Measure Aimed at Curbing Illegal Early Morning Chicago Trash Pickup Advances

(WTTW News)(WTTW News)

For many Chicagoans, the quiet pre-dawn hours are regularly interrupted by the sound of noisy — and illegal — early morning pickups by private garbage hauling companies. 

Thanks to our sponsors:

View all sponsors

But a new ordinance that cleared a key Chicago City Council committee Monday aims to get those trash trucks in line by punishing them for pickups outside the city’s long-standing quiet hours of 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. Advocates for stricter enforcement say those pickups are currently far too common. 

“They might get a scolding call from someone at Streets and Sanitation, but then a few weeks later, they’re back at the same old thing because there is no real meaningful penalty or enforcement mechanism,” said Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st Ward), the measure’s lead sponsor and a longtime advocate for slapping sanitary scofflaws. 

La Spata said the measure would improve residents’ quality of life at very little cost to taxpayers. 

With the unanimous endorsement of the Environmental Protection and Energy Committee on Monday, the measure heads to the full City Council for a final vote on Wednesday.  

During the last two years, there have been nearly 82,000 calls to 911 related to a noise complaint, according to city data. 

“While we can’t say how many of those noise complaints are specifically related to outside of hours deliveries and private haulers, generally noise complaints are in the top ten of 911 calls in almost every ward,” La Spata said.

La Spata’s ordinance grants citation writing power for illegal pickups to Chicago’s Department of Streets and Sanitation, and mandates that private trash haulers turn over their GPS and other electronic tracking data for truck routes so city staffers can monitor and punish pre-dawn garbage pickups. 

Violations could trigger fines starting at $500 and escalating to $1,000, according to the proposal. 

As WTTW News has been reporting on illegal pickups over the course of the year, we’ve received complaints from across the city about a number of private firms. La Spata says the frequency of the rude awakenings have made it easy to build support for his enforcement ordinance. 

“In the time that I talked to my colleagues, I don’t know one person I’ve asked to co-sponsor who didn’t sign on to co-sponsor,” La Spata said. “Whether they’re doing it from a quality-of-life perspective for their residents or they want to take one more thing off the plate of their officers, regardless of your political bent in the city council this ordinance has something to offer you.” 

La Spata’s been pushing for stricter enforcement of the problem for several years, but says the previous mayoral administration wasn’t interested in taking up the matter. With a new mayor and a new chair of the council’s Environmental Protection Committee, the measure has found new life. 

Despite creating new citation powers, La Spata says the measure is in line with progressive values, “limiting noise pollution, but also coming after arguably corporate interests who know what the law is. There’s not confusion about what the law demands — they act outside of the law because they know that enforcement doesn’t exist.” 

Thanks to our sponsors:

View all sponsors

Thanks to our sponsors:

View all sponsors