Jan 25, 2022 - News

Metal shredder permit stalls on Southeast side

Metal shredder on waterfront

Southside Recycling's new facility on the Calumet River on Chicago's Southeast side. Photo: Kelter Davis/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

Last week, the city of Chicago delayed a public hearing on issuing a permit for metal shredder Southside Recycling. Again.

Why it matters: The shredder has run into controversy from both the federal government and residents after it secured a written agreement with the city to build on the Southeast Side.

  • The Latino-majority neighborhood has been fighting back against industry and pollution, including the recent high-profile fight over manganese (petcoke).

Flashback: In 2020, metal shredder General Iron left its longtime location in the Clybourn Corridor after the area was re-zoned to make way for mega-development Lincoln Yards.

  • General Iron was acquired by metal recycling plant Reserve Management Group (RMG). RMG created a new company called Southside Recycling and obtained city permits to start construction on a new facility near East 116th Street.
  • The new Southside Recycling facility is located on the 175-acre RMG property. According to RMG, they can recycle over a billion pounds of metal annually.

Driving the news: Now they await the operational permit, which has been delayed by the city for almost a year in part because both the EPA and HUD launched inquiries into the move.

What they're saying: For Southeast Side residents, the new location of the metal shredder is just the latest in a long line of environmental injustices.

  • "Chicago's current zoning and land use policies are steeped in racism and create sacrifice zones in communities of color where industry is allowed to accumulate," Olga Bautista, director of the Southeast Environmental Task Force, tells Axios.
  • "We must finally fix this broken system and protect our most vulnerable communities from pollution."

The other side: "Southside Recycling never would have invested in expanding its operations without a September 2019 written agreement with the city and the series of permits that were issued by city and state agencies during 2019-21," Randall Samborn, spokesperson for RMG, tells Axios.

Context: The only other major metal recycling plant in Chicago was just slapped with a lawsuit by the Illinois Attorney General's office for alleged emission violations.

What's next: The city currently has nothing scheduled and says they'll give two weeks notice before the next public hearing happens.


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