The Blue Bag program was officially halted a couple of years ago, the victim of Chicagoans’ unwillingness to participate. It was brought into disrepute after disclosures that virtually all of the key contracts were held by firms with political and personal ties to the mayor.
Now, the mayor is turning over control of three former recycling centers from the program to city contractors who have ties to the mayor, including some who used to profit from the Blue Bag system.
The city recently leased one center to Michael Tadin, a lifelong friend of Mr. Daley from his native Bridgeport neighborhood. Mr. Tadin was a trucking contractor in the city’s scandal-plagued Hired Truck program, as well as for the city’s first Blue Bag operator, Waste Management.
Another center will be run by Allied Waste, the firm that supplanted Waste Management. The third contract is with Thomas Volini, a business partner of Fred Barbara. Mr. Barbara is also a mayoral friend from Bridgeport and a former Blue Bag consultant.
The recycling centers, which opened for the Blue Bag effort in 1995 at a cost to taxpayers of $60 million, were promoted as state-of-the-art facilities. Chicagoans were told to separate recyclable trash into blue bags and put them into bins with their other garbage. The bags went to the sorting centers, where machines and workers tried to pick recyclables from a conveyor belt of refuse.
During the program’s nearly 15-year run, it never came close to the success rates recorded in cities where recyclables are picked up separately from garbage. Results improved after Chicago switched to large blue receptacles in many neighborhoods.
The three-year lease agreements for the new operators forbid recycling of any kind at the old Blue Bag plants. Instead, they now serve as depots for the transfer of garbage bound for landfills.
Despite never operating such a facility, Mr. Tadin’s company was the low bidder for the right to run one of the centers and now stands to reap a maximum of $40 million. Mr. Volini said the contracts would save money for the city.
Lisa Madigan, the state attorney general, sued Mr. Volini and Mr. Barbara in 2007 for alleged illegal dumping in Kankakee County. While Mr. Barbara agreed to a settlement, Mr. Volini has said he wants to take the case to trial. The dumping case, he said this week, is irrelevant to his new deal with the city.
“You get in the garbage business, and you take a lot of shots,” Mr. Volini said, adding that Mr. Barbara is not involved in his new contract with the city.
Read the original article from the Chicago News Cooperative.