FAQ at General Iron

Is it true General Iron is actually moving and when?

We announced in July 2018 that we have formed a strategic partnership that is working cooperatively with the City of Chicago to create and preserve jobs and transition operations to a much larger and well-buffered site along the Calumet River. The partnership will complete the transition in 2020, and the new facility will serve as a model for the Calumet Region’s Green Industrial Economic Corridor.

Some people say that General Iron should simply shut down - why not?

Here’s the reality: If you want to drive a car, use electricity, have indoor plumbing, drink clean water, ride a bicycle, work and live indoors, or essentially use anything metallic, then you are using products that came from, and will again, pass through a metal recycling facility, such as General Iron. Look around and you will immediately realize how much recycled metal is used in your daily life.

Unfortunately, critics of metal recycling often don’t realize its benefits, nor the consequences if it were simply halted. Consider these benefits, for example:

  • Using recycled metal in the production of new steel requires 70 percent less energy and reduces greenhouse gases by more than 50 percent versus producing new steel using natural resources. The energy saved is enough to power 18 million households for a year.
  • The U.S. scrap metal industry processed 66 million tons of ferrous scrap in 2017. Approximately two-thirds of all new steel made in the U.S. is manufactured using recycled ferrous scrap.
  • Nearly every single auto on the road today will be recycled at the end of its useful life. Approximately 86 percent of an auto is made of recyclable material, and nearly 12 million autos are recycled every year.

Then, consider the consequences of no metal recycling facilities:

  • Garbage collection fees would increase dramatically and we would quickly exhaust capacity at landfills.
  • Using only natural resources to produce new steel costs more, making consumer products, such as cars, bicycles and appliances, more expensive.
  • Producing new steel from raw materials requires significantly more natural resources, including iron ore, which requires more energy to mine, creates more CO2 emissions, and costs more to acquire.

Metal recycling is undoubtedly preferable to discarding metal waste in landfills and provides the best means of replacing the metal products that we enjoy and depend on in our daily lives.

We are committed to sustaining our global environment and also protecting our local environment, which is why we are investing millions of dollars in our air filtration and thermal oxidizing processes. These best practices make us the gold standard in the industry and demonstrate our commitment to our employees and our neighbors. After all, we all breathe the same air.

What happened with the U.S. EPA emissions tests?

In May and June 2018, we conducted air emissions testing required by the U.S. EPA. The tests verified that our capture and filter system is very effective because our particulate matter (PM) and metals emissions were low. Our shredder’s PM emission rate was less than three percent of the limit in our state operating permit.

We voluntarily performed an impact assessment for the metals emissions on the surrounding community and the results of this analysis showed that our shredder metal emissions were far below relevant health-based standards. In addition, we are working with the state and federal EPAs to become one of the first metal shredding facilities in the country to install a regenerative thermal oxidizer (RTO).

In July, 2018, the U.S. EPA issued a Notice of Violation and in August, 2018 we submitted a formal response. Company representatives are continuing to provide EPA officials with additional information as we work cooperatively on this matter.

Didn’t a University of Illinois at Chicago study find damaging levels of particulate matter downwind from the metal shredder?

The air sampling methodology was scientifically flawed and none of the levels of PM₂.₅ (fine particulate matter) detected in that study exceeded the U.S. EPA’s National Ambient Air Quality Standard. Among the reasons why this testing was flawed were: 1) the metals testing was incomplete and measured in such a way that the data could not be compared to EPA standards; 2) the sampling devices used for the study were placed at locations and heights that EPA monitoring stations avoid so as not to contaminate results with emissions from vehicular traffic; and 3) the days of operation and meteorological conditions were ignored. For example, on the first day of the study, a review of hourly weather data revealed that easterly winds prevailed for the entire day. As a result, any PM generated from General Iron that day could not have blown east of the facility, but PM readings and results from the station to the east (Station L) were included in the study anyway.

As a result, Chicago’s public health commissioner stated in a May 2018 letter that “it is inaccurate and inappropriate . . . to assert that there is a risk to health for residents living near General Iron” based on this pilot academic study.

Do any other government agencies provide regulatory enforcement?

The Chicago Department of Public Health has conducted weekly inspections in 2018 and has not found a single violation.