LRS held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for The Exchange MRF in Chicago on Wednesday, Aug. 9. | Courtesy of LRS

LRS has opened a $50 million Chicago MRF, giving the independent garbage and recycling company the ability to serve all parts of the Chicagoland area. 

With millions of dollars of financing assistance from Closed Loop Partners and American Beverage’s Every Bottle Back initiative, LRS opened the MRF on its 25-acre campus in the Stockyards neighborhood of Chicago. 

Called The Exchange, the facility will use six optical sorters, a CP Auger Screen and other sorting technologies. It will be able to handle single-stream recyclables, mixed waste and other streams containing recyclables, according to a press release. In addition to advanced sorting equipment, the facility contains three Fire Rover systems to identify and suppress fires before they get out of control. 

“The Exchange stands as a powerful embodiment of our vision to become the safest, most innovative waste recycler globally,” John Larsen, chief operating officer at LRS, stated in the release. 

At opening, it has a capacity of 25 tons per hour, and is projected to divert 224 million pounds annually. LRS plans to expand the capacity to 35 tons per hour in the future, the release notes. 

Headquartered in the Chicagoland area, LRS already has two other MRFs in the area: the Heartland Recycling Center in Forest View, Ill., on the southwestern doorstep of Chicago, and a MRF in Northbrook, Ill., which is north-northwest of the city. A spokesman for LRS said having the addition of The Exchange, which is located south of downtown, will allow LRS to efficiently cover all regions of the Chicagoland area. 

Groups help with financing

John Larsen, chief operating officer for LRS, speaks during the ribbon-cutting ceremony for The Exchange MRF.

For the project, LRS received financing assistance from Closed Loop Partners through three of the investment firm’s funds: Closed Loop Infrastructure Fund, Circular Plastics Fund and the Beverage Fund, the release notes. American Beverage (formerly called the American Beverage Association) has invested in the Beverage Fund.

Additionally, American Beverage supported The Exchange project with its Every Bottle Back initiative. Through that initiative, major beverage brands help pay to boost curbside recycling infrastructure, increasing the supply of scrap bottles and cans that could be used in new drink packaging.

A press release from American Beverage noted that the beverage industry contribution to the project totaled $3 million. The group estimates the MRF will improve recycling service for 1 million residents of the metro area. When fully operational, the facility will sort around 10 million pounds of PET and 3 million pounds of aluminum annually, the release notes. 

Closed Loop Partners has provided financing to LRS. In early 2016, the Closed Loop Fund, the former name of Closed Loop Partners, provided a $1.5 million loan to Lakeshore Recycling Systems, the former name for LRS, to help build out the Heartland Recycling Center. 

In 2018, the Closed Loop Infrastructure Fund provided another loan to LRS to help add a residential recyclables sorting line at the Northbrook MRF, which had been focused on C&D debris. The last of LRS’ debt to Closed Loop was paid off in 2021. 

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