2018 ISRI Convention and Exposition Highlights: Beating the Odds

Jul 26, 2018, 20:54 PM
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July/August 2018

ISRI’s 2018 convention and exposition drew nearly 5,500 attendees to Las Vegas in April to find winning moves in an era of game-changing events.

ISRI-ConventionThe stakes always seem higher in Las Vegas, but 5,500 scrap recyclers bet wisely by attending ISRI2018 in April. The sold-out exhibit hall offered an abundance of business-boosting technologies, services, and ideas, and the event’s many education sessions and networking opportunities allowed attendees to focus their attention in the most productive ways. The heart of the industry also shone through this year in the generosity of those donating and bidding on silent auction items for the Recycling Research Foundation, which raised nearly $40,000. Convention organizers fine-tuned the convention’s general, spotlight, and education sessions up to the last minute to ensure attendees would get the latest news and analysis on swiftly changing global market conditions.

General Sessions Focus on Trade, Technology, and Transportation

International trade issues—not just from China, but also from other regions—were a major focus of ISRI2018. So, too, were the new and emerging technologies promising to alter the playing field for recyclers, as well as the many urgent transportation and logistics issues scrap businesses are facing.

China changes the game—again. Recyclers who once relied on Chinese buyers to import their scrap are scrambling to find new domestic and international markets while shouldering the associated shipping costs. Panelists at a session to help recyclers navigate China’s new market conditions described how their companies have changed the way they do business since China enacted new import restrictions and low contamination thresholds for most scrap commodities.

“On the West Coast, we were reliant on China. We relied on cheap freight, and [China’s] consumption, and that has now put us in a tight spot,” said Vinod Singh, outreach manager at Far West Recycling (Portland, Ore.). “Now we are sending 10 loads here, 10 loads there to domestic mills. It’s our goal to seed domestic growth.”

Queen City Metal Recycling & Salvage (Charlotte, N.C.) also is working to find new domestic markets for items such as low-grade copper wire, said General Manager Steve Gilbert. It plans to send previously China-bound motors to markets in Europe and Pakistan.

Shen Dong, director of international marketing for OmniSource Corp. (Fort Wayne, Ind.), said Category 7 metals—including motors, meatballs, insulated wire, and some mixed metal scrap—are still allowed into China now, but it’s likely the country will ban that scrap by the end of 2018.

As recyclers who once relied on shipping to China scramble to find alternative international markets, they also must deal with the often higher shipping costs and difficult logistics associated with those markets, said Chad Hansen, national sales manager for Sealink International (Plano, Texas), a logistics provider. “When new emerging markets come around, everyone tries to move cargo there, and these vessels fill up and you can’t get space,” he said. Those lucky enough to get bookings should plan to wait longer for their booking to go through, he added.

Abandoned containers are another issue that can hit companies in the pocketbook, Hansen said. Vietnamese ports, for example, are beginning to require security deposits of up to $3,000 per container to return them clean and undamaged, he said. “There are thousands [of containers] sitting at ports right now, and the problem is people are not picking them up.”

Finding new opportunities globally. “If the Chinese scrap market sneezes, we all get a cold,” said Surendra Borad Patawari, chairman of Gemini Corp. (Antwerp, Belgium), during a session on opportunities in global trade. Looking elsewhere for buyers can be disruptive in the near term, but it could mean good future business, he said. India, for example, imports $1 billion in scrap each year and has an economy predicted to grow by 7 or 8 percent in 2018, he said. If India truly wants to grow its reputation as a major scrap recycler, however, it will have to relax some of its import restrictions, he noted.

Meanwhile, the Middle East is learning to recycle domestically the materials it once sent to China, said Salam Sharif, chairman of Sharif Metals International (Sharjah, United Arab Emirates) and president of the Bureau of Middle East Recycling (Dubai, UAE). Copper, aluminum, and other materials can feed infrastructure in rapidly urbanizing Middle Eastern cities, he said.

These changing markets also give Latin America a window to show off its business-friendly assets, such as low costs and conveniently located ports, which allow shipments “to get anywhere in 60 to 90 days,” said Enrique Acosta, partner in BMB Metals (Miami). “South America is always seen as an export opportunity, but we have considerable infrastructure for manufacturing and processing” as well as readily available logistics and transportation resources, he said.

In Europe, Jurgen Van Gorp, business development and area manager at Metallo Group (Beerse, Belgium), said his company has survived intense competition with China by creating a niche and sticking with it. “Europe has had a longstanding history [and] reputation with manufacturing and recycling, but today, the European markets try to lead by innovation,” he said.

The South Pacific had a competitive strategy before China’s major market shake-up, said Korina Kirk, director of Metalcorp NZ (Christchurch, New Zealand) and president of the Scrap Metal Recycling Association of New Zealand (Hornby, New Zealand). Australia and New Zealand are “out of the way” of some global markets and are export-dependent, “so it is all about the drive for quality,” she said. “We’re known for it, and we’re fiercely committed to it.”

Think regionally, act cautiously. Former U.S. Secretary of Commerce Carlos Gutierrez gave scrap recyclers his perspective on trade issues at the convention’s opening general session. Overall, the world isn’t globalizing so much as it is “regionalizing,” he said.

Gutierrez said the United States’ decision to leave the Trans-Pacific Partnership “was a strategic mistake” because Asia contains 60 percent of the world’s population and the fastest-growing economies. Our leaving TPP left U.S. allies confused, he said, and it allowed China to form more alliances with countries participating in the agreement.

With the current potential for near-term trade disruptions and uncertainty, Gutierrez advised scrap recyclers to be cautious in their decisionmaking, such as in locating facilities or making supply-chain changes. “Don’t make a strategic decision if you don’t have to,” he said. Companies should have their own foreign policy, he suggested. Know who your allies are—and your adversaries—so you can separate yourself from the pack.

Gutierrez also cautioned that trade isn’t the only big issue companies have to think about. Even more important, he said, are the new technologies coming at us—such as artificial intelligence, robotics, the Internet of Things, and blockchain—that could result in the potential loss of millions of jobs. “Increase the digital IQ of your firm,” he advised.

The rise of the machines. ISRI2018’s closing general session speaker, technology journalist David Pogue, continued the technology conversation by predicting how the next wave of technology will change the way we live. On the frontiers of technology are driverless cars, delivery drones, and robots that can shut off nuclear reactors or perform other complicated tasks on their own. “I always thought robots were cool,” Pogue said, but the cool factor comes with important questions about how rapidly improving technology will affect the economy and jobs. By one estimate, robots could replace 47 percent of American jobs in the next 20 years, he said. But don’t despair just yet. With the rise of such technology, humans may start doing jobs that don’t yet exist, he added. “When you think of it, most of what we do today barely existed 100 years ago.” 

REMADE Institute advances recycling technologies. Launched in January, the REMADE Institute (West Henrietta, N.Y.) aims to improve the production and processing of materials, advance design-for-recycling principles, create high-paying jobs, and enhance U.S. competitiveness, said David Wagger, ISRI’s chief scientist and director of environmental management. REMADE, which stands for Reducing Embodied-energy and Decreasing Emissions, is a network of government, academic, and private-sector partners—including ISRI, which represents the recycling industry in the REMADE leadership team.

The institute’s efforts to develop recycling technology will focus on processing metals, polymers, electronics, and fiber, said Eric Peterson, REMADE’s node leader for recycling and recovery. Leading initial projects in these areas are Argonne National Laboratory (polymers), the University of Miami (fiber), and the University of Utah (e-scrap). Researchers aim to develop technologies for separating and cleaning materials and learning where energy losses occur in the process.

The industry needs new sorting technologies, but it also needs to consider the marketing side, said Philippe Blot, co-founder and senior metallurgical engineer of EDX Magnetics (Salt Lake City). “Can we build something industry can afford?” He described prototype technologies for sorting aluminum alloys his team tested successfully, producing a No. 2–type of copper product out of high-density mixed nonferrous red metals (ISRI specification Zebra), but their work with shredded mixed nonferrous metals high in aluminum (Zorba) so far has had mixed results, Blot reported. ISRI members can assist projects such as his by providing samples of materials they are not currently processing, he noted. “We want to test on a variety of samples to develop standards,” he said. ISRI members can help REMADE “know what you know so we can start investigating alternative methods to upgrade your products,” Peterson added, with the goal being to keep embedded energy out of landfills.

Transportation faces safety, labor issues. A panel discussion about challenges facing the trucking and rail industries focused on the need to recruit the next generation of workers in both industries. Panelists were Bill Sullivan, executive vice president of advocacy of the American Trucking Associations, and Mike Peters, senior vice president of real estate and industrial development of Genesee & Wyoming railroad, with outgoing ISRI Chair Mark Lewon of Utah Metal Works (Salt Lake City) serving as moderator. The trucking sector also now faces hassles related to throughput rates at ports, as well as concerns regarding future self-driving truck technology, the panelists noted. Both the trucking and rail industries have also raised red flags about marijuana and its effects on worker performance and safety.

Also at the transportation spotlight, Jack Van Steenburg, chief safety officer of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, briefed attendees on the latest safety statistics and federal rulemaking. The fatality rate for large trucks and buses has risen for the past couple of years, totaling 4,317 fatalities—including 722 truck driver deaths—in 2017, he said. FMCSA’s goal is to have zero fatalities related to large trucks and buses across the United States by 2050, he said. Encouraging signs toward that goal include an 85-percent rate for seat-belt use among drivers of large trucks.

Scrap Metals in the Spotlight

The metals spotlight sessions and targeted education sessions helped attendees dive more deeply into topics directly relevant to their businesses.

Global economy, Chinese policies concern aluminum panelists. Macroeconomic factors were weighing on the mind of Jason Schenker, president of Prestige Economics (Austin, Texas), at the aluminum spotlight. “I’ve never seen the kind of volatility, uncertainty, and risk as what’s going on right now,” and not just in the metals market, he said.

“The global economy is what will drive prices” for metal commodities, he said. Weighing on global growth are increasing labor costs, which Schenker called “the camel’s nose under the tent. There’s more inflation to come,” and it will likely result in higher interest rates.

Another concern, he said, is that “the tit-for-tat escalation in tariff retaliations … could slow growth overall.” Tariffs, as well as supply disruptions such as this spring’s U.S. sanctions on Russian aluminum producer Rusol (Moscow), leave “the global economic outlook a bit more in doubt.” Official GDP growth forecasts from the Federal Reserve and International Monetary Fund don’t take into account trade risks, he cautioned.

A final macroeconomic factor Schenker noted was U.S. productivity growth of zero in the fourth quarter of 2017. “Even if everything were perfect with trade, companies are facing higher labor costs, no productivity gains, higher interest rates, and higher materials costs,” he said. It’s hard for him “to see the upside with so many cost pressures rising.”

Liu Wei, director of industry research at the China Nonferrous Metals Industry Association, Recycling Metals Branch (Beijing), speaking about China’s implementation plan on “solid waste” imports, including scrap, confirmed that China will ban imports of “Category 7” aluminum scrap by the end of the year. This will affect an estimated half-million tons of material, he said. The policy’s goal is “to stop the import of ‘solid waste’ which can be replaced by domestic scrap by the end of 2019,” Liu said, but China’s domestic supply of aluminum scrap can only fill 70 percent of its demand, and its aluminum production is growing 7 percent a year. Thus, he said, “China will need to import some aluminum scrap in the future.”

Liu also noted the confusion over the new policy’s limits on “carried waste.” The definition in the plan is “not very detailed or specific,” he said, but he explained the phrase means a “foreign substance introduced, excluding packaging material.”

The 25-percent tariffs China imposed on imports of U.S. aluminum scrap—in response to U.S. tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum—are increasing costs by about 3,000 RMB per container, Liu said, making it likely that U.S. exports of aluminum scrap to China will decline. Chinese aluminum consumers are looking for alternative suppliers and more domestic sources, he noted.

Moderator Matt Kripke, president of Kripke Enterprises (Toledo, Ohio), also spoke about recyclers’ concerns about new alloys entering the aluminum scrap stream from vehicle manufacturing that are finding few interested buyers. (For more on this topic, read “Light Speed” on page 42.)

Ferrous focuses on technology and trade. Changes in steelmaking are affecting the ferrous scrap market, as are shipping issues that hamper trade, said panelists at the ferrous spotlight session.

U.S. steelmakers rely heavily on electric-arc furnace technology, with almost two-thirds of the country’s steel made using EAFs, said Philip K. Bell, president of the Steel Manufacturers Association (Washington, D.C.). Yet scrap’s metallurgical chemistry can vary widely, and steelmakers are showing more interest in other steel inputs, such as direct-reduced iron and hot briquetted iron, to keep quality up. “Obsolete scrap is a growing percentage of overall scrap, and that’s not a good thing” because it brings down the overall chemical quality of ferrous scrap, he said. While that will be a challenge for recyclers, Bell said growth in U.S. EAF capacity is likely to keep up the demand for scrap. “Scrap is going to continue to be the primary raw material for EAFs,” he said.

In the past year, the spread between the cost of finished steel and the cost of ferrous scrap has been wider than usual, said Sean Davidson, metal prices editor for Argus Media. Yet he noted that it was “a good year for U.S. [ferrous] exports, having bounced back from a poor 2015.” That’s despite the industry facing significant shipping woes such as canceled or rerouted cargo ships. Nathan Fruchter, CEO of Idoru Recycling Corp. (Lawrence, N.Y.), advised the audience to look carefully at shipping contract language that could cost them money if their shipments get delayed. Exporters should consider penning a new clause for their contracts that can protect them from absorbing costs when a shipping problem is outside their control. “It’s difficult to introduce a new clause [during business transactions], but every seller should push for this for their own protection,” Fruchter said.

Steel consumers set more specific quality demands. As steel mills and foundries create more advanced, custom alloys for their customers, they are demanding specific steel scrap chemistries, said speakers at “The State of the Ferrous Industry: A View from the Mills.” At Neenah Foundry (Neenah, Wis.), its products range from manhole covers to safety-critical parts for military and commercial vehicles, said Brett Fisher, vice president of operations. It makes 10 different grades of gray iron and 50 grades of ductile iron, each with its own mechanical and heat-treatment properties. To achieve those targeted chemistries, foundries want scrap with low residual alloys, good density, and consistency of size, density, and chemistry, he said. The input materials—steel scrap and pig iron as well as coke and limestone—must dilute the residual element chemistries it creates for each customer, Fisher explained, such as by reducing levels of phosphorus, manganese, boron, and tin. He reviewed the positive and negative effects of a variety of residual metals, noting that antimony, lead, and boron are especially problematic. “We need scrap that doesn’t have high levels of those elements,” he said.

Steel mills are getting equally demanding in terms of wanting specific chemistries, said Jim Wiseman, executive vice president of Smart Recycling Management (Nicholasville, Ky.). “It’s complex. I’m not a metallurgist, but you learn as you go,” he said. He predicts mills soon will “need to know everything”—such as levels of residuals, the chemistry, and the composition—about steel scrap supply shipments, whether shredded or plate and structural. Scrap recyclers will find it difficult to provide that information, however, due to the variability of input materials and environmental conditions, he said.

When supplying steel to foundries and mills, “knowledge is going to be power,” said moderator David Borsuk of Sadoff Iron & Metal Co. (Fond du Lac, Wis.), and control of scrap chemistries is becoming more and more important. Better source control and process control will be essential, he said. Wiseman suggested scrap consumers could help educate processors and traders about what they want and don’t want. Ultimately, the costs of greater scrap analysis and testing “will have to be absorbed in how you buy [scrap],” Wiseman said.

Copper spotlight assesses China’s effects. China has a sizable impact on U.S. scrap copper markets, panelists at the copper spotlight session observed. That country consumed about 68 percent of U.S. scrap copper exports last year, according to Joe Pickard, ISRI’s chief economist and director of commodities. Shipments to China in January and February 2018 were down nearly 27 percent compared with the same period in 2017, and that’s before China tightened contamination standards March 1. Perhaps not surprisingly, while copper exports to China slipped, other export markets showed growth, he said, with exports to Malaysia, Hong Kong, and Japan experiencing the largest gains. Secondary refined copper production has been increasing globally, rising 4.5 percent from 2016 to 2017.

The panelists discussed whether a new copper secondary smelter will come online in the United States. “The costs of getting that going, and the environmental and regulatory burdens, are quite high,” Pickard said.

“A secondary copper smelter is absolutely vital to the welfare of the United States,” said Tim Strelitz, president of California Metal-X (Los Angeles). There is “money to be had” in that business, he said, which is why it exists in countries such as Germany, Spain, and Belgium—countries with regulatory measures as tough as the United States.

U.S. technology for copper processing and refining lags other countries, said Ed Meir, a consultant with INTL FCStone (New York). “The Chinese have a big edge on very technologically advanced plants,” and they don’t have same oversight burden, although that is changing, he said. Pickard believes the United States will experience more investment in processing technology. “We’re going to have to process this material to a higher grade than we have before,” he said.

Electronics spotlight looks at precious metals. Mark Caffarey, executive vice president of Umicore USA (Raleigh, N.C.), said he sees the China situation creating opportunities to do more domestic processing and sorting of electronic scrap, creating U.S. jobs.

Peter Jegou, president of All Green Precious Metal Recovery (Charlotte, N.C.), described his company’s hydrometallurgical technique for processing circuitboards as a way to create “conflict-free” gold, palladium, silver, and other precious metals. The company’s proprietary technology is modular and scalable, he said.

Puneet Shrivastava, regulatory engineering adviser for Dell, noted there is 800 times more gold in circuitboards than in gold ore. Dell’s closed-loop gold program mines its own manufacturing streams for raw materials. With recycling partner Wistron GreenTech (Texas) Corp. (McKinney, Texas), it is recycling the gold from recovered motherboards into its Latitude 5285 2-in-1 laptop/tablet computer. (ISRI also took note of the product’s recyclability and presented Dell with its 2018 Design for Recycling® Award. See page 80.)

Processors fight for the right to repair. The right to repair and resell electronic products is growing in importance as more consumer goods contain electronics, said panelists at the session “The Path Forward: Reuse.” The environmental benefits of reuse are greater than those of recycling, noted Corey Dehmey, R2 director for Sustainable Electronics Recycling International (Hastings, Minn.), and reuse could “unlock $4.5 trillion of economic growth and reduce the digital divide in the United States and other countries.” The R2 standard, which SERI manages, requires prioritizing reuse over recovery.

But in the United States, “technology is legally encumbered” by trademark, copyright, and patent laws, all of which “put limits on what you can do with a device,” said Jeff Pearlman, clinical supervising attorney and lecturer in the Julesgaard Intellectual Property and Innovation Clinic at Stanford Law School (Stanford, Calif.). “Today, everything has software and is connected to the Internet,” he pointed out. Your phone, security system, car, tractor, refrigerator, and GPS device are “all illegal, potentially, to modify.”

When Congress passed the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act, it created a process for receiving exemptions—which allow copyright protections to be broken for specific products and uses—but they’re only good for three years, and renewing is just as hard as getting the exemption in the first place, Pearlman said. “It’s difficult to build standards and best practices when things change every three years,” he added. ISRI worked to achieve an exemption that allows cellphone “jailbreaking” for using phones with other wireless providers. That exemption, first granted in 2006, now applies to tablets, hotspots, and wearable devices, but only to used devices, he said.

Activists are promoting right-to-repair laws in states across the country, said Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit (San Luis Obispo, Calif.). Original equipment manufacturers are fighting back, but Wiens noted a few recent court and regulatory victories for the repair side. In addition to threatening lawsuits against those who repair or modify devices or put repair manuals online, OEMs are making repair more difficult through product design, he said. For example, the iPhone X’s screen only works on its original device; the screen from an end-of-life device can’t be reused as a replacement part.

OEMs’ concerns about third-party repairs and resale include liability for unauthorized repairs or poor-quality replacement parts and the absence of an electronics repair industry on par with the well-established auto repair industry, said Walter Alcorn, vice president of environmental affairs and industry sustainability at the Consumer Technology Association (Arlington, Va.).

Manufacturers have worked to prevent the growth of such businesses, Wiens said, such as by cutting off the supply of parts. The public would benefit from competition in the electronics-repair market, Pearlman added, because it could drive down costs. Alcorn cautioned, however, that if right-to-repair laws become prevalent, “some manufacturers will change their business model,” such as by leasing products instead of selling them.

Assessing lithium battery challenges and opportunities. A session on lithium batteries addressed safety hazards, proper handling, and the resale and recycling markets. Single-use lithium primary batteries and rechargeable lithium-ion batteries are becoming more prevalent, and higher energy densities will be coming, said Todd Ellis, stewardship program director for Call2Recycle (Atlanta). He advised recyclers to carefully vet downstream processors, designate proper storage areas, and train employees in standard procedures for identifying and handling batteries.

Fire is the biggest hazard in lithium battery recovery and recycling. Anyone who handles large volumes of these batteries “will have a thermal event,” said Craig Boswell, president of HOBI International (Dallas). These fires “burn really hot, [and] it’s easy to injure an employee.” Using a putty knife or other metal tool to remove a glued-in battery can short-circuit the battery or start a fire, the speakers warned. HOBI’s employees use a plastic paddle to sweep a burning battery to the floor and let it burn out, which happens very quickly, he said. Keep work areas free of combustible materials such as paper, he added, to avoid a larger fire.

“Water is your friend” in extinguishing lithium battery fires, said Todd Coy, executive vice president of battery processor Kinsbursky Bros./Retriev Technologies (Anaheim, Calif.). “If you don’t have sand available, use water,” which has cooling properties that chemical fire suppressants do not.

Battery reuse is “where the big opportunity is,” Boswell said, but testing is essential. “Just because it functions doesn’t mean it qualifies for reuse.” HOBI only resells batteries with a state of health of 85 percent or greater, he said. Follow safe practices when storing batteries in the testing area, too, he added.

Kinsbursky’s facility in Brea, Calif., has provided collection, remanufacturing, and fulfillment services for automakers’ electric and hybrid vehicle batteries since 2015, Coy said. Its Trail, British Columbia, smelter recycles 4 million pounds of lithium batteries a year, recovering lithium carbonate, cobalt-containing products, and metals. It has created recovery and disassembly guides, as well as cathode, anode, and recyclability reports, for its OEM clients on more than 150 different batteries, he said.

Kinsbursky did not anticipate the dozen-plus EV battery chemistries—with more to come—and the great variety in battery forms that would enter the market, Coy said. Nor did it anticipate the growing interest in reuse: EV batteries have a potential second life of about five to eight years, he said, but damaged EV batteries introduce significant costs and risks to recyclers. Markets for the recovered materials are growing, he added.

Robert Kang, CEO of Blue Whale Materials (Washington, D.C.), also said he expects dramatic growth in demand for battery materials and for closed-loop recycling. His company wants to “establish a bridge between sources of material and the South Korean lithium-ion battery market.” South Korean recovery facilities’ operations—the mechanical processing of lithium batteries to a “black sand” and hydrometallurgical recovery of metals—have a low environmental impact and recover 95 percent of the metals, he said. Five companies, all based in Northeast Asia, are 77 percent of the lithium battery market, Kang said, and the manufacturing is concentrated in Asia as well, making the case for South Korea as a destination for recovered batteries.

Quality and Markets Dominate Paper, Plastics Sessions

ISRI2018 offered strategies to help paper and plastic recyclers affected by China’s import ban to improve the quality of their products and find alternative markets.

Paper recyclers seek “non-China” solutions. Paper was among the first scrap materials to feel the effects of China’s limiting scrap imports, said panelists at the paper spotlight session. Paper recyclers have had to rethink the way they do business, said moderator Leonard Zeid, vice president of marketing for Midland Davis Corp. (Clayton, Mo.).

OCC prices in the United States have fallen by half since last year, while prices for mixed paper have fallen about 90 percent in that same time, said Ketan Mamtora, vice president of BMO Capital Markets, and Greg Rudder, lead editor for RISI. China’s ban on imports of “unsorted” recyclables means almost no mixed paper from the United States, Europe, or Japan is being sold into China. Instead, exporters are diverting mixed paper to other Asian ports, the speakers noted.

Yet there are some areas to be optimistic about, such as a growing “non-China” market for OCC, Mamtora said. India and Vietnam saw a 210-percent and 325-percent increase, respectively, in imports of OCC from the United States in January and February 2018, and some in the industry have called Vietnam “the new China,” he said.

Due to China’s new trade restrictions, RISI has made several changes to its pricing index for China, the speakers said. It discontinued its assessments of U.S. mixed-paper exports to China in March.

Plastics recyclers focus on demand, recyclability. One priority for U.S. plastic recyclers and the Association of Plastic Recyclers (Washington, D.C.) is encouraging brand owners and product designers to make more of their plastic packaging recyclable, noted APR President Steve Alexander at the plastics spotlight session. To facilitate that, the association has introduced its APR Design Guide for Plastics Recyclability, which includes protocols for testing a product’s sortability and recyclability.

Increasing demand for recovered plastics is another top priority for the U.S. plastic recycling industry. “If you do that, you increase the monetization of the product all the way back through the stream,” Alexander said. APR’s Recycling Demand Champions program encourages manufacturers to “expand the recycling paradigm” by using postconsumer recycled resin in products such as pallets, dunnage crates, and shopping carts. “The potential opportunities here are enormous,” he said. Another way to improve demand is to reduce contamination in the recovered plastic stream, he said. APR is addressing that point by offering customized training for brand owners whose products are considered contaminants.

Additional demand potential also exists in traditional U.S. plastic recycling markets, said Scott Saunders, general manager of KW Plastics (Troy, Ala.), which recycles more than 500 million pounds a year of HDPE and PP. The main “limiting factor for growth” for KW, in fact, is a shortage of scrap. “We have capacity available,” he noted. “There is a ready, willing, and able market for every pound that you can generate, and it’s at good prices.” That’s why KW views China’s import bans on certain scrap plastics as a “very large market opportunity,” he said.

Hefty has introduced its EnergyBag as one option for managing hard-to-recycle plastics such as multi­layer, multimaterial flexible packaging. First Star Recycling (Omaha, Neb) implemented the program in 2016, said project manager Danielle Easdale. Consumers buy the bright orange Hefty EnergyBags, fill them with plastics that their local curbside recycling program doesn’t accept, and put the sealed bags in their recycling bins. The curbside hauler delivers the material to First Star, which pulls the Hefty bags out of the stream at the beginning of the recovery process. The diverted plastics then are available for pyrolysis facilities for conversion to diesel fuel, use as a fuel alternative to coal in cement kilns, and use in products such as fence posts or wallboard. “We’re constantly looking at ways we can use these materials and convert them into valuable resources,” she said. So far, First Star’s program has collected more than 23,500 bags, equivalent to 13 tons of hard-to-recycle plastics.

Designing for recycling and for incorporating recycled material. Companies constantly aim to create better, lighter plastic packaging, but “we have to make sure that the resin … has a home” at its end of life, said Sunil Bagaria, co-founder and president of GDB International (New Brunswick, N.J.), at a session on increasing recycled resins in packaging. Another goal is to ensure that “everybody who is involved in that chain—from the collector to the processor and then the manufacturer—is able to make some money doing it.” Since the 1950s, almost 5.6 billion mt of plastics have gone to landfill or habitats such as the ocean instead of being recycled. “We cannot continue to do this,” Bagaria said.

One solution is to incorporate more recycled materials into packaging. Tamsin Ettefagh, vice president of sales and purchasing at Envision Plastics (Reidsville, N.C.), pointed out the need to educate both manufacturers and the public to create and demand packaging that incorporates recycled materials. For example, instead of producing packaging for items in the grocery store’s dairy aisle from a variety of resins, “why not use the same resin across the board and make it easy for the consumer?” Ettefagh asked. Using just one resin and then telling consumers “to recycle anything in the dairy aisle” would simplify the recycling process. “They get that. They don’t get No. 1s, No. 2s, HDPE, [and] polypropylene,” she said.

MRFs seek better quality. More types of packaging are finding their way into recycling bins than ever before while MRFs are scrambling to improve the quality of their bales. Speakers at the session on MRF collection and quality issues discussed the frustrations of reducing contamination while handling the ever-changing recycling stream. With China’s new threshold of no more than 0.5-percent prohibitives for paper and most other scrap, MRFs are working harder than ever to keep their material clean, panelists said.

Bob Cappadona, vice president, recycling, for Casella Waste Systems (Rutland, Vt.), said MRFs are slowing down sorting lines or adding labor in order to get better quality. Contamination causes MRFs to shut down multiple times a day so workers can clear out clogged sorting screens, which eats into productivity time, he said. “When you have 25-percent contamination coming in the door, and we’re trying to reduce it to less than 2 percent—that’s very, very difficult,” he said.

At the same time, customers “want to recycle easily, efficiently, and don’t want to spend a lot of money on it,” said Susan Robinson, senior public affairs director for Waste Management (Houston). That’s why they love single-stream recycling, which lowers collection costs but also reduces material quality. Part of the problem is that MRFs haven’t done a good enough job of educating the public about what should and should not go in the blue bin, she said. Better consumer education can help bring in better-quality materials, she said.

The How2Recycle product label can help, said Nina Goodrich, executive director of GreenBlue and director of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (Charlottesville, Va.). The labels, which brand owners voluntarily place on their products, offer specific instructions for preparing and recycling various packaging. The labels “motivate and help brands understand packaging sustainability … and empower consumers to know how to recycle it,” she said.

Felix Hottenstein, sales director at optical sorting equipment manufacturer MSS (Nashville, Tenn.), pointed out that processors can reduce contamination and produce higher quality bales by optimizing existing equipment, such as by regularly performing preventive maintenance and running at recommended capacity, and by adding new sortation equipment. Hand-held analyzers, antiwrapping and self-cleaning disc screens, and optical sorting equipment all can improve quality, Hottenstein said.

When it comes to recycling plastic, “we have a lot of work to do,” said Bill Schreiber, technical director of plastics at Lehigh Technologies (Tucker, Ga.) in a session on improving quality through proper plastic resin identification. For example, only 19.5 percent of PET, the most recycled resin, is recycled, he pointed out.

One of the “rules” of plastics recycling is that most resins are incompatible with each other, he said. Even if you can make the incompatibles work together, there might not be a market for the product. The highest value that recyclers can achieve is by keeping the different types of plastics separate from each other and to separate them if they’re mixed, he said. He described the strengths and weaknesses of a range of analyzers available for identifying resins.

Tire Recyclers Look at Changing Markets

More scrap tires are being generated in the United States, but finding end users for recovered rubber continues to challenge recyclers.

Rubber recyclers assess market opportunities. Scrap tire generation rates have increased and markets have declined over the last couple of years, according to John Sheerin, director of end-of-life tire programs at the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association. “There’s always a need for more and better markets,” he said.

The recently released 2017 USTMA Scrap Tire Management Report shows a roughly 3-percent increase in scrap tire generation from 2015 to 2017, which he attributed to more driving. “The tendency to drive more has overcome the tendency for tires to last longer, so we’re seeing a higher generation rate,” he said.

Tire-derived fuel remains the largest market for scrap tires, but it’s down about 10 percent from 2015 to 2017, Sheerin said.

The three principal industries using TDF—cement, pulp and paper, and utilities—have fluctuated in dominance over the years, with cement currently in the lead, said Terry Gray, president of TAG Resource Recovery (Houston).

In 2015, the United States had 39 cement plants in 13 states using TDF, consuming 46 million tons of tires. The pulp and paper industry had 21 plants in 15 states using TDF, consuming 37.6 million tires, and power-generating utilities had 25 facilities in eight states using TDF, consuming 33.7 million tires. State regulations have had major impacts on its use, such as the loss of the former Exeter tire-to-energy facility in Sterling, Conn., which used 10 million tires a year, he said. TDF use is likely to decrease in biomass energy facilities and coal-fired power plants—and it’s being “clobbered” where there are incentives to use solar and wind power, Gray said. But TDF for power generation in municipal solid waste power plants could increase if the capacity is available, he said.

The synthetic turf infill market fell about 20 percent during that time, which Sheerin attributed largely to concerns about the material’s health and environmental impact. “As more and more studies confirm no impact to human health and the environment … we anticipate the sports turf market coming back,” Sheerin said. “We hear very good things for 2018.”

Sheerin also said he anticipates an increase in scrap tires being used in civil engineering, such as incorporating the rubber into asphalt. Speakers at a session focused on emerging opportunities for crumb rubber manufacturers concurred. Rubber-modified asphalt is less sensitive to temperature, reduces traffic noise, and reduces surface rutting, said Barry Takallou, president and CEO of CRM Co. (Newport Beach, Calif.). (See “Paving the Way for Asphalt Rubber” on page 51 of this issue.)

Art Dodge, CEO of Ecore International (Lancaster, Pa.), touted the benefits of using crumb rubber as a flooring underlay to absorb shock and sound. Hospitals and nursing homes can benefit from the shock-absorbing material to cushion patient falls; the rubber underlay also makes the rooms quieter, which can speed patient recovery, he said. Hotels can benefit from the sound absorption as well, he said.

Tom Redd, CEO of Pyrolyx USA (Terre Haute, Ind.), explained that pyrolysis can separate the valuable carbon black from tires’ metal and rubber. Although recovered carbon black might be a completely unknown commodity to most recyclers, Redd suggested thinking of it as a commodity, “the same way you think of something like recycled pulp or aluminum or steel.”

Culture, Technology Are Among Safety and Operations Concerns

Safety remains a priority for the scrap recycling industry, and safety professionals offered advice for making safety an integral part of scrap facility operations.

Safe operations require a safety culture. ISRI Vice President of Safety Terry Cirone pointed out that a safety culture is more than having a safety program, it’s a “part of your overall business culture—it’s a measurement of how well things are done in your business.” In a facility with a good safety culture, a lower-level employee should feel free to call out longtime workers who don’t have their PPE on, for example. “If you can trust your employees to take care of each other, you have a safety culture … [you can] build on,” she said.

Collecting and analyzing data from your operations is critical to understanding workers’ behavior and not just their attitudes about safety. Track near misses, Cirone said, and share them. “A near miss is a lagging indicator; it’s luck,” she said. “But it’s a prime piece of data you can learn from. Identify trends, and let employees know what to do to prevent [near-miss incidents from] happening again.” Also let workers know when you’ve fixed a problem based on their input, she added. “Then they’ll keep coming to you with problems,” she said. “That’s a good thing.”

Tony Smith, ISRI’s director of safety outreach, advised recyclers to think beyond the safety culture to their overall business culture. “Everyone in the company is equal in terms of safety compliance,” he said. Among his recommendations were to have workers in the field conduct safety “toolbox talks” and “tailgate meetings,” and to put them to work on safety committees rather than just have complaint sessions. Also, get workers into the habit, before they start working, of conducting two-minute hazard-assessment drills where they look around for “what can hurt me? What can go wrong?”

MRFs tackle lithium-ion battery fires. More items than ever have lithium batteries: digital cameras, cellphones, toys, and even power tools. When consumers throw these devices away, they can end up at MRFs, where the batteries can cause fires when crushed or bent.

Lithium batteries—both rechargeable lithium-ion batteries and smaller, one-time-use lithium primary batteries—are beginning to replace nickel-cadmium batteries on store shelves, said Todd Ellis, director of stewardship programs for Call2Recycle (Atlanta), at a session on MRFs’ efforts to keep these hazards “out of the bin.” Ellis recommends that MRFs work with state or provincial officials, recycling organizations such as ISRI, and Call2Recycle to spread the word that batteries don’t belong in the recycling bin.

Some batteries inevitably will end up at a MRF, so train employees to spot them and items that usually contain them, such as cellphones. Pull such items off the line and set them aside until you can “find a recycler to partner with” to pick them up. MRFs can participate in Call2Recycle’s program, which provides collection boxes to safely store batteries for proper pickup and disposal, but some use buckets or metal drums as a collection vessel to keep the batteries away from flammable materials. Be sure to separate the batteries in plastic zip bags, he warned, or securely tape the positive and negative terminals. Otherwise, the terminals could rub against other batteries, causing a spark that can ignite the whole bin. “Clear packing tape is good—Scotch tape just doesn’t hold,” Ellis said. If a battery does ignite, the fire burns very hot, he noted, and requires “lots and lots of water” to put out.

Technology aids worker safety, equipment performance. Recyclers can leverage numerous technology tools to enhance worker safety and improve the maintenance and performance of their mobile equipment.

Caterpillar (Peoria, Ill.) has introduced two products to minimize fatigue-related risks, said Mark Dowsett, a Cat account manager in Portland, Ore. The Smartband is a wrist-worn predictive tool that monitors the quantity and quality of workers’ sleep to ensure they are fit for duty. The Driver Safety System is a dashboard camera that monitors the driver’s face for signs of nodding off. Customers who use the Smartband and Driver Safety System have seen an 80-percent reduction in fatigue-related events, Dowsett said. Cat also has a Detect for Personnel system that uses RFID chips in safety gear such as reflective vests and hard hats that mobile equipment can detect. Upon detection, the system sounds an alert to reduce the chance of the equipment injuring workers on the ground.

Fleet management camera technology can monitor activities inside and outside the truck to improve driver performance and address accidents and other issues, noted Garry Mosier, vice president of national accounts for 3rd Eye (Katy, Texas). The cameras record high-definition video continuously. If the system detects a driver violation—such as running a stop sign—or if the truck exceeds a specific G-force level, the camera records the event and uploads it to 3rd Eye’s review center in Texas, which scores the incident and uploads the footage to the customer’s portal.

Telematics can help recyclers monitor the operating health of their equipment, conduct remote diagnostics, and use the collected data to improve operator and machine performance, said Dave Adams, a manager at Volvo Construction Equipment (Shippensburg, Pa.). Having different telematics systems in fleets of mixed equipment can present problems, however, and the “information overload” from the systems can be “a huge time and resource constraint,” he added. Volvo CE’s ActiveCare Direct program has helped customers lower their fuel use 10 to 15 percent, reduced their machine idle time 7 percent, and increased machine use 5 to 10 percent, he said.

Certification programs keep pace with change. “Every [recycling] standard known to man has undergone a revision in the last three years,” said Darrell Kendall, executive director of the Global Recycling Standards Organization, which manages the Recycling Industry Operating Standard. As the recycling industry changes, so must the industry standards, certification criteria, and auditing processes change to reflect conditions recyclers are dealing with at their facilities. He pointed out that the changes RIOS has adopted focus more on quality to meet certain requirements suppliers and consumers seek in their vendor selections. Another addition is a requirement for incident investigations: Near-miss reports now must trigger root-cause investigations, he said. The revised standard also puts stronger requirements on senior management to be involved in the program. The revised RIOS Implementation Guide for RIOS members contains templates, supplemental worksheets, policies, and procedures, all written clearly for recyclers, not for “MIT rocket scientists,” he said.

The Responsible Recycling standard also is undergoing an upgrade, according to Corey Dehmey, R2 director at Sustainable Electronics Recycling International (Hastings, Minn.). The group’s technical advisory committee revises the standard on a five-year cycle to keep up with changes in the marketplace, but the committee determined that the standard now needs a major restructuring to meet the changing needs of the 768 facilities in 32 countries that have been certified to date. The standard previously focused on collecting and processing end-of-life equipment, but now manufacturers also want to certify their repair facilities, he said. The committee is considering proposed changes and hopes to have a draft of the revised standard by the end of the year, he said.

Tips and Tools for Running a Successful Business

Recycling businesses can benefit from best management practices from experienced scrap professionals and leaders in other industries, participants learned in varied business-management sessions.

Nonferrous traders offer advice for the novice. “No price, deal, or sale matters when you’re selling scrap metal if you do not get paid,” warned Eric Zwilsky, vice president of Potomac Metals (Sterling, Va.), who shared trading tips that have helped his company. “Bankruptcies happen,” he said, and eventually every business will encounter a situation where a business can’t pay its customers. He advised getting insurance on receivables when selling scrap on terms or getting payment in advance—especially when exporting material—and insuring the trucks going out. Zwilsky also offered advice on when to lock in prices and when to ship. “Try to deal back to back,” he said, ensuring each load you buy has someone ready to buy from you. And the time to ship is “Now! If your payment is secure … and pricing is confirmed, there’s no reason to hold the material back.”

Hedging is another valuable strategy for scrap traders, according to Randy Goodman, executive vice president of Greenland (America) (Roswell, Ga.). You don’t need to have a commodities brokerage account to hedge, he said; you can do it yourself on a small scale. For example, if you have a load of scrap you know you’re going to generate soon, you can sell it unpriced but locked to a price spread or differential. “Hedging is reducing risk,” he stressed. “That’s the only thing it should be used for. It should never be used as a tool to make money.”

Traders should visit processors to see the quality of the material they’re buying and to make sure it’s what processors say they’re making, advised Stephen Moss, vice president of Stanton A. Moss Inc. (Bryn Mawr, Pa.). “The worst thing you can have in this business is rejections,” he said. “Rejections don’t make anybody any money. All they do is cost you money and time and your reputation.”

Learning the range of metals identification techniques. It’s worth knowing the “classical” methods of identifying metals, though those techniques are disappearing as hand-held metal analyzers have gotten faster, said Jim Pasmore, president of Analytical Sales/Training (Bend, Ore.). No-tech ID methods include form factor, object recognition, color, weight/volume/density, and magnetic response; low-tech approaches include spark testing, chemical spot testing, and thermoelectric resistance testing. Combining ID methods also can be useful, he said.

Pasmore described the characteristics and benefits of several metal-sorting technologies available to scrap recyclers. On-site spectroscopy works well for new and entry-level sorters, he said, and many consumers require that capability. Costs of the equipment are dropping, and the investment in that technology can pay for itself in just months, he said. X-ray fluorescence is a mature technology, and laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy is becoming mature. These technologies can replace some capabilities of optical emission spectrometer instruments, with the exception of identifying carbon and tramp elements, he said. LIBS works better than XRF for light elements, such as aluminum and magnesium, but alloys are more complicated, he noted. He also warned that, in general, an XRF instrument is less sturdy—so don’t drop it.

One of the challenges of metal identification is that there are more than 100 grades of alloys out there, but perhaps only 30 percent are pure metals or high alloys you can identify with XRF, LIBS, or OES, Pasmore said. He advised using best practices for sample preparation and length of exposure to the instruments.

Electronic payment systems offer benefits and challenges. In an era of rapid electronic transactions, “sometimes you need to slow down” because mistakes can happen fast, too, said Kevin Lamar, chief financial officer of Dynamic Metal Services (Bedford Heights, Ohio). Your company’s finance department needs technology to increase efficiency, but slowing down the transaction approval process can help avoid mistakes. Work with your bankers as experts and consultants, Lamar advised, because they have fraud prevention tools, for instance, and they know the best processes available.

Different transaction systems are appropriate for payment flows between different points in a scrap recycler’s value chain from supplier to customer, noted Joe Casali, senior vice president, operations and IT, of the New England Automated Clearing House Association. For instance, peddlers often want to be paid in cash, but you could pay a commercial supplier using an automated clearing house, with invoices and checks traveling electronically. Businesses need accounting systems that can integrate the variety of payment and settlement channels, he said, including cash, checks and ACH networks, credit/debit/prepaid cards, electronic-fund transfer payments, and wire transfer networks.

One advantage ACH transactions have over card and wire transactions is that you can reverse them if you’ve made a mistake, pointed out Stephanie Prebish, a senior director of the National Automated Clearing House Association. Card and wire transactions are immediate, but they cost more and are irreversible. She also observed that new entrants to the “payments ecosystem,” such as PayPal, Amazon.com, Apple Pay, and Zell, bring new risks. Such technologies meant to facilitate transactions also require “changing consumer behavior, and that’s not an easy thing to do,” she said.

Other challenges include keeping up with new laws covering check processing and data privacy, as well as potential security and fraud problems, Casali said. “Fraudsters are super creative,” he said. “It’s good to be a fast follower” as technology changes, but businesses should understand their needs and those of their customers.

Proactive measures can cut insurance costs. “Don’t Get Eaten Alive” addressed cost-containment strategies for human resources. To keep down your worker’s comp insurance costs, build a culture of safety, said Steve Fuoco and Jason Maslin of insurance and risk-management firm Bradley & Parker (Melville, N.Y.). For example, have a safety committee meet regularly to set rules and look for the root causes of near misses and accidents. “Find out the why, not the who—don’t place blame,” said Maslin, an insurance counselor for the firm.

Noting the prevalence of sexual-harassment claims in the past few years, Maslin recommended making that training part of the safety program. Airborne-hazard-related claims will soon be common, predicted Fuoco, senior vice president. Conduct baseline tests of employees’ lung function—and their hearing and vision—when you hire them, he said, so you can measure later claims against that standard.

If you’ve got a good safety record, a captive insurance program or a large-deductible program can save you money, Fuoco said. Also ask insurance providers about potential cost-cutting changes to variables that can affect your rate, such as the low-cost multiplier, premium discounts, scheduled credits, and discounts based on your experience modification.

Human-resource software systems can manage payroll, health insurance, retirement plans, performance reviews, and more, cutting the time and money you spend on administering them, said Joe Applebaum, founder of Potomac Cos. (Rockville, Md.). He reviewed large and small strategies for reducing health-insurance costs, from switching to a high-deductible insurance plan to teaching employees how to reduce prescription drug costs. Employee benefits such as retirement plans, life and disability insurance, and wellness plans can help with retention, he pointed out.

Hiring, inspiring, and retaining talented workers. “Human capital is severely lacking in all businesses these days,” said Tannen Ellis-Graham, co-founder of CareerKarma360 (Sandy, Utah), at the session on locating and recruiting top talent. Sammy Holaschutz, a trader for W Silver Recycling (El Paso, Texas), suggested one way to find employees is to mine prospects from other industries and professions, then train them. Holaschutz was a tax accountant whom W Silver recruited and trained to work as a nonferrous trader. “We’re looking for people who are completely different, but who have the right skill sets,” he said. “We do not shy away from diverse candidates. We’re a global industry, so we need to take a global, diverse approach.”

Recycling companies must compete for talent by making it easy for prospects to find them online and through social media and then by presenting a compelling employer brand, Ellis-Graham said. The candidate experience starts from the moment prospects find your company to the point you either accept or reject them. It’s particularly important to make your application process easy and tech savvy, she added. Candidates—especially millennials—expect to be able to apply to your job on the phone, and they expect you to interact with them promptly, or they’ll move on. “Speed is the new currency,” she said.

Employers in scrap recycling are engaged in a “war for talent,” competing to retain employees in a tight market, according to Kimberly Jones, CEO of talent-acquisition firm Kelton Legend. Employees might be actively or passively job hunting and could be poached by competitors, but having a talent strategy can help you keep the talent you already have, Jones said.

Company culture is a major factor that keeps or pushes away employees. Leaders create a positive culture by engaging with employees and encouraging a work–life balance—qualities especially important to millennials, now the largest generation in the workforce. But millennials aren’t the only employees who thrive from engagement; workplaces benefit when managers get to know the various generations, understand generational differences in the workforce, and identify generational gaps, according to Gary Hensley, Southern region vice president of EMR (USA Holdings) (Bellmawr, N.J.). “If we don’t understand their needs, we can’t effectively manage,” he said. Empowered employees are more likely to stay with a company. Managers can foster empowerment by assigning meaningful projects, updating employees on company performance—even negative performance—and regularly conducting reviews in which leaders explain how employees can add value.

“People who have been given a plan and know what’s expected of them are more likely to hit performance goals,” Jones said.

A positive company culture is one where leaders make communicating with employees a priority, according to panelists at a session on ways leaders can support new ideas and innovation. It also requires taking risks and allowing employees to do so as well, they said.

“Challenge everything, and give everybody the right to challenge everything,” said Bruce Shapiro, president and CEO of Shapiro Metals (St. Louis). “The more we challenge, the more we learn and the better we get.”

“Lead by example,” advised Mark Lasky, CEO of Sadoff Iron & Metal Co. (Fond du Lac, Wis.). “Be accessible,” and create an environment where employees feel comfortable and empowered to have tough conversations. “A ‘culture of fear’ leads to silence or violence,” he said.

Eliminating one-way, top-down communication and encouraging two-way communication between leaders and employees “has helped us to seek other people’s input” and implement new ideas, said Brandi Harleaux, chief operating officer of South Post Oak Recycling Center (Houston).

Workplaces that discriminate on the basis of factors such as age, race, sexual orientation, and gender will hurt workers and possibly cost their company thousands of dollars, according to Joshua Treece and Michael Gardner, principals of law firm Woods Rogers at a session on workforce compliance issues. They gave many real-world examples of bungled workplace compliance issues and how managers and companies faced consequences for violating Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.

The bottom line, Treece and Gardner said, is that workplaces must have written policies in place that expressly forbid these types of discrimination, and they must follow them. Having written policies not only sets clear workplace behavior expectations but also is “critical in order to defend yourself in court,” Gardner said.

Recyclers address intergenerational matters. Family businesses abound in the scrap recycling industry, and transferring ownership to subsequent generations is a significant concern, according to speakers at a session on “keeping it in the family.” Being born into or marrying into a business “creates a lot of complexities” that aren’t necessarily present when consciously choosing business partners outside the family, said Dana Telford, principal consultant of the Family Business Consulting Group. For example, conflicts between family members at work can spill over to home life.

The prospect of keeping a business within the family when one or more of the owners wishes to retire or leave the business also can create conflicts, Telford said. In some cases, no family members are interested in taking over the business, which can cause stress on the older generation. In other instances, too many people are interested, creating stress among the younger generation. Older generations also feel stress about letting go of the business and about the subsequent generation’s capabilities.

Older generations should consider a business valuation to determine a fair sale price, said Vince Pappalardo, managing director for the metals and metals processing practice at Chicago-based investment banker Brown Gibbons Lang & Co. He also recommended doing a thorough assessment of whether selling to someone outside the family ultimately would be better for the business. “If you sell it to somebody who doesn’t want it, that’s going to be worse for everybody in the long run,” he said. Many forms of business sales exist, he added, noting that owners do not have to sell off an entire business all at once.

Whether members of the same family or not, industry veterans and young recyclers can learn from each other, said panelists at the “Old School Meets New School” session.

Younger recyclers have fresh ideas on how to make businesses thrive, while the older generation has years of experience and wisdom to share, said the panel, comprising two members of ISRI’s Century Club, for those with 100 years of combined age and experience, and two of ISRI’s Young Executives group.

Dan Garvin, president of Colorado Iron and Metal (Fort Collins, Colo.) and a Young Executives member, said technology makes business more efficient, but he appreciates the “lost art” of testing metals using acid or spark tests, for example. Yet Barry Hunter, president of Hunter Alloys (Boca Raton, Fla.) and Century Club co-chair, said new technology isn’t everything—sometimes years of know-how are better.

Older generations take great pride in hard work, and younger generations have built on that by prioritizing workplace initiatives where employees feel appreciated, said South Post Oak Recycling Center’s Brandi Harleaux. At South Post Oak, “the mantra in our yard has shifted from ‘a place to work hard’ to ‘a fun place to work hard,’” she said. 

Though the old and new schools may not see eye to eye on everything, the four panelists agreed that safety should be the No. 1 priority in every yard. “Our industry does not have a good safety record,” said Century Club member Don Lewon, CEO of Utah Metal Works (Salt Lake City), although he believes safety has improved. For example, he noted that when he began in the business, “the forklift didn’t have a seat belt … but now the guys are wearing them all the time.” Garvin said the industry has improved its focus on safety, but it can do a better job of making safety a habit instead of an obligation.


Kent Kiser, Rachel H. Pollack, Katie Pyzyk, Megan Quinn, and Cynthia G. Wagner



(Sidebar Content)


Individuals, Companies Honored With 2017 Vehicle Safety Awards

Joseph Cody of Sims Metal Management (Sacramento, Calif.) received ISRI’s Safe Driver of the Year Award recognizing his 44 years of safe driving. (See ScrapTV’s interview with Cody at youtu.be/MfskePsz95w.) Armando Ojeda, a diesel mechanic at Rocky Mountain Recycling (Commerce City, Colo.), earned the Golden Wrench Award for outstanding achievement in vehicle maintenance. ISRI recognized Cody and Ojeda April 18 during the Spotlight on Transportation.

The association also recognized the following companies for their fleet safety programs. The Best Fleet Award recognizes companies with the lowest vehicle accident rate and the lowest U.S. Department of Transportation recordable rate in the previous year. The Pacesetter Award uses the same criteria but covers a three-year period, in this case Jan. 1, 2015–Dec. 31, 2017.


Best Fleet Award

Small Class (300,000–500,000 miles): Shine Bros. Corp. (Spencer, Iowa), Berman Bros. (Jacksonville, Fla.), General Metals of Tacoma (Schnitzer Steel Industries) (Tacoma, Wash.)

Intermediate Class (500,001–1 million miles): United Scrap Metal (Cicero, Ill.), Rochester Iron and Metal (Rochester, Ind.), TJN Enterprises (Spencer, Iowa)

Medium Class (1,000,001–5 million miles): Metal Exchange Corp. (St. Louis), Prolerized New England Co. (Schnitzer Steel Industries) (Warwick, R.I.), LP Transport (LP PADNOS) (Holland, Mich.)

Large Class (more than 5 million miles): OmniSource Transport (Fort Wayne, Ind.)

Pacesetter Award

Small Class (300,000–500,000 miles): General Metals of Tacoma (Schnitzer Steel Industries)

Intermediate Class (500,001–1 million miles): Consolidated Scrap Resources (York, Pa.)

Medium Class (1,000,001–5 million miles): Prolerized New England Co. (Schnitzer Steel Industries)

Large Class (more than 5 million miles): OmniSource Transport



ISRI Hosts Launch of MusicRecycle

MusicRecycle, a new campaign using music to promote public education about recycling, brought members of the recycling and entertainment industries together at a lively reception during ISRI2018. Music can
reach billions of people in ways no other medium can, said Gemini Corp. (Antwerp, Belgium) Chairman Surendra Borad Patawari, whose family is supporting the initiative with ISRI and the Berklee College of Music. His daughter—singer, songwriter, producer, and Berklee graduate Kanika Patawari (above left)—reminded attendees of the power of music personified by such artists as Joan Baez, George Harrison, and Ravi Shankar.

“So, what can music do for recycling?” Kanika asked. It can help get youth interested, she said. “Make it uncool not to recycle.” Recycling has a “strong industry, and [with the] association’s finesse we can gather star power,” she said. She asked attendees to tap their contacts in the music and recycling industries, noting that ISRI’s convention in Los Angeles next year is an opportunity to promote the MusicRecycle project.

Veteran producer and songwriter Peter Bunetta (above right) advocated using music videos to help educate young people worldwide about recycling. “Kids remember the videos,” which bring awareness about choices, he said. He also suggested the recycling industry could brand its own music festival. Contact Kanika Patawari at musicrecycleproject@gmail.



ISRI’s 2018 convention and exposition drew nearly 5,500 attendees to Las Vegas in April to find winning moves in an era of game-changing events.

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