Brothers Seth and Noah Goodman are no strangers to the recycling industry; their family has been in the industry since 1896. However, the brothers’ vision differed from that of their father’s, and it was with his blessing that they left the family company to form Northstar Recycling in 2011.
With their company, Noah and Seth wanted the focus to be on their clients’ goals rather than on the day-to-day responsibilities of running a processing facility, adding that it takes a tremendous amount of time and energy to safely and efficiently operate a facility of this type.
“Instead, by not owning facilities, we have been able to invest all our time and energy into providing customized business solutions for our clients,” Seth says.
“Rather than reinventing the wheel,” Noah says, “we close the supply chain gap by matching our clients’ needs to existing solutions. This method allows us the flexibility to research innovative recycling solutions for difficult-to-recycle materials.”
The East Longmeadow, Massachusetts-based company focuses on creating customized waste stream management programs for manufacturers and distributors throughout the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
Northstar Recycling’s Waste Solutions Division specializes in serving retail clients. Aaron Furman manages this division, which was founded roughly two years ago and is based in Warrensburg, New York.
“Our scope of business consists of facilitating any services required for implementing a client’s recycling program,” Seth says. “This can include coordinating pickups and trailer swaps, supplying equipment, providing education and training materials and any other tasks to improve the company’s recycling program.”
Northstar manages material streams from a wide range of industries, trading in more than 140 commodity types, the brothers say.
“Rather than focusing on a specific material, we specialize in helping companies achieve zero-waste to landfill,” Noah says. “Because of this, we take a holistic approach to recycling.
“The key value we provide clients is our ability to manage any and every waste type while improving revenues across all streams,” he continues.
“Our methods have enabled us to build partnerships that allow us to experiment with cutting-edge recycling solutions, thereby ever increasing the number of recycling options available to our clients,” Seth adds.
In addition to finding homes for traditional recyclables, such as old corrugated containers (OCC) and metals, Northstar Recycling also provides its clients with waste diversion solutions that include animal feed, biodiesel, biodigestion, compost, mulch and waste to energy.
Noah says Northstar’s business model is innovative in that it addresses a breadth of materials that extend beyond traditional recyclables. “Historically, it has been unusual, if not unheard of, for a recycling company to accept all waste types (including organic waste and refuse),” he says. “However, this unique service offering has been the key to our successful ability to offer clients innovative solutions for difficult-to-recycle materials.”
Prior to partnering with Northstar Recycling, one of the company’s clients was sending 98 percent of its waste to landfill at a cost of $1 million annually, the brothers say. When Northstar landed the account, its first priority was auditing the client’s byproduct streams, revealing many traditional recyclables in addition to a significant amount of “unrecyclable” multilayer packaging film.
“Within a year of servicing this client,” Noah says, “we were able to develop a recycling solution for this previously unrecyclable material. We were also able to implement recycling solutions that allowed our client to realize a 90 percent diversion rate.”
Seth adds, “Today, we have successfully transitioned this client to operating 100-percent-landfill free while also helping them realize profits of over $1 million a year from recycling rebates and savings.”
The brothers also mention a client that produces a photo paper byproduct, which has a coating that made it unrecyclable.
“Once we took over this account,” Seth says, “we were able to call upon our extensive recycling partnerships to develop a blending solution, enabling us to recycle this material.”
Noah adds, “We have had many similar success stories finding innovative outlets for previously unrecyclable organics byproducts, including recent success recycling a small, finished organic product which was previously landfilled due to its packaging.”
Northstar Recycling works with a network of hundreds of recyclers throughout North America to process the materials its clients generate. Vice President of Commodity Sales John Trovato dedicates much of his time to finding outlets for clients’ materials and to building relationships with Northstar’s network of recycling partners.
“We’re selective in who we chose to partner with,” Seth says.
Northstar looks for financially viable recyclers and prefers to work with privately owned companies, Noah says. “Clients depend on the excellent level of service we provide to them,” he says, adding that if issues arise, Northstar finds it’s easier to get in touch with the owner or a high-level executive at a privately owned firm. “We have not had that experience with larger companies,” he says.
Other factors that determine the recyclers Northstar works with are the range of materials they can process and their ability to handle multiple materials in a single trailer, Noah says.
Northstar says it works closely with its clients to ensure they produce the highest quality scrap possible. “We continue to implement program changes that focus on recapturing the most value out of a byproduct through source separation and continued segregation through the entire recycling process,” Seth says. “This separation practice in turn allows us to create more reliable supplies of valuable material for our recycling partners and helps the industry as a whole.”
Northstar’s client development group works directly with the company’s clients to provide on-site education and to create and share best practices across plants, Seth says. The group’s goal is to continually improve clients’ initial diversion programs.
“The on-site piece is very important to us,” Noah adds. “We are the experts in the recycling field. It is important for us to be on-site to properly train clients on how to best manage their recycling programs.”
When it comes to transporting material from the generator to the recycler, Seth says Northstar makes these arrangements more often than not. “Every time a pickup is needed, we want to be the first point of contact,” he says, adding that this assures that all loads are picked up on time and that Northstar has the data it needs for client reporting.
“Our clients rely on us to get good, accurate data in a timely matter,” Noah adds.
Northstar Recycling uses software supplied by cieTrade, Stamford, Connecticut, to track and report diversion data to its clients. This information allows clients to evaluate their recycling efforts using a material distribution chart of recycled tonnages for a range of user definable categories.
Northstar’s client portal also features an “Environmental Impact Statement” that is based on Environmental Protection Agency guidelines. This feature allows Northstar’s clients to measure their recycling programs’ performance.
“Because we deal with such a diverse portfolio of commodities, we have been able to provide a stable outlet for our clients’ materials and, in turn, offer a reliable source of materials for our recycling partners.”– Seth Goodman
“Reporting is extremely important,” Noah says, adding that the information Northstar provides is fed into a client’s environmental, health and safety system so it can be reported throughout the company and in its sustainability reports. “The better and more accurate the data they get from us, the easier it is for them to enter it.”
Despite the lower commodity prices seen through much of 2015 and so far into 2016, Noah and Seth say recycling remains important to its clients.
“They are all disappointed in where the market is today,” Noah says of Northstar’s clients. “But there is still a very strong economic case to recycle versus to landfill. If done properly, it is not an expense for a manufacturing facility, and it pays for itself and then some, even in markets like this.”
Seth adds, “Scrap commodities in general have been in decline, with some traditional recycled commodities seeing their lowest market value in years. However, our business model lends itself to this tough market period. Because we deal with such a diverse portfolio of commodities, we have been able to provide a stable outlet for our clients’ materials and, in turn, offer a reliable source of materials for our recycling partners.”
While Seth and Noah have created a company that prioritizes client education, data accuracy and responsive customer service, they also have created a company culture they can be proud of.
In addition to being business owners, Noah and Seth are husbands and fathers to children ranging in age from 8 to 15. Noah says he and Seth want to ensure they remain available for their families so they can be the fathers they want to be.
“If we as owners have good work-life balance, we have to offer that to our employees as well,” he adds.
“Rather than reinventing the wheel, we close the supply chain gap by matching our clients’ needs to existing solutions. This method allows us the flexibility to research innovative recycling solutions for difficult-to-recycle materials.” – Noah Goodman
Seth and Noah set out to create a work environment that mirrors the way they want to live their lives. To help them achieve this, they established six core values, which they say drive business decisions and daily actions:
- We do first things first.
- We do our personal best today.
- We do the next right thing.
- We are impeccable with our word.
- We count on each other for help.
- We have fun.
Noah and Seth say all of Northstar’s employees adhere to these core values daily and each employee has played a role in making the company a success. As evidence, the brothers point to the company’s earnings as well as to Northstar Recycling’s ranking in Fortune magazine’s list of the 100 Best Workplaces for Women and its 50 Best Workplaces for Camaraderie. North star aslo was recognized by Plastics News in 2015 as the best place to work in the plastics industry.
“Part of our jobs are to ensure that people are happy to come to work every day,” Seth says of Noah and himself. “We wanted to create an environment where people felt safe and where they could share their opinions.”
He adds, “It’s never an issue if people want to work from home. As long as the work gets done, we’re not too concerned about the manner in which it gets done.”
Among the perks Northstar Recycling offers its employees are a free weekly lunch, free snacks and drinks, an on-site barber shop, masseuse services and access to satellite radio. Dogs also are welcome.
Additionally, the brothers take all of their employees on a trip annually. These outings have included white water rafting, visiting a dude ranch, skiing and catching a Broadway show.
“All the perks are great, but we treat everyone here like a human being, and that’s what makes all the difference,” Noah says.
The brothers say their company has seen “explosive growth” in the last four years. In 2015 alone, Northstar Recycling has more than doubled the number of people it employs to match its 30-plus percent growth in client locations and more than 40 percent increase in tonnage.
“We would love to continue this kind of expansion in the near future, and in January of 2016 we will increase our home office space in East Longmeadow to accommodate expected growth,” Seth says.
“As we grow, our next challenge will be to maintain the quality team environment we have built,” Noah says. “We do not want to lose our strong, award-winning company culture and will continue to build our growth around the core beliefs and core values upon which Northstar was founded.”