With the summer in full swing, many of us enjoy leaving the windows open for fresh air while we get a good night’s sleep — at least, when it’s not 90 degrees and the air isn’t full of wildfire smoke.
But for some Chicagoans, the early morning air is also filled with the sound of illegal trash pickups.
Under the city’s noise ordinance, private waste haulers can’t make pickups before 7 a.m. After WTTW News found Groot flouting the law in Rogers Park, we got even more tips from viewers and readers about other sanitation scofflaws.
Tom Hope, who’s lived in Lakeview for about 30 years, said Republic Services has been waking him and his wife up early “ever since I can remember.”
On a recent morning, WTTW News saw Republic making multiple stops in Hope’s neighborhood between 5:30 and 6 a.m.
“This block to the south has no alley,” Hope told us later that morning, gesturing across the street from the building he’s long lived in. “They do it all in the street here, which makes it worse.”
Hope said the problem is even worse during the summer, when people leave their windows open: “It gets noisy; it wakes a lot of people up.”
After following Republic for a while, WTTW News drove around the neighborhood to see if any other dumpster delinquents were on the streets. Lo and behold, we came across a Lakeshore Recycling truck near Southport and Addison a few minutes after 6 a.m.
Lakeshore Recycling did not respond to a request for comment. As for Republic, which has been waking the Hopes up for years on end, that company said in an email that “... we work diligently to plan our routes so that they conform with applicable ordinances. We work closely with ward superintendents so that we may resolve any complaint that arises in a timely manner.”
“My wife has called 311 a number of times, and she’s also called the alderman’s office a few times,” Hope said. “They try to help, but there’s only so much they can do.”
Ald. Bennett Lawson (44th Ward) told WTTW News that more than half or so of trash pickup in his community is serviced by private waste haulers, and that his office receives occasional complaints about early garbage runs as well as construction noise. He said residents should call the ward office to let staff know what day and time companies are coming. Lawson said the 44th Ward Department of Streets and Sanitation ward superintendent then pays those drivers a visit to warn them about the law or risk a ticket — and that he hasn’t yet had to write one.
That’s the procedure mirrored across Chicago’s 50 wards, though you can also call 311. The city doesn’t appear to have a centralized way of tracking or responding to these rude awakenings, but Lawson said a localized approach has been relatively effective so far. No city department was able to provide information on how many complaints come in or fines get issued each year.
A Streets and Sanitation spokesperson said the department “takes noise complaints regarding private waste haulers very seriously” and that the police are the lead department for enforcement — meaning fines.
As for what Hope would like to see come of this, he wants the city to “do something to where (the companies) figured they couldn’t get away with it anymore. That would be nice!”