The resiliency of the scrap industry

Departments - Editor’s Letter

The scrap industry’s resiliency is the result of careful decision-making, self-sacrifice and reinvestment in businesses.

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August 25, 2020

In this issue, you will find a first for Recycling Today: our supplement on the state of the scrap recycling industry.

We first had the idea for this supplement in the summer of 2019, and we had no inkling how disruptive 2020 would be for the recycling industry and the global economy. The term COVID-19 hadn’t even been created yet. One could speculate that few people were even familiar with the word “coronavirus” at that time.

Yet, here we are in mid-August of 2020 as I write this, five months into living in our new normal of a pandemic. COVID-19 is a regular topic of conversation, and the disease is altering nearly everything we do, from mundane errands such as grocery shopping to where and how we work to how and if we gather with family and friends. It also represents a disruption the likes of which the recycling industry hasn’t seen since the Great Recession in the late 2000s.

“COVID-19 represents a disruption the likes of which the recycling industry hasn’t seen since the Great Recession in the late 2000s.”

For this reason, much of the discussion in our State of the Scrap Recycling Industry supplement, which begins on page 43, centers around the challenges scrap processors and brokers have encountered arising from the global recession that the pandemic has created. But we also look at new opportunities related to the pandemic as well as examine other topics, such as regulatory scrutiny of scrap recycling operations, attracting and retaining new employees and changing scrap flows, that are shaping the industry.

We held a virtual roundtable in mid-May as part of our State of the Scrap Recycling Industry research. Our panelists touched on a theme that is familiar to anyone who has been in this industry for any amount of time and that comes up consistently when I talk to the family members and executives behind generations-old scrap companies: resiliency.

Resiliency is defined as “the ability to recover from or adjust easily to adversity or change.” The executives who took part in our roundtables and the others who I’ve talked to through the years probably would take issue with the adjective “easily” in that definition.

The resiliency the companies in this industry show is not something that comes easily but that instead is the result of careful decision-making, self-sacrifice and reinvestment in their businesses. It is the result of nimbleness, financial fortitude and taking calculated risks. It’s part of what makes this industry and its people both enduring and endearing. Ask almost anyone in this industry, and he or she likely will tell you the scrap industry and its family-business model are resilient.