Sponsored By

What Makes a Recycling Facility Sustainable?

Companies around the globe aim to be more sustainable…so what about the carbon footprint of a materials recovery/recycling facility aka MRF?

Rick Lingle, Senior Technical Editor

April 29, 2024

2 Min Read
All-electric material handler at a MRF
With an eye toward operational sustainability, Lakeshore Recycling Systems purchased its first fully electric material handler in 2023.LRS

When you consider packaging sustainability, several thoughts may occur. These can range from source reduction to material selection to designs.

However, you might immediately think “recycling”, which is only possible if the packaging is recyclable.

But what makes packaging recyclable besides the packaging’s material and format? That would be the municipal recycling facilities that make that possibility a reality.

Have you ever considered the sustainability of the materials recovery/recycling facility aka MRF?
A recycling operation’s sustainability depends on several factors, for example the operational practices, energy consumption, waste management strategies, and overall environmental impact.

With this fifth and final episode of our weekly Earth Day series throughout April with Lakeshore Recycling Systems (links below), Joy Rifkin, LRS manager, sustainability, and training, provides us with an overview of how the company looks at sustainability related to its latest MRF. Located in Chicago and formerly named The Exchange Material Recovery Facility, it’s known by LRS simply as The Exchange.

LRS’ dedication to sustainability.

The facility’s existence is a greenhouse gases (GHG ) reducer: It’s projected to recover 224 million pounds of recyclables annually, resulting in thousands of tons of avoided CO2 emissions.

According to Rifkin, LRS monitors GHG to reduce carbon emissions company wide. LRS also considers the sustainability of the infrastructure associated with the MRF…it’s a package deal.

She provides the following highlights:

  • In 2023, LRS established a GHG emissions inventory based on 2022 emissions data. The third-party-verified baseline carbon emissions allows LRS to begin planning for a Net Zero future.

  • That 2022 GHG inventory data led LRS to develop and complete a roadmap aimed at reaching a net zero target by 2040. 

  • Net zero is defined as the balance between GHGs emitted and taken out of the atmosphere by an organization.

  • LRS has a holistic approach that extends beyond the facilities to a fleet of trucks that collect the recyclables.

  • In 2022, LRS purchased its first electric collections truck with additional plans to electrify its machinery and equipment.

“Moving forward, LRS feels strongly that conversion to a clean-diesel and compressed natural gas (CNG)-based fleet is inevitable,” Rifkin says. “We have already begun demo-testing electric yard-spotters and in 2023 we purchased our first fully electric material handler (seen in the feature image at the top). We plan to be at the apex of this technology.”

Sister publication Waste Dive reported that The Exchange campus is wired to support the addition of electric vehicle chargers should the company decide to pursue fleet electrification in the future.

To read the previous weekly episodes throughout April about LRS and The Exchange, see

Episode 1 Recycling in an MRF Minute: $50 Million Plus Benefits

Episode 2 Recycling Secrets of Sorting

Episode 3: Behind-the-Scenes Look at a New Recycling Facility

Episode 4: Municipal Recycling: Social Impact and Engagement

About the Author(s)

Rick Lingle

Senior Technical Editor, Packaging Digest and PlasticsToday

Rick Lingle is Senior Technical Editor, Packaging Digest and PlasticsToday. He’s been a packaging media journalist since 1985 specializing in food, beverage and plastic markets. He has a chemistry degree from Clarke College and has worked in food industry R&D for Standard Brands/Nabisco and the R.T. French Co. Reach him at [email protected] or 630-481-1426.

Sign up for the PlasticsToday NewsFeed newsletter.

You May Also Like