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My Building Doesn't Recycle

My Building Doesn't Recycle


My Building Doesn’t Recycle is a app that allows Chicago residents of high-density (5 or more residential units) apartment buildings to report that their building management is not providing recycling services. The goal of the app was to get the city to strengthen and enforce the existing recycling law, which it succeeded in doing.

After being picked up by the press and getting the attention of the Chicago Department of Streets and Sanitation, My Building Doesn’t Recycle influenced the drafting of a stronger recycling ordinance, which was passed by Chicago City Council and will go into effect January 2017.

Claire Micklin, the project lead, presented at Chi Hack Night after the ordinance was passed. Watch her talk, My Building Doesn’t Recycle: Designing for Policy Change:

Interview with a project leader

Claire Micklin

Project leader
Claire Micklin
Project Manager and User Experience Designer

How did you come up with the idea for this project?

I have lived in Chicago for 13 years and have never lived in a building that had recycling services. I decided to research why my buildings didn’t have recycling. I found out that there is a 20-year-old ordinance that mandates that these buildings recycle, but that ordinance has almost never been enforced. This led me to design an app focused on getting the city to enforce the ordinance.

How did Chi Hack Night help?

When I first pitched my idea, I was directed to the Environmental Breakout Group, led by Scott Beslow. Scott helped recruit developers to work on the project. Many Chi Hack Night attendees provided valuable feedback and other contributions throughout the design of the app. Pitching the app in front of hack night every week helped me articulate the goal of the app more clearly - which made it easier to talk to the media about the app.

What was the impact of your project?

We launched My Building Doesn’t Recycle in February 2015. It received a lot of media coverage (http://mybuildingdoesntrecycle.com/press), including stories in WBEZ (Chicago’s branch of NPR), The Chicago Tribune, and NBC 5.

In May 2016, the Department of Streets and Sanitation asked me to meet with them to review an updated recycling ordinance. I also provided them with all the reports from our site so that they could use it to get a jumpstart on enforcement of the new law. In June 2016, Mayor Rahm Emanuel introduced the ordinance to city council.

On July 20, City Council passed the ordinance, which will go into effect in January 2017.

What did you learn from this project?

I learned a ton about how city government works. I learned about how to talk to the media. I learned that policy change can be a realistic goal for a civic tech project.

More on this project

Chicago Apartment Residents Say They Want to Recycle, But Buildings Don’t Provide It, Chris Coffey, NBC5 Chicago (video)

Website Targets Chicago Landlords, Condos Skirting Recycling Law, Melissa Harris, Chicago Tribune

Why Apartments are the Blind Spot in Chicago’s Recycling Program, Chris Bentley, WBEZ Curious City

My Building Doesn’t Recycle press page

Chicago High-Rises Could Be Fined Thousands For Recycling Violations, Ted Cox, DNA Info Chicago

Council votes to crack the whip on high-rises that don’t recycle, Fran Spielman, Chicago Sun-Times

Help us pass Chicago’s new recycling ordinance!, Claire Micklin, Chi Hack Nigh blog

My Building Doesn’t Recycle: Designing for Policy Change, Chi Hack Night (video)

Website My Building Doesn't Recycle
Tags Issue advocacy
Creators Claire Micklin
Ben Wilhelm
Alex Kahn
GitHub https://github.com/open-city/recycling
Launched January 2015