanitation officials told aldermen only 8% to 9% of the city’s trash is recycled and diverted from landfills, compared to a 17% recycling rate in New York City, and a 76% recycling rate in Los Angeles.

Ferguson’s report stated, while dropping prices for recycled goods on the international market, and a lack of facilities that can process glass, paper, and plastic has hampered efforts to boost Chicago’s recycling rate, other cities have adapted to changes in the global marketplace rather than abandoning recycling efforts.

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CBS 2 Chicago Staff