Feb 22, 2022 - Business

Environmentalists win metal shredder decision


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

The Department of Public Health announced late Friday it's denying the operating permit for industrial metal shredder Southside Recycling.

Why it matters: The city sided with environmentalists who have been pushing to keep the metal shredder from operating out of the Southeast Side community.

  • "This decision demonstrates it is possible for the city to use health and environmental justice data and community input to reassess development decisions," the Metropolitan Planning Council said.

Context: The metal shredder formerly known as General Iron was closed on the North Side to make way for the mega-development Lincoln Yards.

  • The facility was renamed Southside Recycling and relocated to the Southeast Side in 2019, when they signed an agreement with the city to build a new state-of-the-art facility.
  • After the EPA asked for a review in 2021, the permit process was stalled.

What they're saying: "This decision can be a turning point for communities of color that have been hurt by environmental racism for decades," the Southeast Environmental Task Force said in a statement.

  • "Although we are celebrating this decision, the community continues to deal with the toxic legacy that has allowed pollution to accumulate in our community."

The big picture: Environmentalists have fought to deny this permit through rallies, press conferences and hunger strikes. Groups have protested pollution on the Southeast Side for years, including a widely publicized battle against petcoke producers.

The other side: "We have built the most environmentally conscious metal recycling facility in the country, but politicians and government officials have ignored the facts," Southside Recycling owner RMG said in a statement.

  • "This decision is a clear message to any businesses or industries that might be considering expansion or investment in Chicago: the city is not a reliable partner and is not open for business."
  • This comes on the heels of a study from the city last week which found "no appreciable risk" when assessing the environmental impact of the facility.

What's next: RMG, which says it's spent over $80 million on this venture, plans to sue the city.


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