Household Chemicals and Electronics Recycling Center

Former incinerator a home for recycling
August 11, 2010

Many cities have household waste recycling programs for paper, cardboard, plastic, and aluminum. But what about old paint, used antifreeze, fertilizer, your broken cell phone collection, or that Commodore 64 you've been saving for the grandkids?

Last November, Chicago opened the $3.8 million 24,000-sf Household Chemicals and Electronics Recycling Center on the rehabilitated site of an old city incinerator building. Residents can drop off their old hazardous and electronic waste for safe and efficient recycling. Computers are being refurbished by former offenders trying to get a fresh start and, where possible, donated to schools, churches, nonprofits, and low-income families. Through a partnership with the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity and Computers for Schools, the city developed an 11-week training program that uses the center to train the ex-offenders for jobs in electronics recycling. The program is managed by the Chicago Conservation Corps.

The LEED-NC registered complex of three buildings is itself recycled. Interior and exterior doors were salvaged from the deconstructed incinerator building. The incinerator's salvaged interior spaces became an office, conference room, classroom, and storage room. Siding taken off the old building was used to make canopies and interior walls in the new building. Green features include the first solar wall in the state and zero stormwater discharge to the municipal sewers—thanks to a green roof, cistern, and bioswales.

The Building Team, led by the Chicago office of A/E Harley Ellis Devereaux and Greenworks Studio—also designed in a heat recovery unit, extensive daylighting, natural ventilation, and low-flow water fixtures. Much of the remaining incinerator structure and site has been used to create a “green screen” of vines and vegetated spaces on the site.

All hazardous materials are housed separately from safe materials that are recycled on site in a prefab hazardous material storage building, according to Andrea Love, who was project architect on the recycling center for the City of Chicago. Due to high demand, the city is purchasing a second storage unit with a grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.