Fresh Perspective

Departments - Fresh Perspective

Recycling professionals share their perspectives on the industry.

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.