How one university collaboration is helping Chicago with its recycling problem

SOURCE: Scott Olson/Getty Images/AFP
Metal scavengers unload scrap metal at a recycling facility July 17, 2008 in Chicago, Illinois. With scrap metal prices near historic highs, many communities are experiencing an increase in the theft of metal, including cemetery ornaments, plumbing pipe, gutters and even manhole covers.

By U2B Staff 

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DePaul University, America’s largest Catholic university, is building on its pledge of sustainability with the appointment of Chicago-based waste management company Lakeshore Recycling Systems (LRS) on a ten-year contract to improve the institute’s green credentials.

The contract was awarded on Friday and comes into effect in Jully 2019. It lays out a plan for LRS to help DePaul improve its recycling participation and reduce recycling contamination by co-developing educational materials, conducting on-site educational sessions and providing facility tours for students.

“We know we will be in good hands with LRS because they have invested heavily in the technology and infrastructure required to maximize the recovery of recyclable materials from our waste streams,” DePaul University Director of Facility Operations, Richard Wiltse, said in a press release.

“LRS’ mission of sustainability aligns well with our core values and we look forward to their services.”


This is far from LRS’s first time working with a university. The locally-owned business serves more higher education institutions than any other industry provider. In addition to DePaul University, LRS services Loyola University Chicago, The University of Chicago, Illinois Institute of Technology, Oakton Community College, all Chicago Public Schools and seven community colleges in the City Colleges of Chicago system.

They pride themselves on spreading the word on sustainability and assisting big institutions to put the best practices in place. On top of providing educational materials, the company informs universities on green initiatives and committees, and provides them with the necessary resources to ensure programmes succeed.

This approach goes hand-in-hand with DePaul’s commitment to sustainability. The university sees the principle as an extension of its Catholic values and make sure to reinforce the message across a range of methods.

In 2018, DePaul installed 300 solar panels on the roof of their buildings, generating 100,000 watts of energy and offsetting the building’s electricity supply. The panels are estimated to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 83 tonnes each year – the equivalent of planting more than 3,000 trees a year. They have plans to extend this project with more panels this year.

The university was recognised in the 2012 Princeton Review of Green Colleges for its green building initiatives, conservation efforts, use of alternative energy and environmental academic programmes.

It is also a member of the US Environmental Protection Agency’s Energy Star Challenge and has completed in excess of $20 million in energy-related projects since 2000.

DePaul’s success, with the help of valuable partnerships with leading companies like LRS, is in contrast to the rest of Chicago, which is struggling to meet recycling targets despite a hardline push from Mayor Rahm Emanuel.


Two years ago, Emanuel promised to crackdown on recycling and hold landlords and commercial buildings responsible for lax practices.

A review of city records by the Better Government Association, however, found only a small fraction of Chicago’s nearly 77,000 larger residential and commercial buildings had been inspected for compliance to the new code, with many being let off the hook by city officials.

Companies like LRS are striving to change the system in a city that, according to one resident, “appears to be going backward in terms of recycling.” Its work with universities is a large part of that mission, according to LRS Managing Partner Joshua Connell:

“Serving highly respected institutions, like DePaul University, is important as these relationships advance our mission of sustainability and motivate future generations of young leaders to create environmental change throughout the world.”