Pile of Scrap Ep. 13: Changing the Dynamic – John Sacco
As the year comes to a close, John Sacco sits down for Pile of Scrap’s final episode of 2019 to talk the importance of spreading the word on what is and what isn’t recyclable. Whether you’re a legislator on Capitol Hill, a big-brand retailer like Amazon, or just grabbing groceries at your local market, John says it’s time to start changing the dynamic on the education of the recycling industry and take action. With 2020 around the corner, there seems to be no better time than now.
Watch this episode of Pile of Scrap here.
Intro: The following is an original audio series from Sierra International Machinery Pile of Scrap with your host John Sacco.
John Sacco: Well, good morning. I'm going to try a podcast for the first time of Pile of Scrap from my home. It's the day after Christmas. It's raining. It's kind of a lot of fun. So, you know, Christmas is always a beautiful time and I – and I love it. And so, what does this have to do with recycling? Well, when you sit around the Christmas table, you always end up with the inevitable questions, because I'm in the industry, from family members and you know, they're really great questions. I really appreciate – you know, they talk about recycling and what they do – their part for how they put this stuff in the trashcan, what they do and what they don't. And so inevitably, it comes down to the same thing. They don't understand what really – they think by putting something in a blue bin, they're doing their job and that's great and they're doing the right thing by separating out what can be and what cannot be recycled. But, they don't understand, really, the dynamics. And, it's funny, my last podcast with Leonard Zeid: we talked about, and we joked, about the most important question in this election coming up is: the pizza box – what to do with them. And around the table last night, quite frankly, everybody thought the pizza box was not recyclable. And so, they were telling me why. And I stopped him and I said, ‘Look, I want you to know something.’ And so, I went into explain that, uh, there's plenty of companies – Pratt Industries, WestRock – that takes pizza boxes and they actually, you know, take the plastic grease liner out or Domino's has that little round thing they put in there and, uh, take food – old food particles out and take – clean it out of any plastic and that pizza box is actually a high quality piece of cardboard that can be made in two new container board. And, everybody looks at you and they’re shocked and then they talk about, you know, all the other items. And, um, and last night I got a great question about the iPhone box. And you know, it's funny, none of these people had ever heard my podcast. And again, we talked about iPhones and the box, that beautiful hard, cardboard box, it comes in and is that recyclable? And I said, ‘Well, it is, there's that plastic intake it out. But, here's what I tried to tell these family members and they're really great people. And this was my, uh, my sister-in-law’s husband's family, so they're not my blood, but family – were at Christmas, having a great time. I said, ‘When you go to the store, do you make a decision to buy a product that's packaged in a method that comes from recycled fiber or recycled products? Be it aluminum, be instilled, doesn't matter. That whatever that packaging is, it came from a recycled product and they – and everybody said no. Nobody makes that decision. Everybody buys based on what they need and what they like and they don't make that decision at all. And so, you know, again, paper's a really great subject and – and I guess I like this paper side of it because we – take – you go to the store and you're having friends over, it's a game and you're buying beer. Alright. And you go, you’re buying sodas. And, you go and you open up the door and there is your beautiful, red Coca-Cola box and then you got your red, white, blue Pepsi and you know, Coors, and Bush, and, uh, Bud Lite, Budweiser, all the different color – beautiful colored packaging. But what's interesting about that product is the beer manufacturers and soda manufacturers are using a product that has a kind of a, it's like a, it's on the top of the cardboard and it's really reduces the quality of the cardboard. If they would go back to the old cardboard box and in just one color lettering, uh, on the cardboard, that say Pepsi, or Coke, or Coors, or Bud, that box would be far more recyclable because they put a, like a label on it, or a – that color label really takes away from the recycled content of the product. And I was telling the family that last night and they all thought that was a great idea and they asked me, ‘Well, why aren't these companies promoting that?’ And, I don't have that answer. You know, I don't run a multibillion-dollar corporation. You know, so much is focus test. You know, these groups, which – which packaging do they like? What makes somebody go to the store and pull this out and pull that out? And instead of, hey, getting the message out, because you know, these companies are all about diversity. They're all about sustainability. Yet, their product packaging lacks that message because they don't have a recycled content product packaging that really is – Once you use it, it goes into the recycle stream and then the paper mills can use it without the downgrades of different products mix. So, you know, beverage containers, uh, some of these new ones are beautiful aluminum bottles, but then they have a cellophane wrap on it and they have a plastic top. Well, that's all great and they love it from a standpoint – It's gamers like this new bottle. But, there's three content – three things: make it out of all of aluminum. That way, it's 100%. Just throw it in the, you know, they can re-melt it, like the beer can. So, packaging has a long way to come. I mean, these companies spend billions of dollars a year on their packaging and what sells, what doesn't sell, and that's their right. But, I think as a country, as a culture, if we start demanding that the products they package are a 100% recyclable, we can shift the dynamic – we can shift the way these companies package. And in the end, we probably have a better, you know, stuff won’t go to the landfill. Everybody wants to be green. You know that's, again, my family: everybody's talking about, ‘This is great. And – and, you know, I do my bit to recycle.’ And, um, inevitably, it's always the same conversation as I started this out and goes back and they don't, uh, the public really doesn't understand completely. And, you know, I can't get out there. You know, Pile of Scrap is – we're – we're just a podcast gaining a little bit of steam, but we're not Coca-Cola. You know, billion-dollar year who can run $5 million-dollar 30-second spots at the Superbowl. I can't do that. I don't – I guess I could, but, uh, I think my CFO and the company – we'd be a little bummed out that I spent a lot of our resources on 30-second ad, or maybe it's a minute now, who knows what Superbowl ads are, but they're not cheap. But the point is, is as we grow conscious in this country to recycle, we need to also understand byproducts that are packaged with – from recycled products and is recyclable. Okay, let's talk about Amazon. They – because they brought this up because all the Christmas gifts that came in, you know, that they bought from Amazon and, uh, ‘Oh, what about the Amazon box?’ I go, ‘100% that's a great product. Put it in the recycling stream, make new packaging out of it.’ But I said, but how many of you got a Amazon package that came in the, like, a Manila envelope with the plastic bubble wrap? And they all said, ‘Yeah,’ I go, ‘Well, what are you gonna do with that? You can't separate it. It's not cost effective.’ And, it's funny, a couple of them were outraged, ‘How come they do it? They’re a multibillion-dollar corporation. Don't they know how to package?’ You know, this is a fair question. When you're that big and you're that powerful, like Amazon, why wouldn't you make a package to deliver your product that the consumer just put into the recycle stream? Not the waste stream. Because scrap’s not waste and paper's not waste, but it's waste if you can't separate it and you can't do it cost effectively. So, why isn't Amazon doing that? Oh, I mean, I'm not getting on Amazon. I mean, my God, that guy has made gazillions of dollars. I'm just a little scrap processor and, uh, equipment manufacturer and dealer. So, but I think if they took a look at it and listen to the public and listen to this conscious of sustainability that they all talk about, cause all of the big corporations say, ‘Oh, he's talking about sustainability in the – you know. I mean, I don't want to go into politics because everybody has different politics, but everybody wants to reduce their carbon footprint. Well, package your product in recycled – made from recycled product. Be it steel, be it aluminum, be it paper and even plastic, and get that word out. Get the word out, so people know that a pizza box – what to do with the pizza box, so people know what they do when they get their Amazon package during the holidays, what to do with it. And, how we can make recycling – the real loop of recycling – as the symbol is – from taking the product, use it, put it back into the recycle stream and it's reusable without the contaminants. Because when you over contaminate product, it becomes inefficient to recycle it, to re-consume it. Be it aluminum cans with cellophane on a wrap in plastic. You can't just melt that without the contamination and that costs, you know, smelters making new aluminum a lot of money. So, you want as clean as product as you can when you go back into the recycling stream. That's what we do at Sierra Recycling and Demolition from scrap iron to aluminum to all the different grades. Okay. We got a little interrupted. I thought my phone was on airplane mode, which it was, but I had Wi-Fi calling enabled so I got interrupted. So, we're back. So, you know, like, I usually have on my podcast – I have a lot of great people and it's been an unbelievable year. I've got to do podcasts with some great friends of mine. Uh, you know, Mike Lewis that's coming up here after the new year. I did George Adams, you know, what an entrepreneur, what a story that he has about never quitting. Ed Kangeter at CASS – the chlorine free aluminum and, you know, Ed's a good friend, but their operation is fantastic. And Jason Young and the Allen company, I got to interview Leonard Zeid, uh – Midland Davis on paper, which was probably my favorite podcast from information. A lot of people really enjoyed that a lot. So, I'm really enjoying podcasting. This is a quick thought. I got this fancy new microphone for Christmas. My wife loves my podcasts, so I love my wife. But you know, this is a – it's information and, and the recycling industry is completely misunderstood. And when you go out on the Hill at the Capitol or the EPA, you know what, our industry is horribly misunderstood. Now, we have a great trade association, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, which is – the acronym is ISRI, which I was Chairman of from 2011, 2012. You know, we do a lot of hard work on the Hill trying to educate a lot of congressmen and regulators what our industry is because we are the industry that is trying to keep everything from polluting the environment by containing it, processing it, get it into the mills and to the consumers from be it paper, iron, copper, aluminum, stainless steel, plastic, whatever it is, electronic recycling. So, our task is always, it seems like, um, there's always a new regulator who comes in and wants to, you know, ‘Oh, we're going to save the environment by creating a new regulation.’ And, that's all fine and dandy, but they don't know anything about our industry. And so, I think Pile of Scrap as you people listen to this, get this out to you – your local politicians, your, your state politicians. Because they got to understand the more they listen, the more they're going to learn about what it is we do. And, it isn't because they hate our industry. It's because they just don't understand it. And, I think the more we can educate these people about what we do from all sorts of recycling that we do and how it's helping the environment, how much energy we say by recycling iron, you know, 64% energy reductions when you use scrap iron, uh, in a steel mill versus, you know, uh, iron ore. So, we – we provide a great service and so many facets, but it's important, it's incumbent on each and every one of us who are in the recycling industry to get the word out to our local people, to the States, then from the State to the federal people. Because as politicians come and go and one pendulum swings one way and swings the other way, you always going to have a group of bureaucrats in these agencies. They don't turn over and they’re career-long people who have their idea of what the environment should look like and then they have their idea about what it is we do. Um, and there's really a lot of misconceptions there cause they don't understand what we do. So, I think one of the things is as we finish out 2019, which has been a good year, we had a, uh, what I would call a little hiccup in the markets, uh, with, uh, with aluminum and iron there for awhile. But you know what, we – we persevere. This industry just doesn't go away. Recycling has been part of the culture for – since steel mills ever started and, you know, recycled, you know, World War II, if you look at all the posters, uh, uh, you know, scrap drives, you know, it was the company's conscious effort to recycle all the metals and paper to put forth to back our armies as they fought tyranny across the world. So, recycling is a major part of what we do. It's a major part in today's world to keeping this environment cleaner and, without us, I'd hate to think how polluted the streets would be with cars and oil and refrigerants pouring into the streams and into the storm drains, uh, paper, you know, clogging… I mean, it would be a disaster, but we need – our voice needs to get heard and we need – we're not a bad industry. We are a great industry and we aren't the ones polluting. We are the ones cleaning. We are the – I always like to say the recycle – the recyclers. We are the original environmentalist. We're the ones who have kept it out of a landfill. You know, you're on the East Coast. Landfilled spaces is a premium because they're shrinking the population density. There's not a lot of room. Yes, we have a lot of room in the U.S. and the Midwest and in the South and out West. But you know, take a look at Europe. They burned their trash because there's BTU contents in trash and garbage that creates energy. You know, we talk about a renewable energy source. We haven't even touched that on this podcast. And hopefully in this 2020, I can get somebody on, we can talk about it, but, I kind of smile, can you imagine in the state of California, somebody bringing up the idea for trying to get a permit? ‘Yeah, we're going to incinerate garbage.’ I'm sorry that regulators sees that that permit that comes across the request for a permit would throw that out and probably throw the person in jail. ‘How dare he want to burn trash?’ Well, it's renewable. Because there's renewable energy, you know, wind, uh, solar and with the new baghouses that they have that they use in Europe, quite frankly, waste is a renewable source of energy. Well, that's another discussion. That's for another time. But want to thank everybody who's listened to Pile of Scrap and I wish you the best and happy New Year and hope 2020 happens to the be the best year you ever had. And from rainy Bakersfield, California, this is my last podcast of 2019 so have a great end of the year, safe New Year's Eve and let's look forward to a wonderful 2020. So long and that's it for Pile of Scrap.
Conclusion:This has been a Sierra International Machinery original audio series. Thanks for listening. Please share this podcast and make sure to subscribe.