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Recycling Interns make a big impact.

You may have noticed two of our trusty recycling interns helping Bart the Cart share his message of reducing recycling contamination over the summer. From early June to late August, Shelby and Jennifer audited over 1300 curbside carts, presented to 9 different summer camp groups, attended 9 community events and much more! 

“These two recycling interns worked non-stop to enthusiastically share their message and they made a significant impact in helping our campaign” said Dan Martin, Superintendent of Public Works in Lake Forest.

During the intern’s curbside cart auditing, they discovered that the top three recycling contaminants were plastic bags/wraps, unclean and unrinsed items and Styrofoam. Crunching the numbers further, they learned that Lake Forests current recycling contamination rate is trending down — from 25% to 17.8%!

“Yup!” said Bart the Cart, the campaign mascot. “That’s a huge win for me, you and Lake Forest!”

Lake Foresters Rethink Recycling

The campaign to reduce local recycling contamination by changing the behavior of local residents, funded by The Lake Forest Garden Club, kicked off this week with a new website, Facebook page (@bartthecart), and Instagram account (@barthecart_lf). There will also be an article in the upcoming Dialogue and campaign posters and recycling cart stickers throughout the City.


Called Rethink Recycling -- the campaign features animated spokesperson Bart the Cart who will help Lake Forest recyclers know what belongs -- and doesn’t belong -- in their recycling carts.


Bart’s recycling guidelines focus on four easy-to-follow guidelines:


  • Recyclables should be well-rinsed with lids on. Food remnants contaminate the process.


  • No plastic bags! They get tangled in the recycling processing equipment.


  • No styrofoam and #6 plastics. They’re simply not recyclable.


  • No tanglers. They can damage sorting equipment.


According to George Pandaleon, Mayor of Lake Forest, the benefits from this effort are significant, yet an animated character can be an excellent method to communicate the campaign’s key messages.“Utilizing Bart the Cart is an especially effective method to reach the entire family, and we would love to see Lake Forest families come together to adopt these new residential recycling guidelines. It might even be environmentally concerned youngsters that drive this program--and that would be great.”


Rethink Recycling has been in development since the campaign was announced last November at City Hall with senior members of The Lake Forest Garden Club. No one knew then that the world would soon be dealing with a pandemic that would force most of its residents to stay inside. Stay-at-home families produce much more refuse and recyclables. So the time couldn’t be better to reduce contaminated recyclables.


Mayor Pandaleon believes Rethink Recycling will be a success because more than 90 percent of Lake Foresters already recycle, and when they know what’s at stake they’ll embrace the program.


Recycling contamination occurs when nonrecyclable materials are placed in residential recycle carts which contaminate materials that are truly recyclable, diverting them to landfills already near capacity. Not only is it an unsustainable practice, but one that has forced many communities to eliminate their recycling program.


A letter from the Mayor appearing on the Rethink Recycling website provides even more detail: “Due in large part to lower demand from international markets, recycling processing costs have dramatically increased for communities throughout the country. Lake Forest's recycling program has gone from generating a positive income of approximately $100,000 per year to now requiring a subsidy of approximately $250,000 per year.”

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