2019 ISRI Convention and Exposition Highlights

Jun 19, 2019, 16:59 PM
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May/June 2019


Convention-Guide_MA19“Pay attention,” ISRI Chair-Elect Gary Champlin’s grandfather once advised him, “or you will be paying everyone else.” Paying attention to trends in markets, regulations, and technology is important for staying in business, said Champlin, general manager of Champlin Tire Recycling (Concordia, Kan.), in his address on the state of the recycling industry at ISRI2019. This year’s ISRI convention and exposition helped about 4,700 people from 60 countries do just that. The three-day program of spotlight sessions, main stage events, and other workshops prepared attendees to come to grips with the trends in trade, residential recycling, the labor force, and safety and environmental regulation, to name a few.

ISRI2019 also provided around-the-clock networking opportunities, starting with a “pre-game show” right before the grand opening of the sold-out exhibit hall. It continued with early morning fitness activities, luncheons, receptions for special interest groups, and after-hours parties to keep the connections and conversations flowing and ended at the action-packed closing night gala at Universal Studios. If you blinked, you undoubtedly missed something, so this recap provides some of the highlights.

China and other trade issues take the fore

Trade conflicts and China’s import bans continue to affect the global trade in scrap, said presenters at a session exploring scrap recycling’s future “with or without China.”

China still needs scrap metal to feed its manufacturing sector, said Andy Wahl, president of TAV Holdings (Atlanta), and though scrap once destined for China was “finding other homes” in 2018 and 2019, some of those destinations in Southeast Asia clean the material and ship it “as upgraded material to China,” he said. ISRI is organizing a trade mission to Indonesia and Malaysia in November to help recyclers build relationships there, said Adina Renee Adler, ISRI’s assistant vice president of international affairs.

President Trump believes China and other countries have gained unfair advantages over the United States, said Doug Palmer, senior trade reporter for Politico, and his main response is to impose tariffs, such as those on steel and aluminum. “But for all the attention [Trump] has paid to trade … he hasn’t persuaded many nations to open their markets to more U.S. goods,” Palmer said.

The United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement could affect scrap flows and steel production when the three countries ratify it, these presenters said. The proposed agreement contains a requirement that 70% of the steel and aluminum in “Made in the USA” vehicles must have been produced in the United States. International trade attorney Jeffrey Weiss of Venable predicted the United States would not enter into many more multinational trade pacts during the Trump administration. A bilateral trade deal with the United Kingdom is one possibility, but that nation must leave the European Union and smooth out the lingering effects of Brexit first, he said.

Ferrous recyclers must prepare for “steel-mageddon.” In the next few years, recyclers will face changes in the labor supply, shifts in international trade, and challenges to recycling’s reputation, Tamara Lundgren, CEO of Schnitzer Steel Industries (Portland, Ore.), told attendees at the ferrous spotlight. Bank of America analysts warn that there could be a “steel-mageddon,” a 20–25% increase is steelmaking capacity that, depending on market conditions, could cause price compression and oversupply, she said. “Steel mills are our customers, so if they face this, it could be hard for us to escape unscathed,” she said. Though Lundgren said the steel industry has benefited from the recent Section 232 tariffs that helped curb illegal dumping of steel products in the United States, she called for better long-term solutions that avoid retaliatory tariffs and allow countries to create dynamic trade agreements.

Recyclers also face hiring challenges because of increased competition for workers. “It’s demanding work, there’s a tight labor market, and unemployment is low, so attracting talent is hard,” she said. In the next six years, 75% of the workforce will be millennials, she noted. Recyclers must prioritize creating workplaces that provide not only good pay, good benefits, and a safe work environment, but also a culture that values diverse job candidates, she said.

Recyclers also have a duty to highlight the benefits of recycling. “Too often, we are seen as part of the problem [or] damaging to the environment by government regulators or our own neighbors,” she said. To combat that image, Lundgren suggested educating the public and policymakers about how the industry works and highlighting scrap’s inherent green effects. “We need to build personal relationships so we can work as allies, not adversaries,” she said.

The growing EV battery market for nickel. Stainless steel production continues to be nickel’s main end market, and demand remains strong, but electric vehicle batteries are a rapidly growing market sector, according to speakers at the spotlight on nickel and stainless. How rapidly depends on how quickly the public widely adopts EVs, said Barry Jackson, principal market intelligence analyst for nickel and stainless steel at mining company Anglo American (London).

Current EV battery volumes are so small that processing infrastructure investments “are not justified at the moment,” but they could become so after about 2025, said Markus Moll, managing director of SMR–Steel & Metals Market Research (Pflach/Reutte, Austria).

Indonesia’s rapid and significant stainless steel production increase over the past year has altered global trade flows, speakers said. The material influx from Indonesia and China contributed to stainless steel markets “underperforming” at only 2.7% worldwide growth, compared with historic 5–6% annual growth, Moll said. He predicted the Philippines will be the next country to create “the Indonesia effect” with a large flow of material to markets. A dip in global consumer confidence this year also could be problematic because about 48% of stainless steel goes into consumer goods.

There is a bright spot for stainless scrap recyclers: “For those of you … selling to domestic mills, it will be a good year. It’s one of the best performing markets,” Moll said. Jackson agreed that it’s a good time for the scrap industry because “there’s a lot of focus around the circular economy [and] around maximizing scrap usage,” especially among product manufacturers and consumers who demand more recycled content in their products.

Copper market sees choppy prices. With manufacturing in China and Europe contracting in late 2018 and early 2019, and prospects for slower worldwide growth this year, conditions are “choppy” for copper prices, said Jason Schenker, president of Prestige Economics (Austin, Texas). He pegged copper prices to remain in the $2.75 to $3.20 range for the next 18 months.

China’s exit from some copper scrap markets will lead to more U.S. copper consumption and manufacturing of copper-containing products, predicted Tim Strelitz, president of brass and bronze ingotmaker California Metal-X (Los Angeles). But China could always reenter the copper scrap market, he noted. Schenker said China is not yet self-sufficient in its supply of copper scrap and will not be for “quite some time.” Moderator Randy Goodman, executive vice president of Greenland (America) (Roswell, Ga.), also said he believes the flow of scrap will continue to China, perhaps with the country reclassifying furnace-ready material as something other than scrap.

The panelists named several barriers to the return of U.S. secondary copper smelting: the two- to three-year startup time, questionable return on investment, permitting challenges, interstate transportation costs that can be higher than export costs, and the “tragedy of Chemetco,” Strelitz said. “Because of that [facility becoming a Superfund site], permitting for a secondary smelter or refinery is tougher.” His company recently purchased and is about to restart the former Colonial Metals ingotmaking facility in Pennsylvania.

Chinese export restrictions and tariffs have resulted in more U.S. investment in equipment to upgrade scrap and is stimulating processors to be more creative, said Jurgen Van Gorp, raw materials account manager for Metallo Belgium (Beerse, Belgium). Strelitz agreed that “remaining profitable is a function of being innovative and recognizing where the industry is going.”

Aluminum navigates through uncertainties. The many factors that create uncertainty in aluminum markets likely won’t let up anytime soon. “We think aluminum prices will remain choppy for the next 18 to 24 months,” Schenker told attendees at the aluminum spotlight.

Tariffs, changes in automotive manufacturing, and mills’ demand for higher quality materials are among the factors creating market volatility. Law and policy changes—especially policies announced suddenly on social media—play an increasing role in a marketplace that used to solely rely on supply and demand, said Andy McKee, president of materials trading at Schupan & Sons (Kalamazoo, Mich.). The prolonged nature of this instability prompts some market participants to ask if this is the new normal. In addition to “a strong shift” in supply and demand, “gone are the days when you were looking at strictly utilization, capacity, and margin,” said Stephen Deacon, president of nonferrous at EMR (Bellmawr, N.J.).

Continued weakness in the automotive sector is affecting the demand for secondary aluminum. “It’s such a volatile market that it’s very difficult for us to give a longer-term view,” said Richard Mayenknecht, global aluminum category director at Nemak (Sheboygan, Wis.).

Plastic recyclers adapt to market changes. “The recycling industry has to continuously adapt” to significant and rapid change, said Sunil Bagaria, president of GDB International (New Brunswick, N.J.). His business lost 60–70% of its market due to China’s changes, and he offered other plastic-centric businesses recommendations for adapting as he has.

“We believe the right answer for plastic scrap is to create more recycling infrastructure in our own country,” rather than sending it overseas for processing, Bagaria said. GDB now has equipment to process plastic materials into pellets, a market that Bagaria said still has strong demand. Despite the challenges—such as startup and labor costs—of launching a new venture, GDB is “making more money selling the pellets than we were selling the scrap. Some we are selling for more than virgin,” Bagaria said.

Demand for reasonably priced recovered plastic feedstocks, such as pellets, continues to grow as product manufacturers aim to include more recycled content in their products. CaraGreen (Raleigh, N.C.) produces building materials that contain recycled plastic content such as PET and HDPE. Architects and designers “want to use more recycled materials, especially as LEED and WELL [certifications] are growing in our industry,” said Madeline Rohrbacher, CaraGreen’s Mid-Atlantic territory sales manager. Some manufacturers still hesitate to incorporate recycled content into products because they view it as “a costly way to showcase environmental stewardship. That may have been the case long ago, but that’s not the case anymore,” Rohrbacher said.

Residential recycling summit looks at volume, quality, markets

ISRI2019 featured a Residential Recycling Summit to address the serious challenges facing this material stream.

Recyclers work to curb contamination. Haulers and municipalities can help residents recycle correctly by using direct, specific, and simple messages, said The Recycling Partnership’s (Falls Church, Va.) Dylan de Thomas, vice president of industry collaboration, and Cody Marshall, chief community strategy officer, in the “Curbing Contamination” session. Participants talked about common contamination problems and brainstormed ways to solve them. Many residents want to recycle correctly but are confused, Marshall said. “We say things like ‘Don’t contaminate!’ But residents don’t know what that means or what to do with that message,” he said. Instead, use specific messages such as “don’t bag recyclables in plastic” or “recycle your cans.”

Haulers can send these messages to residents through mailers or social media, but direct feedback is one of the most effective methods, de Thomas added. Haulers can reject bins with too much contamination by attaching an “oops tag” that lists specific items the resident should not include in the bin. The easy-to-read tags have check boxes that provide straightforward feedback without looking like a violation, he said.

In the long term, materials recovery facilities, haulers, and local governments should work more closely together to provide consistent messaging and collect data to measure the effectiveness of any anti-contamination strategies, they said.

The impacts of e-commerce on residential recycling. Online shopping habits are changing the residential recycling stream with each cardboard box that appears on a doorstep, panelists at the paper spotlight said. Commercial OCC, which comes from sources such as retail and grocery stores, has a 95% recovery rate, yet the residential recovery rate is only about 35%, said Dennis Colley, president and CEO of the Fibre Box Association (Itasca, Ill.). About 35 million packages get delivered each day in the United States, and consumers say they plan to increase their online shopping—which means recyclers have to be smart about encouraging residents to recycle this growing stream, added Susan Cornish, an associate with Moore & Associates (Atlanta).

Families with access to large curbside recycling carts are more likely to break down cardboard boxes and recycle them because they have the space inside the cart, Cornish said. Convenient drop-off locations for oversized boxes would also help increase the collection rate, she said.

Another way to motivate the public to put OCC in the blue bin is to deliver clear messaging about how and why to recycle, panelists agreed. “Inspire residents and consumers to think about a cardboard box as a valuable raw material waiting to be made into another box,” Colley said.

As MRFs look for ways to increase OCC collection from residents, paperboard mills are looking for creative ways to increase the production of boxes using recycled fiber. Several mills are taking advantage of very low mixed-paper prices to integrate more mixed paper into their production process, said Bill Moore, president of Moore & Associates. 

Finding the win-win between MRFs and municipalities. Presenters addressed the good, the bad, and the ugly of contracts between MRFs and local governments in a session on best practices in MRF contracting. The ugly might be $38.18 a ton, the average price for commodities from single-stream MRFs in March, which was the lowest price since 1990, said Michael Timpane, vice president of process optimization for consulting firm RRS (Ann Arbor, Mich.). Most of that is due to the 100% drop in the value of mixed paper, he said. With the mixed paper price collapse, the average MRF is losing $420,000 a month, he said.

Bill Keegan, president of Dem-Con Cos. (Shakopee, Minn.), which operates a MRF outside of Minneapolis, pointed out some unworkable contract elements in today’s environment. Residue maximums are problematic when the processor doesn’t control the incoming material, he noted. Bid selection processes that give higher points for accepting more materials create “an arms race” for MRFs to accept more materials, even if those materials don’t have end markets. Net revenue-sharing floors can be a problem in volatile commodity markets. MRF processing is “moving toward a fee-for-service-based industry. We must collect, process, and market” the material, Keegan said, and MRFs “can’t rely on commodity value to make things whole.” Residents must understand that recycling costs money—as much as, if not more than, disposal, he said.

Elements Keegan likes to see in contracts include specific details on what belongs in the bin, who is responsible for education, and the MRF’s right to reject loads for excessive contamination. Overall, he said, contracts need transparency, shared risk, and flexibility to accommodate market, regulatory, and operational changes.

The City of Los Angeles has seen its recycling go from a revenue stream to a cost center, said Robert Potter, sanitation solid resource manager for the Los Angeles Bureau of Sanitation. It realized minimum floor prices in its contracts were no longer working, so it changed its contracts so its MRFs can “remain viable.” The five-year contracts adjust prices quarterly based on fiber and nonfiber indexes that provide an average price for 17 commodities. Timpane and Keegan pointed out the shortcomings of using index prices, however, and recommended using actual transaction prices.

U.S. Postal Service finds new ways to recycle. Thomas Day, U.S. Postal Service chief sustainability officer, said the estimated billion and a half pieces a year of unsent, unreturned advertising mail is a fairly clean product, but the USPS needed a way to collect material that’s spread out across 33,000 postal facilities.

The solution was to use the USPS’ existing network of transportation that delivers the mail—most of which is commercial advertising—to the 33,000 locations and bring the undeliverable mixed-paper materials back to the distribution centers for recycling. It’s saving money by not paying someone to haul the material to a landfill, but because of what’s happened to mixed-paper prices due to China, the USPS is not generating the amount of revenue from the recycled material it originally expected, he said.

Cardboard packaging is the next material the USPS hopes to recycle. Local post offices don’t have the mechanisms to lift up and dump pallet-sized corrugated containers (Gaylords), so workers use a razor to cut them open and get the packages out. “That means that cardboard container is pretty much getting just one use,” Day said. USPS is working with its engineering and operations group to develop reusable, rigid plastic containers that are foldable and will get more than a thousand uses. When those plastic containers reach their end of life, they’ll go back to their manufacturers to be pelletized to make more plastic containers in the future, he said.

Plastics spotlight tackles plastic pollution. The problem of plastic debris entering oceans has grabbed headlines recently, and it will only get worse as new plastic production comes online, Eric DesRoberts, senior manager of the Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas program, warned at the plastics spotlight session.

The Trash Free Seas program provides rigorous analytics on the 8 million mt a year of plastics entering the world’s oceans, primarily from Asian countries. While some groups have focused on cleaning up beaches, rivers, and oceans, preventive solutions, such as developing waste management infrastructure, may offer more promise, DesRoberts said.

CaraGreen’s Madeline Rohrbacher described her company’s efforts to provide a market-oriented solution by selling architects and designers durable recycled-content products with a “sustainable story” that appeals to clients seeking sustainability credits. “It’s a small solution to a larger problem,” she said.

There is still a lot we don’t know about ocean-bound plastics and solving the problem, DesRoberts said. In thinking about where to start, individuals should remember that all the plastic in the ocean has passed through someone’s hands at some point, and that’s an opportunity to act, he said.

Packaging innovations could increase recycling. Major brands should use more packaging made from recycled material and design packaging that can be more easily recycled, according to panelists at the session “Increasing Recycling Through Packaging Innovation.” Some of these improvements are in the works, such as spray bottles with plastic springs instead of metal ones or household cleaner containers made from white plastic instead of black plastic, said Glenn May, an associate research fellow for the Clorox Co. His company’s goal is to achieve sustainability improvements on 50% of what Clorox sells by 2020.

Brands with long-term recycling and sustainability goals have the power to improve recycling rates and create better demand for recycled resin, said John Caturano, senior sustainability manager of Nestlé Waters North America. The company’s goal is to make all its packaging from 100% recycled materials by 2030. To make a lasting impact, big brand owners must show they are serious about using rPET or other recycled resins by signing long-term contracts for the material, he said. Processors cannot make investments in equipment if they aren’t sure they have a reliable long-term buyer.

Brands have also started adopting informational labels to guide consumers through the recycling process. Nestlé, Clorox, and 128 other brand owners use How2Recycle labels on their products, which tell consumers whether the product is recyclable and exactly how to recycle it, said Kelly Cramer, director of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s How2Recycle program. The organization helps brands track, measure, and improve their products’ recyclability.

Summit participants brainstorm next steps. The Residential Recycling Summit wrapped up with small-group discussions. Two groups considered what mandatory and voluntary solutions could address the current challenges in residential recycling. One group advocated a life-cycle approach to material ownership, value, and stewardship that would also use technological innovation to better track the flow of materials. In that context, the group supported laws that could provide market liquidity, such as a tax on virgin materials, landfill bans where recycling markets and infrastructure exist, deposit programs, or producer responsibility. The other group suggested a variety of potential approaches:

• Institute a voluntary fee or a tax on direct mail marketing materials to fund investments in MRFs to improve processing or investments in paper mills to increase their ability to use recovered paper.

•  Agree on a simplified list of acceptable materials.

•  Promote a standardized label that makes clear how much recycled content a product contains.

•  Combat wishful recycling by communicating “when in doubt, throw it out.”

• Consider returning to dual- or multiple-stream recycling.

The third group considered whether the use of recycled content should be mandated in products or packaging. It concluded that doing so could be detrimental to smaller manufacturers, but it supported a public campaign on the environmental benefits of buying products with recycled content.

One participant noted that bills have been proposed at the federal level to “fix” recycling, and recyclers’ voices—especially those of MRF operators—are essential to make the most of this opportunity and ensure the proposals support both private and public infrastructure for recycling. She and others urged MRF operators to reach out to their communities and offer videos or tours to explain the challenges they face.

Seeking innovation in recycling

Product and packaging manufacturers are constantly innovating, and recyclers need to do so as well, observed panelists for the session titled “How What You’ll Be Recycling in Five Years Will Be Radically Different Than Today.”

The types of steel now being used in light passenger vehicles is higher strength and higher alloy than before, said Dean Kanelos, automotive market development and product applications manager for Nucor Corp. (Charlotte, N.C.). The material “will be difficult to shred, shear, and bale,” he said. Scrapyards that routinely handle this material might need to upgrade equipment to catch up.

Carbon fiber from sources such as automobiles and wind turbines will also enter the recycling stream more frequently in the future, and companies are working on ways to recycle it efficiently, said Alasdair Gledhill, commercial director at ELG Carbon Fibre (Pittsburgh). The company collects and shreds carbon fiber, puts the material through a modified pyrolysis process to separate out the raw fiber, and chops it to specific sizes to use in recycled products. The challenge is to streamline the process while building capacity. “We know there is plentiful feedstock to recycle, but we only have a capacity of 12–15 tons a year,” he said. Recycling carbon fiber from vehicles such as end-of-life Ford F-150 trucks could yield about 250 tons a year.

Meanwhile, paperboard manufacturers will take advantage of low mixed-paper prices to use more recycled fiber in their products, said BMO Capital Markets analyst Mark Wilde. At the height of China’s mixed-paper demand a few years ago, the country imported between 5 million and 5.5 million tons a year. In 2018, China imported almost none. With 2 million to 3 million tons of containerboard capacity coming online in North America in the next few years, companies are getting creative about using mixed paper in their paperboard products, he said. Yet the printing and writing paper segment “is still in structural decline,” Wilde said, meaning there could be less available mixed paper as the years go on.

New solutions to recycling challenges. Speakers in the “Innovative Solutions to Common Recycling Challenges” session talked about big ideas that could soon power better, more effective recycling. Some of the technology already exists: Scrap-sorting robots now use artificial intelligence, high-resolution cameras, and laser sensors to pick items off the belt and sort them into bunkers at a faster average rate than human sorters, which cuts down on labor costs and hiring challenges, said Will Hancock, vice president of operations for Plexus Recycling Technologies (Denver). Robotic sorters can be quickly programmed and reprogrammed to sort different materials depending on output needs and keep track of items on the belt to give operators an idea of what their overall scrap stream looks like, he said.

Capturing more plastics in the recycling system is another challenge, and Jon Timbers, director of innovation and sustainability at AmSty (The Woodlands, Texas), believes chemical recycling might be how to do it. Chemical recycling uses pyrolysis to break polymers down to their monomers, “like taking Legos apart,” he said. Monomers get distilled to a purified liquid and made into new plastic. Chemical recycling might be an innovative way to keep hard-to-recycle items out of landfills and provide a feedstock to make new products, he said.

Efforts to increase the global recycling rate must involve everyone from residents to haulers to MRFs and consumers, said Ionut Georgescu, founder of the End of Waste Foundation (Costa Mesa, Calif.). The foundation plans to launch a global waste traceability system that uses “trusted and transparent” blockchain technology and software that helps residents, haulers, MRFs, and consumers “work together to create a real circular economy.” It aims to trace recyclables from the time they are manufactured to their end of life and use funds from brand owners to offset the costs of recycling hard-to-recycle items, he said.

Prepare for electronic product innovations. The electronics spotlight session brought together manufacturers and recyclers to explore trends in consumer electronics and their impact on recycling. Panelists Doug Smith, director of corporate environment, safety, and health for Sony Electronics, and Caitlin Sanchez, senior counsel for social responsibility and regulatory affairs at VIZIO, described the move toward lighter and thinner devices and the growth of networks that make devices more connected and mobile. Electronics recycler Craig Boswell, president of HOBI International (Dallas), pointed out that devices’ increased complexity makes it more costly to reclaim materials from the end-of-life electronics stream.

Emerging trends, such as 5G mobile devices and Internet of Things connectivity, raise data security issues, Smith said, because memory isn’t in the device—it’s in the cloud. Boswell agreed, noting that data security issues now cross into products such as vehicles and appliances, making it an issue for metals recyclers. A refrigerator that orders milk for you also has your credit card information, he said.

Electronics recyclers find value in parts. As devices become smaller, lighter, and harder to process, recyclers are recovering less precious metals from electronic scrap, said Matthew Young, president of Electronics Value Recovery (Annapolis, Md.), at a session focusing on testing and reusing components. Young described specific opportunities for getting more money out of your scrap stream by refurbishing and selling parts, including CPUs, hard drives, memory modules, laptop A/C adapters, batteries, and desktop motherboards, as well as the processes for testing and preparing them for resale.

Processors are the most valuable of the component categories Dynamic Lifecycle Innovation (Onalaska, Wis.) harvests, according to Noah La Liberte, director of outbound sales. Next is memory units, which have a lot of reuse value but require more work in terms of testing, he said. Storage components such as hard drives and solid state drives have less value, are more work, and have more risk in terms of handling not just the data, but also the hazardous materials, he said.

Cory Pyscher, president of Schupan Electronics Recycling (Kalamazoo, Mich.), focused on the company’s best practices in parts recovery and resale. “There are so many ways you can make upgrades out of your scrap stream for refurbishing and reselling, but … it’s very, very important to know your costs,” he said. “Testing, shipping, selling—all these things have fees, and you have to know what these costs are.”

When asked where electronics recycling is heading, the panelists agreed it will be more challenging. Pyscher predicted more companies will switch to a service-based model rather than relying on commodities to make money. “The more service-type products we can do, the more diversified we are, the better chance we have at surviving the changing markets,” he said.

Tire recycling rolls toward the circular economy. Tire rubber has many desirable qualities, noted Durga Cherukuri, a research and development chemist with reRubber (Ontario, Calif.): It can withstand temperature extremes, it’s UV resistant, it’s extremely durable, and tires are used around the world. And an ISRI study found that using recycled rubber in one market, molded products, reduces those products’ carbon footprint by a factor of 20, he said. The devulcanized reclaimed rubber reRubber produces can partially replace virgin rubber in tires and other rubber products at a lower cost, resulting in a shorter production time and some improved product qualities, he said. The company is also researching uses for reclaimed rubber in coatings and finishes.

Transitioning to a circular economy could add $1.8 trillion in value, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and disconnect economic growth from the world’s increasingly constrained resources, said Gina Wu Lee, founder of Circular CoLab (Los Angeles). But only 9% of global resource use is circular right now. Developments she expects to further advance the circular economy include more manufacturers and brand owners partnering with recyclers, more product-as-service business models, and more acceptance of buying recycled-content, used, and remanufactured products. “It’s not recycling until we buy recycled,” she noted.

Equipment makers offer scrap separation advances. Changes to China’s scrap import regulations have reinforced the industry’s need to produce high-quality scrap commodities. Processors can improve their downstream quality with investments in the right sorting equipment, said speakers at a session about upgrading mixed metal scrap. For example, ultrahigh-frequency eddy-current separators capture finer material—less than half an inch in diameter—than earlier versions, said Eriez (Erie, Pa.) President and CEO Tim Shuttleworth. Eriez found it “eye-opening” to see how much metal recyclers were losing in the “final” residue stream when processors installed metal loss monitors, Shuttleworth said. “There was 4.8% metal left … that we were able to recover” by using new or additional technology or by reconfiguring processing plants, he said.

Each metal analyzing technology has its strengths and weaknesses, explained Robert Broughton, scrap market manager for Steinert (Walton, Ky.). Laser-induced breakdown spectroscopy “can identify metal down to the alloy,” but it is a “relatively slow process,” so Steinert uses a multiple-sensor approach to balance out the overall system effectiveness, Broughton said. X-ray fluorescence identification systems examine a material’s chemical composition, but they only perform surface detection and might not see through potential contamination. Processing plants are more efficient when they incorporate a variety of sensors and separating equipment, and equipment manufacturers can help processors maximize operating efficiency and material recovery with different equipment configurations, Broughton said.

Developing your workforce and business

Workforce development—recruiting, training, and retaining the best team possible—is a growing challenge for many businesses, and it also was a focus of several convention education sessions.

On the main stage, a panel of experts addressed the scrap industry’s workforce challenges. In today’s tight labor market, companies are loosening job requirements—even dropping the requirement for a high school diploma—and providing more training to ensure workers have basic, transferrable skills, said Matt Plummer, vice president of product strategy for ZipRecruiter (Los Angeles). Job seekers care about job progression, pay and benefits, and good management, Plummer said. “They want to know if they put in the work, they’ll get rewarded for it.” They also want to feel connected to what the company does.

U.S. manufacturers are losing workers to retirement and to higher-paying jobs, said Gardner Carrick, vice president of strategic initiatives for the Manufacturing Institute at the National Association of Manufacturers (Washington, D.C.). People see manufacturing as being dirty and dangerous, or it’s just unknown to today’s young people, he said. We need to “demystify manufacturing” so people see “the full breadth of careers in the industry.” One way NAM is doing that is through videos with a “creators wanted” theme that “make manufacturing look cool.”

There’s also a mismatch between needed skills and those being taught, he said. That includes soft skills such as showing up on time, drug-free, and working hard. Military veterans often have the physical skills and soft skills manufacturing jobs require, he noted.

Susie Burrage, president of the British Metals Recycling Association (Huntingdon, England), described the first sector-specific apprenticeship program in the United Kingdom for “metal recycling general operative,” which has five specialty areas: weighing, material handling, material classification, end-of-life vehicles, and electronics recycling.

Carrick described the U.S. Department of Labor’s apprenticeship program, which has many rules and restrictions but offers some funding. Most companies choose to launch their own apprenticeships for greater flexibility, he said. He suggested states might be supportive of workforce development efforts if companies commit to doing something long term.

ISRI members describe their workforce development needs. After the main stage workforce development event, ISRI Chair Brian Shine of Manitoba Corp. (Lancaster, N.Y.) and President Robin Wiener hosted a town hall to solicit from members suggestions for strategies ISRI could pursue. Attendees suggested that ISRI

•  work with state and local governments to ensure high schools, community colleges, and trade schools teach the skills needed for scrap recycling jobs,

•  expose students at the elementary and high school levels to the industry’s job opportunities,

•  advocate for U.S. immigration policies that bring in people with the skills needed for scrap recycling jobs,

•  build pride and interest in the recycling industry among the existing workforce and the public by showing recycling’s positive impact and how it contributes to its communities, and

•  develop very short videos for online education on both hard and soft skills and to give an overview of the industry and its role in protecting the environment.

Women in recycling share their stories. The women on an all-female panel of recyclers spoke about working in what traditionally was a male-dominated industry.

People tend to gravitate to people who look like them, so women need to make themselves more visible in the industry to be effective as business leaders, said Brandi Harleaux, chief operations officer of South Post Oak Recycling Center (Houston). As more women participate visibly in recycling industry activities—such as by serving on ISRI governance committees and speaking at ISRI events—it will show other women the possibilities scrap recycling has to offer them, she said.

Even though scrap recycling was her family’s business, Proler women weren’t invited to work at Proler International, said Becky Proler, president of Southern Core Supply (Houston). When she started her own company, she wanted to avoid preconceptions. “By naming the company Southern Core, people got to know me, who I was, not who my uncles or cousins or grandfather was. … Being an individual is very important,” she said, “and keeping that individuality in your business life is very important, too.”

The panel’s moderator, Chicago-based workplace and sales consultant Judy Ferraro, asked the panelists how to overcome others’ bad behavior. Nidhi Turakhia, executive vice president of Allied Alloys (Houston), said being confident and believing in herself and not shying away from confrontations has been her strategy. Proler said it’s a struggle for her every day. “If it was easy, everybody would do it,” she said. “But something keeps you coming back, and that is that there’s a place for you.” She reminded those who are leaders that they need to have empathy and to understand where other people are coming from.

Michelle Coffino, owner of Queen City Metal Recycling & Salvage (Charlotte, N.C.), said she tries to harness the energy from the bad experiences. “Forward motion,” she said. “Don’t look back. ... All those experiences, good and bad, make me want to strive to be a better person for my kids and, most of all, to inspire all of you to be the best you can be.”

“I look at every setback as a set up,” Harleaux added. “You have to be ready to lean into what’s ahead of you.”

Veterans, ex-offenders expand hiring options. When many employers are struggling to find good workers, two often overlooked labor pools may offer potential for the recycling industry. Retired Army Lt. Col. Scott Wiggins, ISRI’s vice president of environmental, health, and safety, made the case for hiring recently discharged service members. Wiggins cited a Syracuse University study that found veterans to be entrepreneurial, with a success rate after five years that is higher than the national average. Veterans are also adept at transferring skills across contexts and tasks; they have advanced technical training; and they exhibit high levels of resiliency, advanced team-building skills, and strong commitment to the organization, he said.

Michelle Coffino of Queen City Metal Recycling & Salvage described the work of a nonprofit organization she founded, Moving Mountains, that helps companies build teams with “second chance” employees. Among the advantages these workers offer are that they don’t want to lose their jobs, and they show loyalty, Coffino said. Her own company has a 1% turnover rate, she said.

Know what to do when ICE comes knocking. I-9 compliance audits ensure employers have followed regulatory requirements for documenting employees’ legal work status. In 2018, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement increased I-9 compliance audits 600%, said David Fulmer, an attorney with immigration law firm Wolsdorf Rosenthal (Santa Monica, Calif.), in the session “Don’t Get ICE-d.”

Typically, ICE officials will show up at a facility unannounced with the notice of inspection, and they might bring the news media, Fulmer said. They will give you 72 hours to present the documents they are requesting, but you can ask for an extension. Be prepared, and train your front-line employees what to do—and what not to do—if ICE arrives, Fulmer said. You can do a self-audit of the I-9 forms before you present them to ICE, but be careful not to commit fraud: Make corrections in a different color pen and mark them with the current date. Only employees can correct the employee section of the form, he added.

A Nevada facility of SA Recycling (Orange, Calif.) was audited recently. As a practical matter, word of the audit will get out, said Yvette Huerta, SA’s benefits manager, and people will fear the worst—either that they will get deported or that they will lose valuable workers. When SA notified the audited yard’s workers, “we did have some employees choose not to return,” she said.

ICE concluded the SA facility’s investigation in 90 days, which was unusually fast, Fulmer said—eight to nine months is typical. The worst-case scenario is not just heavy fines, but the arrest and deportation of undocumented employees and the criminal investigation of the company or its employees, he said.

After an audit, “it’s almost unheard-of to not have fines” for compliance errors, Fulmer said, but that was the result for SA’s facility. It had to file some follow-up paperwork, but Huerta credited the payroll staff’s meticulous compliance with federal requirements for the lack of fines. She and Fulmer detailed proactive steps companies can take in hiring to avoid I-9 audit problems in the future.

Attracting the next generation of workers. What does the millennial generation want and need in a workplace, and how can recyclers attract these younger workers? An intergenerational panel of speakers addressed these questions during a session on the 2020 workplace. Recyclers looking to hire young new employees face stiff competition from the tech and construction industries, but those that can show their workplaces value new ideas, offer opportunities for advancement, and offer good work–life balance will retain devoted younger employees, panelists said.

About 50 years ago, employees wanted fair pay, job satisfaction, and an environment that made them feel like part of a team. That hasn’t changed today, said Albert Cozzi, president of Cozzi Recycling (Bellwood, Ill.).

Younger employees expect their workplace to provide equal opportunity for everyone, regardless of their background, said Jacqueline Lotzkar, a trading manager for Pacific Metals Recycling International (Vancouver). Recyclers must prioritize diversity when hiring, she said. “Women want to work where they see women leading and being promoted. If that’s not happening, they will leave.”

Younger employees can also benefit from company mentorship programs, added Tom Crane, who works in operations for Rocky Mountain Recycling (Commerce City, Colo.). The mentor and protégé “can get together for lunch or maybe a beer after work. It’s important so they feel comfortable and both can learn from one another.”

Companies also can foster a sense of community by investing in facility upgrades. Ferrous Processing & Trading Co. (Detroit) recently modernized its breakroom and added a gym—improvements the company’s chairman, Howard Sherman, initially felt were not worth the money until he saw the positive impact on employees. “It also really helped with recruitment,” he said.

Use social media to grow your business, promote your brand. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, YouTube—if these communication platforms are unfamiliar (or even a little scary) to you, then you might be missing out on low-cost opportunities to communicate with your customers and gain new ones, suggested panelists at the session on connecting in a digital world.

The key advantage of social media is that you can use it to tell your own story, says Peter Van Houten, general manager at Bob’s Metals (Portland, Ore.). Even if someone posts something negative on your Facebook page, for instance, it is an opportunity to respond and perhaps turn things around, he said. You can also use these digital tools to follow others and discover new ideas, he said.

Alyssa Salsedo, Sunnking’s (Brockport, N.Y.) brand ambassador, stressed the importance of having a strategy for using social media for your business, starting with defining your objectives and ultimately evaluating the effectiveness of that plan. She recommended producing content that is first social (letting the audience get to know you), then educational and promotional. The content should be relevant to your business, the industry, or your community, she said.

Rachel Bookman, ISRI’s senior communications outreach manager, gave an overview of ISRI’s social media activity. ISRI uses social media to post press releases, conduct polls, and share member news, but each of the primary social media platforms has different audiences and different strengths, she said. For Twitter, Bookman recommended keeping posts short and using hashtags that help you connect with users who might not otherwise find your company. ISRI’s Instagram page had the most engagement among young executives and for the hashtag #ISRI2019, she said. ISRI uses LinkedIn to provide resources for members interested in workforce development. And it uses Facebook to post live videos.

Developing your sales force. Salespeople like to call themselves professionals, but most don’t spend adequate time on the continuing education necessary to be a successful professional, said Hal Becker, author and consultant on sales, customer service, and negotiating. That attitude and lack of training doesn’t fly within other professions, and it shouldn’t in sales, either, he said.

Most salespeople talk too much and “fail miserably at asking questions,” Becker said. Asking the right questions and putting the customer first should be at the forefront of all salespeople’s repertoire. Focus on one customer at a time, and “make them feel like they’re the only one,” he said. It’s important to be honest, genuine, and nice, and “always keep your word. All you have is your reputation,” Becker said.

“Winging it” during business transactions and interacting with customers without a laid-out plan leads to unpreparedness and, in some cases, disaster, he said. Prior to each sales call, great salespeople review their strategy and write down a few targeted questions to ask the customer, just as a teacher goes into class with a lesson plan and a quarterback has plays on his sleeve, Becker said.

As business practices, technology, and society change, salespeople should adapt and not simply rely on the old ways of doing things. “When you start thinking differently it changes the dynamics of everything,” Becker said.

Reviewing operations and EHS issues

Safety, compliance, and operational improvement were also hot topics at ISRI2019, with fires and other risks of lithium batteries among the hottest.

Reducing EV battery risks. As auto recyclers start to receive more electric vehicles, knowing how to identify them and handle EV batteries becomes more important. They typically feature different dashboard instrumentation and gauges than internal-combustion-engine vehicles, plus emblems and a plug-in port, but the orange cables inside the engine compartment are the most easily recognizable identifier, said Andy Latham, managing director 

at Salvage Wire (Wymondham, England). Orange cables indicate electricity in excess of 60 volts; hybrid vehicle cables are blue, indicating 36 or 48 volts.

EV batteries often work together in packs and use regenerative braking to charge, so they can pack a dangerous punch. A Toyota Prius has a 201.6-volt battery that converts to 750 volts, and a Tesla battery pack is 400 volts that converts to 800 volts. “[These] batteries are two, four, eight, and in the future, possibly 11 times more powerful than a fatal electric shock,” Latham said, explaining that a 90-volt charge “will kill you. It won’t make your hair stand on end or put you on the floor. It will kill you.”

Best safety practices include special training for scrapyard employees who handle EVs and personal protective equipment such as appropriately rated rubber gloves and boots, which must be recertified regularly. Workers with pacemakers should not work on EVs because they can be affected by the electromagnetic field, and phones and metal tools likewise should be kept away, he said.

Safely cleaning up electrolytes that leak from an EV battery requires litmus paper and neutralizing agents. Employees should have easy access to an insulated hook for pulling a person receiving a shock away from an EV battery. Electric shock response is not usually offered in first aid training, so he recommends training scrapyard employees in that as well.

Lithium battery hazards proliferate. The number of battery-operated products continues to grow, and so should recyclers’ knowledge of safe electronics dismantling and battery handling, according to speakers at a session on lithium batteries. Lithium primary button-cell batteries are still prevalent and are the “hardest battery for me to handle in my shop,” said HOBI International’s Craig Boswell, because the whole body of the battery is conductive, and “if you’re going to avoid shorting, you can’t touch anything.”

Battery casings can be damaged easily, and the “energy density of the battery now has grown geometrically,” said Carl E. Smith, president and CEO of Call2Recycle (Atlanta). Damage can be difficult to determine as original equipment manufacturers increasingly move toward products with embedded batteries that are not intended to be removed. “You cannot take one of those things out without damaging it in some way,” Smith said, but consumers continue to attempt to remove them. Smith added that manufacturers must “rethink their approach to … ‘right to repair,’ or how easily removable batteries are.”

Consumers who purchase replacement batteries from a third-party vendor increase their risk, Boswell said. Third-party models might contain slight differences or lack appropriate overcurrent protection, which leads to failures and fires. “Now you’ve made something that was perfectly safe as designed by the OEM unsafe,” he said.

Lithium batteries’ prevalence in electronic devices, their ease of being damaged, and the high volume already compromised when they arrive at recycling facilities means recyclers should be aware that “if you do this in any volume, you will have thermal events,” Boswell said. Therefore, thermal event—or battery-induced fire—prevention and response should be part of employees’ basic safety training, and they should use the proper dismantling tools, avoiding sharp tools that could puncture battery casings and metal tools that act as a conductor.

Tire recyclers offer safety guidance. Even when scrapyards have a strong safety program in place, they can be subject to OSHA or local agency fines for details they might not have realized were infractions, said Mark Rannie, vice president at Emanuel Tire Co. (Baltimore). Despite ongoing safety training and continuing education programs, Emanuel Tire received citations recently and sought assistance from ISRI’s environment, health, and safety team. Rannie recommends all scrapyards take advantage of ISRI’s free safety resources and consultation services, especially to avoid lesser-known infractions.

Recyclers’ top four citations under OSHA’s North American Industry Classification System from October 2017–2018 are permit-required confined spaces, respiratory protection, control of hazardous energy (lock-out/tag-out), and powered industrial trucks. Defining which areas of a scrapyard OSHA considers a confined space—such as balers, open-feed hoppers, and conveyers—can be tricky, and violations “can be extremely costly,” said Tony Smith, ISRI’s safety outreach director. ISRI recommends adding a third element—“try out”—to further beef up lock-out/tag-out procedures: Take the time to try out the equipment to make sure it’s properly locked and blocked.

Lately OSHA has increased its attention to businesses’ safety culture. “Management must lead” a scrapyard’s safety culture, and should “lead by doing, not by talking,” said ISRI EHS Manager John Day. Manager involvement and follow-up on both positive and negative safety practices can prevent employee complacency. Investigating accidents and near misses to identify root causes also is management’s responsibility. Such incidents “are a gift” because they clearly show areas for improvement without resulting in injury or equipment damage, Day said. Creating a safety culture takes leadership and commitment, but it “is contagious. If you start, your direct reports will follow,” he said.

Assessing facility fire risks. Recycling facilities of all types seem to be experiencing more fires. In addition to the safety risks, property damage, and expense fires cause, they’re also bad publicity, with black smoke attracting the media, regulators, and environmental groups, said Jerry Sjogren, safety director of E.L. Harvey & Sons (Westborough, Mass.). “We need to curtail fires and keep them at bay as much as possible,” he said.

Ryan Fogelman, vice president of strategic partnerships for Fire Rover (West Bloomfield, Mich.), tracks media reports of fires at scrap and waste facilities. They’re occurring at both the “best and worst operators,” he said. He believes the proliferation of lithium batteries causes a significant portion of them, but other likely causes include more hot and dry environments, greater material stockpiles since China’s scrap import restrictions took effect, sparks and hot works, and arson, he said. The growth of industry fires is resulting in higher insurance rates and certain carriers exiting the market, he noted. He recommended fire safety planning that includes prevention, evacuation, and emergency response.

Ensure your stormwater management holds up to scrutiny. Better technology and improved public access to online stormwater data have made it easier for environmental groups to check up on scrapyards and file stormwater-related lawsuits under the Clean Water Act, said panelists at the “Emerging Trends in Stormwater” session.

Environmental activists who suspect a scrapyard is the source of dangerous runoff can also gather data using Google Earth imagery and drones. “They can get a good idea without stepping foot on your property,” said Ryan Janoch, co-founder of Mapistry, a company that assists businesses with stormwater compliance issues.

Stay on top of paperwork to assure the most up-to-date documents are available, including stormwater permits, he said. “If [the public] can only find records that are a few years old, it could be an indication that [a scrapyard] is not keeping up with their stormwater management program.” Scrapyard managers also should keep rainwater logs showing the facility sampled groundwater after a rain event, he said.

Good housekeeping is also critical, said Chase McLaughlin, manager of StormwateRx’s (Portland, Ore.) Northern California, Nevada, and Australasian territories. Clean up “boneyards” where odds and ends are stored outdoors, and sweep the yard carefully. Add wattles and catch basin inserts where needed, and check to make sure existing ones are still effective. When researching stormwater treatment systems, “it all comes down to increasing regulations. What are you required to do?” he said. “Start taking a look at capital costs and ROI.”

Reducing scrap shipping risk. Scrap shippers can take steps to reduce the risk of material theft as well as the commercial risk involved in international transactions, according to the “Shipping and Container Outlook for 2019 and Beyond” session. Start with protecting your own scrap facility, said Lou Koven, a special agent with the National Insurance Crime Bureau. Be alert to people watching or asking questions about your business, he said, noting that long weekends and holidays are when more than half of all thefts occur. He urged attendees to report thefts to local law enforcement and to ISRI’s ScrapTheftAlert system.

Because thieves might use a fake or stolen ID, create a fictitious transportation company, or falsify signage on a truck or container, Koven recommended copying each truck driver’s license, plate number, and cellphone number to increase the chances of finding stolen material. Thieves can still hot-wire trucks when they’re unattended, he said. They also can find and disable tracking devices on the truck or the container, so he recommends tracking devices embedded in high-value materials.

Commercial shipping risks in addition to theft include nonpayment for shipments in transit or on arrival as well as geopolitical risks when countries change their policies on scrap imports. Tim Moore, senior underwriter of Atradius Trade Credit Insurance, explained typical terms and coverage credit insurance can provide. Insuring your receivables allows you to borrow against them, he noted.

A holistic look at scrap shipping options. “2018 was an epic year of rate increases” for all modes of transportation, said Jordan Reber, executive vice president of ARL Logistics (Moon Township, Pa.), at a session on intermodal transportation. Scrap shippers need to think creatively to find more affordable options, he said.

Steve Shinn, vice president of logistics at Sims Metal Management (Rye, N.Y.), updated attendees on ISRI’s efforts to have the Surface Transportation Board dismiss ferrous metal’s exemption from rate regulation. A new concern is that rail carriers are charging demurrage right after they deliver rail cars, eliminating the three- to five-day loading window that existed previously. The STB will hold hearings on both issues May 22, Shinn said. He encouraged scrap shippers to file formal complaints on STB’s website “so you can be considered and heard” about high rates, demurrage charges, or the impacts of precision scheduled railroading.

With rail costs increasing, some scrap shippers are switching to road, but truck transportation costs increased 60 to 80 cents per mile in 2018, Reber said. Prices leveled off at the end of the year, and carriers are increasing the supply of trucks, which might bring rates down further.

Packaging your scrap in a different way could open up new shipping modes, Reber said, suggesting Gaylord boxes, Super Sacks, pallets, or drums for loose commodities. If the scrap can be baled, consider putting the bales on a flatbed truck with a tarp over them, he said. As the supply of truck drivers remains short of demand, make your facility a place drivers want to visit, Reber added. Drivers’ No. 1 complaint about scrapyards is yard cleanliness—they want to avoid flat tires from driving over scrap. He also suggested giving drivers access to restrooms and vending machines and allowing overnight parking.

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


ISRI honors safety leaders

ISRI Vice Chair Brian Henesey, vice president and general manager of Rocky Mountain Recycling (Commerce City, Colo.), introduced the winners of ISRI’s Transportation Safety and Occupational Safety awards. Driver of the Year was Mike O’Connor of Sadoff Iron & Metal Co. (Fond du Lac, Wis.) for his 41 years of safe driving (at right, with Henesey). The Golden Wrench Award, honoring outstanding commercial motor vehicle technicians or managers, went to Aaron Radl (below right), also of Sadoff.

ISRI’s inaugural Occupational Safety Awards honored several Circle of Safety ExcellenceTM member companies for their low total recordable incident rates in the previous year. The best-in-class awards went to SA Recycling Savannah (Savannah, Ga.) for small class (22,000 to 100,000 hours or 11–50 employees), Southern Metals Recycling (Savannah) for intermediate class (10,001–200,000 hours or 51–100 employees), Western Metals Recycling/The David J. Joseph Co. (Sandy, Utah) for medium class (200,001–500,000 hours or 101–250 employees), and United Scrap Metal (Cicero, Ill.) for large class (more than 500,000 hours or 250 employees).

ISRI also announced the 2018 Best Fleet Awards, honoring ISRI members with the lowest vehicle accident rate and the lowest U.S. Department of Transportation recordable rate. The Pacesetter Award uses the same criteria but covers a three-year period (Jan. 1, 2016, to Dec. 31, 2018).

Best Fleet Award

Small Class (300,000–500,000 miles): Reserve Management Group–Reserve Transport (Twinsburg, Ohio), Shine Bros. Corp. (Spencer, Iowa), Berman Bros. (Jacksonville, Fla.)

Intermediate Class (500,001–1 million miles): Rochester Iron & Metal (Rochester, Ind.), TJN Enterprises (Sioux Falls, S.D.), Cozzi Recycling (Bellwood, Ill.)

Medium Class (1,000,001–5 million miles): Metal Exchange Corp. (St. Louis),  Prolerized New England Co. (Concord, N.H.), Schupan & Sons (Kalamazoo, Mich.)

Pacesetter Award

Small Class (300,000–500,000 miles): Berman Bros.

Intermediate Class (500,001–1 million miles): Rochester Iron & Metal

Medium Class (1,000,001–5 million miles): United Scrap Metal

Lifetime Achievement Award

Former ISRI Chair Jerry Simms, director of Atlas Metal & Iron Corp. (Denver), is ISRI’s 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award honoree. Unable to attend ISRI2019 for health reasons, Simms was represented by his wife, Terry, at the presentation during the convention’s opening main stage event Tuesday, April 9. Among Simms’ contributions on behalf of the recycling industry was his advocacy for Superfund reform to protect scrap recycling companies from liability for contamination. “He has always been an ISRI mentor to me,” Chair Brian Shine said in a statement. “Conducting himself with class and professionalism, he has a special gift to include input from everyone around him and then make thoughtful decisions that always promoted the best interests of our industry and its members.”

A shark and an author inspire success

As the lead “shark” (investor) on ABC’s reality series Shark Tank, entrepreneur Robert Herjavec recognizes that he is not just a TV star; he also is a product that’s constantly analyzed in one of the world’s most competitive businesses. As the show enters its 11th season, Shark Tank is a success because it inspires people to strive for success, Herjavec told the audience at the opening main stage event at ISRI2019. Success, Herjavec said, is the result of believing in yourself while also being honest with yourself, taking action to work toward your goals, and getting results: “The world does not reward intents, and the world does not reward good thoughts,” he said. “The world rewards results.” If you’re not getting results from what you’re doing, you’ve got to pivot to what works, he said. “If you want to compete on a world-class level, you’ve got to double down on your strengths and let your weaknesses go.”

The final key to achieving success is having a greater sense of purpose. For Herjavec, that purpose was to buy a Cadillac for his father, an immigrant from Croatia (then Yugoslavia). “If I didn’t do something with my life, I felt like I let [my parents] down,” he said. “One of the great things about business and having a little bit of success is you can take care of the people you love.”

Closing main stage event speaker John O’Leary used his own life story to teach a lesson about perseverance. As a 9-year-old playing with fire and gasoline, O’Leary set his garage on fire. As the gas fumes exploded, he was burned over 100% of his body. While his prognosis was, essentially, “not a chance,” O’Leary received a visit from a hero of his, St. Louis sports broadcaster Jack Buck, who said, “Kid, wake up! You’re going to live.” O’Leary said Buck’s encouragement and support taught him the importance of gratitude and of continuing to ask what more you can do. “Find time throughout your day to listen,” he advised, and ask yourself if this is the best thing you’re doing right now.

Design For Recycling Award

ISRI presented its Design for Recycling® Award to Nestlé Waters North America for the company’s PureLife 100% recycled PET bottle. While accepting the award, CEO Fernando Mercé noted that the recent narrative that recycling doesn’t work is hitting plastics especially hard. Nestlé sees plastic as a valuable commodity that’s meant to be reused, including the labels and glue, he said. “Our goal is to take the ‘single’ out of ‘single-use plastics’ once and for all,” he said.

RRF Silent Auction

A silent auction raised nearly $24,000 for the Recycling Research Foundation during ISRI2019. Using mobile app bidding for the first time, the auction drew a total of 176 unique bidders placing 436 bids on 77 items. The item earning the highest bid was Roll-Rite’s (Gladwin, Mich.) automatic tarping system; also fetching high bids were the 2019 Emmy experience package, donated by the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board, and the Las Vegas hotel package donated by Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. RRF is a nonprofit closely associated with ISRI that promotes the scrap recycling industry through research, stipends and scholarships, educational programs, and technical assistance. Contact Natasha Grant, ngrant@isri.org or 202/662-8524.

Running with a cause

One of ISRI2019’s “Just for Fun” events caught the breath of some 140 early risers who accompanied Craig Mitchell (front row center), a judge in the Superior Court of Los Angeles County, and members of the Skid Row Running Club he founded in 2012 on a roughly 5-kilometer run through downtown Los Angeles. Mitchell also spoke about the club during a luncheon to showcase how the club has helped some of the city’s poorest residents resolve problems of homelessness, former incarceration, lack of education, drug use, mental illness, and other challenges. The club welcomes “everyone who wants to work toward making better decisions in their lives,” Mitchell says.

Youth Video and Poster Contest

Fourth-graders Nimisha Kasliwal and Asher Hardis of Hilltop Elementary School in Beachwood, Ohio, won the 2019 Youth Video & Poster Contest, which sought creative explorations of the theme Recycle to Build. Their video succinctly illustrates how recycled plastic can be used to build new roads—and how those roads themselves could then be recycled in the future. Presenting Nimisha and Asher their grand prize awards were Sean Smith of JASON Learning, ISRI Youth Outreach Committee Chair Peter Van Houten of Bob’s Metals (Portland, Ore.), and ISRI Chair Brian Shine of Manitoba Corp. (Lancaster, N.Y.).

The more than 4,700 registrants who came to Los Angeles for ISRI2019 gained not just the tools and connections they need to improve their business, but also the inspiration to aspire to greatness.
  • 2019
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