Haul of Fame: Lakeshore Recycling Systems

Welcome to the Haul of Fame, a weekly series from Rubicon in which we sit down with a hauler partner to talk about their company, their community, and how they’re collaborating with Rubicon in our mission to end waste.

As our nation continues to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, the men and women at companies like these are on the front lines, continuing to drive their daily route and keeping our communities safe and clean. Their work is the linchpin to safeguarding the public health and we thank them, now more than ever, for providing this essential service to our society.

Lakeshore Recycling Systems is headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, and provides refuse and recycling services in northern Illinois and the greater Chicago area, southern Wisconsin, with a focus on Madison, Janesville, and Milwaukee, and with a current expansion into Iowa. With a fleet of 450 waste and recycling vehicles, and seven materials recovery facilities (MRFs), Lakeshore Recycling Systems is a first-generation business that has been working with Rubicon since 2015.

Joshua Connell, co-founder of Lakeshore Recycling Systems, sat down with Rubicon to talk about his company and mission for the Haul of Fame.

How does Rubicon’s mission to end waste match-up to Lakeshore Recycling Systems’ own company mission?

Lakeshore Recycling Systems: Lakeshore was founded on a mission of sustainability, much like Rubicon. We’re looking to change the way waste is handled from the moment it is put out at the curb to the moment it makes its way to one of our seven materials recovery facilities (MRFs).

Our customers look toward us to offer them a sustainable end market for all of their waste. It is our job, much as it is Rubicon’s, to find these end markets in order to create a truly circular solution.

How does Lakeshore Recycling Systems distinguish itself from the competition?

Lakeshore Recycling Systems: Our niche in the marketplace is focused on our creativity around managing waste more sustainably, and our growth has been focused on our sustainability mission, and the infrastructure we built around it.

Before we arrived on the scene, the greater Chicago area and much of this part of the Midwest didn’t have much recycling infrastructure in place. Land is more plentiful out here, resulting in the creation of more landfills and a drop in landfill pricing compared to the east and west coasts. We built out this much-needed recycling infrastructure, primarily in the form of MRFs, to create a viable economic outlet for these materials. We invested in new technologies and sorting equipment for these commingled materials so to be able to properly separate and recycle them.

As another example, we currently have six construction and demolition (C&D) recycling facilities. Before these facilities were built the vast majority of C&D waste in this part of the country was sent directly to landfills. Now, we can recycle and repurpose huge quantities of C&D waste including everything from wood waste (we are one of the largest mulch manufacturers in the region), concrete, brick, aggregate, shingles, and even old carpet.

What is the view of Lakeshore Recycling Systems when it comes to participating in the circular economy and helping build a more sustainable future?

Lakeshore Recycling Systems: At Lakeshore, we’re a big believer in the circular economy, but we believe strongly that you need to combine proper recycling and collection habits with the necessary infrastructure (including appropriate end markets for recycled materials) in order to make it work.

We focus on the three R’s of recycling: reduce, reuse, recycle. We partner with different companies that can help us find end markets for these materials, and we sit on civic boards to help push recycling education to citizens and commercial businesses alike.

What do you love most about the community in which you work, and the customers you serve?

Lakeshore Recycling Systems: We’re a Chicago-based company, with our roots in Chicago and the greater Chicago area. Ours is a hard-working, blue-collar community, progressive in thoughts and actions where it comes to issues surrounding recycling and sustainability.

As we make strides into southern Wisconsin, looking specifically at Madison, Janesville, and Milwaukee, we see another community that is aligned with our mission where it comes to sustainability and the importance of proactive recycling and recycling education.

Where does Lakeshore Recycling Systems see itself five years from now?

Lakeshore Recycling Systems: We are always looking out at the future, looking to expand our regional presence as a company and to build out the same model that we have achieved in the Chicago market by partnering with more municipalities and industrial customers that share our same mission for sustainability.

Lakeshore Recycling Systems has been a disrupter since we first started out, and we will continue to be a disruptor for the next five years, only with a bigger footprint.


Chris Watts is Sr. Director of Innovation and Hauler Relations at Rubicon. To stay ahead of Rubicon’s announcements of new partnerships and collaborations around the world, be sure to follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, or contact us today.

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