Very Few Secrets

Departments - Editor's Column

March 12, 2013
Brian Taylor

Brian Taylor


Scrap recyclers have, over the decades, been able to use the considerable lack of wider knowledge about their endeavors as a strategic advantage. If a company or sole proprietor out there wanted to come and pick up “waste paper” or “junk metal” for some unclear reason, then why not? It was merely something to be thrown away anyhow.

That level of misunderstanding lies in the distant past among large-scale scrap generators, and events in the past decade have unfolded in such a way that perhaps only the truly uninformed remain unaware of the value of recyclable materials.

One of the factors that has raised awareness of scrap values, unfortunately, has been the crime wave involving the theft of virtually anything made of metal that might be sold to a scrap dealer.

Crime victims and readers of news reports covering such thefts have learned not only to keep closer watch over their property but also about the lucrative trade in scrap metal. (Ideally, they come away understanding that 99.9 percent of this trade is perfectly legal, but that has been the topic for other columns.)

Another major factor toward the “coming out party” for scrap materials has been far more positive: the widespread adoption of sustainability practices—with recycling being an important component—by virtually every major corporation, institution and government entity.

Corporate executives and sustainability officers cite a variety of bottom-line and public relations reasons why sustainability has emerged as a point of emphasis, with the cost of basic materials being one of them.

Scrap recyclers know as well as anyone that the past decade’s surge in raw materials costs is part of a cycle, albeit a long-lasting one related to urbanization and emerging middle classes numbering in the hundreds of millions of people.

Some recyclers, however, have the sense the genie is out of the bottle, as what large companies and a generation of corporate managers have learned about recycling and secondary raw materials is likely to become institutional knowledge. Many of these same recyclers have found that dealing with customers who understand the value of recycling and the materials involved has made it far easier to schedule appointments, spot containers and otherwise gain acceptance.

Recyclers today may not be able to rely on the secret value of “waste” and “junk” any longer. However, they can take pride in harvesting scrap resources and helping turn them into the products people want in their homes and garages.