Fresh Perspective

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Recycling professionals share their perspectives on the industry.

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February 23, 2021

Chad Epstein

Managing Director of Metro Detroit Metals

Some people enter the scrap industry because they grew up in it; others had connections to the industry through colleagues or friends. Chad Epstein says he took an alternative path.

“I was a troubled youth, so to speak,” he says. “I was incarcerated from when I was 16 to 17. When I got out, I was always looking for something to click.”

For a short time, he tried working in the property and casualty insurance industry, but that didn’t click. When he was in his early 20s, he says a friend recruited him to work as a warehouse manager at GLE Scrap Metal, which has corporate offices in Longwood, Florida, and Warren, Michigan.

“It’s our job as owners to grow our people. If you give them a path and guidance to grow, they will.”

“I just loved it. I loved the place,” Epstein says of his first experience in the recycling industry. “I found consistency with [scrap], and I found somewhere to release.”

After spending a few years at GLE, he transitioned to a job in sales and purchasing at another firm, where he worked for about seven years. In the fall of 2020, he took a risk and decided to launch Metro Detroit Metals in that city.

“Since joining the industry, I had always wanted to start my own yard and own one myself,” he says. “I wanted the freedom to do things how I wanted them done and take ownership of my career.”

In an early February interview, Epstein offers insights on launching his business.

Recycling Today (RT): What was it like launching a scrap yard in 2020 in the middle of a pandemic?

Chad Epstein (CE): It was very challenging. Me and my manager were the only ones here for the first six weeks, cleaning up the yard with a skid-steer loader and an old high-low.

Like any other business, you start to buy equipment. The facility we purchased fortunately already had a truck scale and was already a scrap yard before that. So, we had the perfect bones here. About eight weeks in, we got a crane and then a shear. Now, we have two cranes and one with a shear on it. We pretty much have all of our equipment now. We just ordered the baler, which should be here in a month.

It’s probably been more challenging to start a business in this environment than any other time, so if you can make it through the toughest time ever … you should be able to make it through anything and be resilient in the future.

RT: Is there anything you would do differently in starting Metro Detroit Metals if you had a chance?

CE: Yeah, I probably would have come here a couple of months earlier to clean everything up sooner. But everything else and all the timing worked out well.

RT: What are your near-term goals for the business?

CE: My goal is to eventually run two shifts—to be busy during the day buying from industrial accounts and processing at night. I’m in the Midwest, and a lot of places we ship to run a couple of shifts. My goal is to max out the facility I’m at right now and continue to grow from there.

RT: What advice would you give someone on recruiting and retaining employees?

CE: You always have to make sure that you’re thinking about what’s on their mind. It’s about creating a good environment for them. The second you lose focus on that, they won’t be in that environment anymore. … It’s our job as owners to grow our people. If you give them a path and guidance to grow, they will. Sometimes you have to give up a little on your end to retain people, but do that, whatever sacrifice it takes.