All in the details

Features - Cover Profile

Custom Recycling tailors its industrial recycling services to its clients’ needs.

June 16, 2022

From left: Custom Recycling co-owners Shane Murphy and Tim Weaver
Photos by Jack Robert Photography

What’s in a name? In the case of Custom Recycling LLC, headquartered in York, South Carolina, it encompasses the company’s approach to its industrial and demolition recycling services.

“Our name was thought of because we wanted to customize recycling plans for each individual company,” says co-owner and CEO Tim Weaver. “They are all different, so why would one program work for everyone? It doesn’t, and that is what sets us apart from our competitors.”

Tailored approach

Weaver says Custom Recycling will “go the extra mile,” which can mean accepting materials beyond metals, providing facility cleanup and installing equipment, such as balers, and custom containers at its customers’ sites.

Facility cleanups can range from dismantling and removing old equipment that is no longer in service to bringing a scrap handler equipped with a magnet to a customer’s site to remove small pieces of ferrous scrap from its parking lot, Weaver says. That attention to detail and customer service has helped Custom Recycling retain numerous accounts over its 13-year history.

The company serves more than 300 accounts throughout the Southeast, Weaver says, and recycles 20,000 gross tons of ferrous scrap and more than 15 million pounds of nonferrous scrap annually.

“I’ve been in over 500 industrial facilities, and everyone does something different,” he says. “So, I’ve been able to take a lot from all these different companies and, when I see something great, I’m able to go into another account or another place and say, ‘Let’s try doing something like this or let me build this machine or this container.’”

Shane Murphy, co-owner and president of Custom Recycling, says, “We’re literally inventing a machine in our heads and then we Google it and find it.”

Custom Recycling doesn’t take a “one-size-fits-all” approach to how that equipment is paid for, either. In many cases, Weaver says, Custom Recycling will pay for the equipment if its customer signs a long-term contract with the company that will enable Custom to recoup the cost of the equipment. “And then we come up with an agreement, whether it be a buyout at the end, or maybe they want us to buy another [piece of equipment] at the end.”

However, he adds that Custom Recycling has several accounts that are not on contracts. “And the reason we do that is because we don’t want anyone to ever feel obligated to stay with us if we’re not doing our job,” Weaver explains. “At the same time, we have a lot of customers that actually prefer a contract. And we’re more than happy to do that. But when we do invest a lot of money in equipment, we do ask for a contract.”

Murphy says Custom Recycling’s pricing for its services is inclusive, which means customers are not charged for pickups, either. “Anytime that we give a customer a quote, that’s everything inclusive so that it’s transparent. Now, if you’ve got a technical person who wants the exact terminology and that wants it tied to an exact market, we can do that, too. But for us, we try to lay it down as simple as possible for the majority of the people, and they really like that transparency.”

Weaver adds, “You have a lot of our competitors that will say, ‘OK, I’m going to pay you $1 a pound for this metal.’ What they don’t tell the person is that they’re charging them $500 to come pick it up. They’re charging them $250 a month rental on that container. They don’t tell them that they’re going to do a moisture deduction of 25 percent on the material. So, when it’s all said and done, you’re really not getting $1 a pound, you’re probably getting 50 cents a pound.”

Custom Recycling has even purchased scales for its customers who are suspicious of scrap processors because of past experiences, Murphy says, telling them that the company will pay based on the customer’s weights. “They got burned in the past? Answer that fear, be the solution to that fear.”

He adds that “listening and creating an action plan off of someone else’s needs is really the root” of Custom Recycling’s approach to business.

Tim Stoyle, who serves as the controller for the company, says, “Custom Recycling goes above and beyond for its customers. That’s what we strive for, whether it's squeezing in a pickup late when a customer needs it or doing weekend service.”

It also could mean accepting materials that other recyclers won’t. “We’re the guys that will take this material that might be mixed,” Weaver says. “We’re willing to go the extra mile to either find a buyer for it or to separate it so that it can be recycled.”

Murphy adds, “Remember Blow Pops from when you were a kid? They’ve got the candy on the outside and the gum on the inside. Well, some consumers don’t want the gum, they just want the candy. Some consumers want the gum, not the candy. How do you get the gum out of the candy? That’s what we do in a nutshell.”

Strategic pivot

While providing customized services to industrial clients was always Custom Recycling’s objective, when Weaver, Murphy and their partners founded the company following the collapse of financial markets in 2009, they envisioned opening multiple locations.

“Initially, we had always said we wanted to be the ‘McDonald’s’ of scrap metal, having several smaller locations that were centered around high manufacturing areas throughout the U.S.,” Weaver says.

Prior to forming Custom Recycling, Weaver and Murphy worked for another scrap company, which they left during the financial crisis in 2008 because their compensation had been reduced dramatically. But they were able to tap into the “rock-solid relationships” they had built over their time in the industry. “When you leave a business and all of your old accounts are calling you back, it’s a very, very flattering thing,” Murphy says. “It’s because we know what we’re doing. We did the right thing.”

The company opened its initial location in Monroe, North Carolina, which included a 1,000-square-foot warehouse and a small office. “We mostly worked from home, cold calling and hitting the pavement looking for manufacturers and other companies that produced scrap metal,” he says. “As we grew, we were lucky to have friends in the business that allowed us to use their facilities and equipment to sort and process the scrap metal that we bought.”

However, Weaver and his business partners at the time, which included Murphy, soon realized the company needed more space. Custom Recycling relocated to a 7,000-square-foot warehouse in Monroe with outdoor space to torch cut and further process material. A second location in York, South Carolina, about an hour-and-a-half away from Monroe, was established in 2010.

Weaver says they selected York because it was strategically located near the North Carolina cities of Charlotte, Greensboro and Raleigh and the South Carolina cities of Greenville, Spartanburg, Charleston and Columbia, offering easy access to interstate highways.

The York yard served as the company’s main processing facility, while the Monroe site became a feeder yard, handling some retail traffic in addition to industrial accounts.

“As we continued to grow, we purchased more building space and acreage adjacent to our property in York,” Weaver says. “This also made us really think about our initial thoughts of having multiple locations.” He adds that company team members became disconnected from one another and processes deviated between sites.

Because of the disconnect that developed between the two yards and the sharp decline in metals prices beginning in late 2014 and into 2015, Custom Recycling’s owners decided to move all the company’s operations and employees to the York yard, building new offices to accommodate the staff.

“Almost immediately, we knew we made the right decision,” Weaver says. “The team was working together better. The stress of having two locations subsided. We had a better focus on growth of one facility that was centrally located to several of our industrial accounts. We worked smarter, not harder. We invested in equipment that would help serve our customers better.”

Following the consolidation of yards, Custom Recycling’s sister company, Custom Trucking & Hauling, was established, meaning the company no longer needs to rely on third-party haulers to service 90 percent to 95 percent of its generating customers. Weaver says by purchasing trailers that could haul more weight and multiple roll-off containers at once, Custom Recycling was able to compete effectively even if it was farther away than its competitors.

“We are now in one location with almost 40,000 square feet on over 16 acres,” he continues.

However, Weaver says, that does not mean Custom Recycling will have one location forever. “We have a team of leaders,” he says. “At some point, these leaders are going to [be] ready to have their own location.”

Can-do culture

Weaver and Murphy attribute the company’s success in part to its close-knit culture and long-term client relationships.

“We are now a team of over 40 friends and family that work together for a common goal,” Weaver says. “A lot of us grew up together. We went to school and played sports together. We have relationships that go back as many as 35 years.”

Murphy adds that Custom Recycling functions as if it were an employee-owned company, though it’s not officially organized as one. “It’s just the way that we do things here,” he explains. “We’re very inclusive.”

Good ideas can come from anyone on staff, Murphy says, regardless of his or her position. “I always say to the new guys that are coming in … it doesn’t matter what your rank is here, if you have an idea, say it. Because what people don’t realize is that can be a teachable moment for them or for me, right? I could learn something. Or I could say, ‘Listen, John, this is why we do it this way.’”

Weaver adds, “Everyone’s voice matters. That’s one of the things I think we do very well.”

He mentions getting the team together to go out for beers after work, adding, “You wouldn’t believe what transpires from that.” Weaver says that time spent together outside of work helps everyone to connect and gives everyone opportunity and time to speak.

“A lot of people say they can’t work with friends, but we’ve been able to now for coming up [on] 14 years,” Weaver adds. “And most of the guys have been here 10-plus years. We have a little turnover on the labor side, but for the most part, our core employees have been here from the beginning or at least 10 years.”

The company offers full benefits, including medical, dental and vision insurance as well as a 401(k) program with a company match, Murphy says. Additionally, employees get access to contacts that Weaver, Murphy and Stoyle have accumulated over the years, including financial advisors, refinancing experts and insurance specialists.

“We are proud of the fact that we have so many first-time homebuyers on our team,” he adds. “We are very proud of our employees’ personal growth outside of work. Seeing personal growth and personal goals set and hit are very important to our core values as a company.”

Custom Recycling’s owners say they will continue to invest in the company to make things easier for their customers and their employees and to be able to process material faster. “We’ve been blessed; we’ve been lucky,” Weaver says, mentioning the respect that he, Murphy and Stoyle have for their employees and the respect they have for them. “It goes a long way.”

The author is editorial director of the Recycling Today Media Group and can be reached at dtoto@gie.net.