Lakeshore Recycling Systems: preserving the future through diversion

by Larry Bernstien

Lakeshore Recycling Systems (LRS), headquartered in Chicago’s northern suburb of Morton Grove, IL, is the Midwest’s leading independent recycling and waste diversion provider. Lakeshore Recycling Systems was founded from a January 2013 merger between Recycling Systems Inc. (established in 1999) and Lakeshore Waste Services (founded in 2003).

LRS’ first facility was the California Avenue Material Recovery Facility (MRF), which is one of the two facilities that Mark Sredin manages — Exchange Street is the other. Sredin has been in the waste industry since he was in high school. He started by fixing roll-off dumpsters and moved up to his current position managing large-scale facilities.

The LRS California Avenue MRF was designed to accept and process commingled material and straight loads. It accepts nearly all materials except hazardous waste, asbestos, or asbestos contaminated material (LRS is licensed to haul it with company-operated trucks). The LRS California Avenue MRF accepts and processes mixed loads of recyclable and non-recyclable material. They also have a waste permit at that facility. The other facility Sredin manages, Exchange Street, focuses strictly on construction and demolition.

With the merger of the two companies, LRS provides recycling and waste diversion programs, comprehensive waste removal to homes, multi-family units and local businesses along with temporary services such as portable restroom rentals, roll-off dumpster rentals, mulch, street sweeping and on-site storage. LRS is the exclusive recycling and waste management partner to over 25 municipalities throughout northern Illinois and is a partner with City of Chicago’s Blue Cart Residential Recycling Program.

The recently expanded Lakeshore Recycling Systems now has nearly 800 employees and 10 locations in the Midwest. LRS is known for providing the best service in Chicagoland and at a fair price. One way LRS particularly distinguishes itself is through excellent customer service. Sredin says, “Our customer service department is available 24 hours a day seven days a week. In addition, they are very knowledgeable and can help set up customers with the exact service needed.” Sredin noted that LRS has a great staff that is experienced and courteous.

Through strategic geographic expansion and hiring talented employees, LRS has managed to capture a significant amount of construction and demolition business in the Chicago area. The company controls over 32 percent of the greater Chicago footprint, which is over 2.3 million tons of outbound commercial and residential waste. Due to LRS’ innovative technology, which diverts a high percentage of municipal solid waste out of the waste stream, LRS is able to divert over 80 percent of the C&D debris that they take in. Sredin explained, “Our facilities were designed to recover materials that other companies don’t recover. They simply transfer those materials straight to the landfill.”

While LRS deals with tons of waste, the company does not own a landfill. Due to recycling and their diversion process, LRS successfully keeps over 800,000 tons of solid waste out of landfills each year. Sorting recyclable materials from waste is part of the way LRS strives to make a difference as well as providing customers with innovative and environmentally responsible services at a lower cost.

LRS relies on a large fleet of off-road equipment, from skid steers to rear loaders to excavators, which are used to sort, separate and stack material in the facility. Material is then further sorted by a highly trained workforce assisted by innovative machinery for optimum diversion.

Other recovered materials including steel, cardboard, paper, wood and concrete are sold. Sredin notes the market for recovered steel is high now. “We have relationships with the refiners throughout Chicagoland and work with them to handle our recovered materials,” said Sredin.

These materials are part of LRS’ 40 percent diversion rate of materials taken from the waste stream. These recovered items, such as cardboard, wood, concrete, plastic, steel, glass, aluminum among others are given a second life through LRS’ cutting-edge recycling process.

While the procedures involved with processing the construction and demolition materials are complex, LRS has it down to a science. These materials from the construction and demolition collection portion of the business, once dumped at the sorting facility, are pushed through the multi-step sorting system. Once these materials enter the sorting process, the excavator feeds the C&D material onto the Action TAPER SLOT screen. This process removes materials and particles that are smaller than three inches.

After this step, material enters the sorting line, where highly skilled laborers work quickly to remove recyclable materials, cardboard, steel aluminum for optimum diversion. This removed cardboard is compacted onsite and shipped to other facilities to be baled. Wood that is pulled off the sorting line is further separated into two categories: painted (clean) or non-painted. Depending on the category and grade of this collected wood, these pieces can be repurposed as furnace fuel, mulch, animal bedding and road base. The collected brick and concrete are crushed for repurpose and used to fill in demolition sites, road base and clean fills. Remaining items that are pulled on the sorting line, such as paper, aluminum and plastic are sent to LRS’ single-stream recycling center in nearby Forest View, IL.

Not only does LRS know how to handle construction and demolition materials, but they also know how to convert food and yard waste into high-grade fertilizer using an aerobic digester. LRS partnered with EcoloCap Solutions to create the first aerobic digester in the United States used for organic waste diversion.

When deposited into landfills, organic waste runs the risk of contaminating water, and emits odorous hydrogen sulfide gas and methane, which is a greenhouse gas. LRS’ organic recycling operations convert organic waste into a high-grade compost and organic fertilizer that is ready to ship to local companies and customers for mixing and distribution. The process delivers an end product that is reduced in weight and volume by 70 percent. The technology is ideal for urban environments as it can operate on a smaller footprint, needs little labor/overhead and its process and output are odorless. Along with not producing any odor, the aerobic digester produces zero water pollution and zero methane gas.

Lakeshore Recycling Systems is the largest privately held waste diversion company in Illinois. They divert as much waste as possible from landfills as part of their mission as a waste management company to preserve the environment. Their significant investments in technology allow them to minimize the amount of material that is not recycled. Their commitment to sustainability extends past their employees and to the communities they service. With construction and demolition booming in the Chicago area, LRS will surely be kept busy removing and recycling debris.

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