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Pile of Scrap Podcast

Ep. 17: ISRI’s Role in Recycling with Robin Wiener

Posted by Sierra International Machinery on 2/12/20 5:00 AM

Pile of Scrap Ep. 17: ISRI’s Role in Recycling with Robin Wiener

Pile of Scrap host and former Chairman of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) John Sacco travels to Washington, D.C. to sit down with old colleague and ISRI President Robin Wiener to gain some insight into the industry and inform listeners of the positive influences that ISRI has had across the board. ISRI has made monumental impacts for its members and the industry as a whole in terms of saving the environment and bettering the economy which, according to Robin, is sure to continue in the many years to come.

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Watch this episode of Pile of Scrap here.


John Sacco and Robin Wiener


Introduction: The following is an original audio series from Sierra International Machinery: Pile of Scrap with your host John Sacco.

John Sacco: All right. Welcome to Pile of Scrap. I have Robin Wiener, President of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries. And, from now on, it's going to be called ISRI in this podcast.

Robin Wiener: That sounds great.

John Sacco: Welcome Robin.

Robin Wiener: Thank you. I'm excited to be talking to you.

John Sacco: Are you scared?

Robin Wiener: A little bit.

John Sacco: Well, you shouldn't be. We've known each other.

Robin Wiener: That's true.

John Sacco: All right. So, everybody who's going to watch this podcast knows I was Chairman of ISRI. 2011 to 2012. And, you were – what would you call? The ISRI wife? What was that?

Robin Wiener: Yes, I was your ISRI girlfriend or your second wife, yes.

John Sacco: You know, I always ­– the funnest part about when you become Chair… You don't really know what you're doing the first year and then, by the second year, you catch on and the next thing you know, you're done. How's Brian doing? He's about done.

Robin Wiener: He’s doing great. He really is. It's been such a pleasure to work with him. I really love working with Brian.

John Sacco: Yeah. Brian Shine for those, uh – who's the current Chairman of ISRI and, uh, a good friend of mine. He's been on a podcast of Pile of Scrap.

Robin Wiener: Right.

John Sacco: So, uh, but, his term's coming up. Can you believe how fast that went? It's just unbelievable.

Robin Wiener: It flies by. As a matter of fact, we've talked on and off about maybe changing the terms to three-year terms.

John Sacco: Nah.

Robin Wiener: No? Two years is enough?

John Sacco: Two years is good because I like two years because really it's, it's when you start thinking of all the years you're in and out… Two years because the movement and I – it doesn't burn you out. When it leaves you wanting more…

Robin Wiener: Right.

John Sacco: I think that's the best way to leave something. But when you are tired and you want to get out…

Robin Wiener: Right.

John Sacco: That's – I think that would be a negative impact. Just my opinion.

Robin Wiener: I could see that. But it is – it's so hard, actually, when, um, I lose my Chair every year –every two years. And obviously, I love when the new one comes in, but, um, it's really hard because we've been speaking every day and we've been getting so close that all of a sudden you’re gone. Um, so that's been really hard.

John Sacco: But, that's good.

Robin Wiener: Yeah.

John Sacco: Change is good.

Robin Wiener: Change is very good.

John Sacco: So, you're good with change because – and you and your position, President, there's a lot of change always going on with the people of the trade association of ISRI. And there's a lot of change in Washington, D.C.

Robin Wiener: Huge change.

John Sacco: Okay. So, let's – let’s – let’s segue into the change in the agencies…

Robin Wiener: Right.

John Sacco: In D.C. Now, you – we – we've been working with so many agencies all over the years.

Robin Wiener: Right.

John Sacco: What's today's climate like?

Robin Wiener: You know, it's hard to characterize it in one word, but I'll say that, um, you have to remember that you have, essentially, two levels of workers in the agency. You have those that are the professional staff that are there all the time. They're there, whether it's a Republican administration, it's a Democratic administration. They are experts in their field. And, the good thing about ISRI, one of the, uh, I think the strengths of ISRI is that we've developed relationships – longstanding relationships – within each of these agencies with those, uh, career professionals.

John Sacco: And do they help you get to the higher ups?

Robin Wiener: Absolutely.

John Sacco: So, they carry the message ‘cause of the relationships that been built…

Robin Wiener: And the understanding. And the understanding of the industry. Now, are we always successful getting to the top? That varies. Um, by agency, by, uh, term, et cetera. But, we're pretty – we're pretty good at it.

John Sacco: So, the EPA is an agency, you know, the Environmental Protection Agency. So, recycling the environment is a huge importance to all Americans.

Robin Wiener: Correct.

John Sacco: Everybody, you know, there isn't anybody who doesn't care about the environment.

Robin Wiener: Absolutely.

John Sacco: So, you made a comment as we were talking and setting up about what the EPA looks forward to. Tell us about that; the booklet that you ­– that they…

Robin Wiener: Oh, yeah. Um, it's interesting. About six years ago, ISRI started publishing an annual yearbook with data on not just the volumes of material handle, but also jobs in the industry, economic impact, et cetera. And, uh, about two years ago, I was invited to address the heads – the regional heads of the record program at EPA headquarters. And, I sit down and the first thing that said to me is one of the assistant administrators next to me and he sees that I have the yearbook – the latest year book in front of me. He says, “I love that. That's on my shelf. I look forward to it every year. That's my source of information about the recycling industry.” That's a huge success for ISRI, but most importantly it's a huge value to the members because it means that, truly, the agency and those policymakers that are regulating the industry and affecting the direction and the cost of the industry, they are looking to ISRI as the primary source of information.

John Sacco: I'm going to say to you, then, the success of that booklet at EPA that gets our message out that they look forward to…

Robin Wiener: Right.

John Sacco: Also needs to be on ISRI social media, blasting it, and for our members to see it and the platform. I think that's fantastic. See, people don't get ­– members – people. Our members don't get how hard it is – a – just to get the attention of these agencies. And then you do, and then you get somebody who makes that comment…

Robin Wiener: Right.

John Sacco: That's a huge win and that's a win that no individual company can even begin to get.

Robin Wiener: Right.

John Sacco: And as a trade association, as we fight for our members, that's amazing. So, they look for our job. So, let's talk about jobs. What is the latest data? Tell us about the recycling industry and its economic effect on, uh, the U.S. economy.

Robin Wiener: Well, the most important thing to understand about the industry is that we're the first link in the global manufacturing supply chain. And, that is backed up by the economic footprint of the industry, which were, um, the economics of the industry is that we are valued about $110 billion annually. There are 164,000 Americans employed full-time directly by the industry. And, then if you look at indirect impacts… So, the suppliers that rely on the industry and all the induced impacts, it's actually about another 350,000 jobs in the industry. And these are good paying jobs. Those 164,000 jobs, the average wage is 70–more than $70,000 annually. And, it also generates significant tax benefits to federal government and to state and local governments. We estimate about more than $13 billion in taxes are contributed by the industry to governments throughout the country.

John Sacco: Our footprint, this – this trade association – with that information that we get… That’s fantastic information. And, I think that our members, again, you tell me something and I want members who listen to this because you don't want people who listen to this podcast aren't necessarily the owners. There are a lot of people, ops managers, head of safety, head of HR are listening to this podcast and they need to get that information because every politics are local and everybody has to deal on the local level…

Robin Wiener: Absolutely.

John Sacco: And they need to tell them about our economic footprint, don't they?

Robin Wiener: Absolutely. And there's two things I'd share about that. First of all, that's all on our website and every ISRI member and every employee within ISRI-member companies on our website is a map and it shows the high-level numbers that I just shared with you. But, then you can click on to any state and it will give you that data down on the state level. You can get it on the congressional district level, you can even get it on the city level. We also have that information by commodity. So, all of that information is available to every individual. But the other thing, I think the most important thing that I want your viewers to know, um, and especially those ISRI members out there, is that we work for you and we work, not just for the owner of the company, but all the individual employees as well. And one of the biggest values of ISRI are the staff that are here in the office, the experts that are here and they are accessible to every employee. Pick up the phone and call us.

John Sacco: I think that's great messaging. You know, encourage – you look all the people that – look, I've had messages from ops managers who've sent me a message about the podcast. Look, if you have a question about something, and you’re an ISRI member, reach out to staff, it's not un-accessible and I think people need to know that.

Robin Wiener: And can I tell you a little story about that, actually?

John Sacco: Sure. Go ahead, go ahead.

Robin Wiener: I've been in this position for about 20 years, but before that.

John Sacco: That long?

Robin Wiener: I know.

John Sacco: Really?

Robin Wiener: I was 12 when I started. Um, when…

John Sacco: You got the job at recess, didn’t you?

Robin Wiener: Exactly. Exactly. And then I was allowed to stay on, graduate… Um, I was doing environmental compliance here for about eight years and one of the things I used to tell members when I was on the road, and this is also gonna date me, that, um, I was the Shell answer man for the industry. Uh, again, that is going to date me.

John Sacco: Shell answer man. Wow.

Robin Wiener: Yeah, but you've got a question. Um, just pick up the phone, call any employee at – any staff person at ISRI and we're there to answer the very specific questions you have. And if you don't know to call, call me. Um, or send me a message, send me a text, send me an email.

John Sacco: Your phone's going to blow up. Robin.

Robin Wiener: I look forward to that.

John Sacco: Okay. So, commodities. Let's segue into commodities and tons being recycled. Look, steel mills. Let's go with steel mills first.

Robin Wiener: Right.

John Sacco: Without scrap metal from manufacturing companies…

Robin Wiener: Correct.

John Sacco: And the processing through our members, steel mills would have trouble. They need scrap. Electric car furnaces use scrap. How many tons a year of scrap – iron, copper and aluminum? Do you have a number? Do you know?

Robin Wiener: More than 70 million tons of ferrous scrap are recycled here in the U.S. each and every year. And, that's out of a total volume of scrap commodities. About 138 million tons annually.

John Sacco: Of all commodities, 138? That's paper, plastic electronics…

Robin Wiener: Everything.

John Sacco: Tires and everything?

Robin Wiener: Everything. And, it's – what's interesting to me, um, is that that number has grown over time. This is a growing industry. It's not a static industry.

John Sacco: No. The recycling content – more products have more recycled content, more and more and more.

Robin Wiener: And there's investments and processing and in cons–and industrial consuming that's going on here in the U.S. More material is being consumed here in the U.S.

John Sacco: Okay, let's talk about consumption of, of recycled materials that are, uh, that manufacturers, um, their commodity of the scrap copper, aluminum, steel. There's paper from printers and all the different areas where we get the recycled material from blue bins that come through MRFs and these commodities and the consumption of it. Is America investing in new consumers, new paper mills, new plastic mills, new steel mills?

Robin Wiener: Absolutely. There's definitely investment being made. We're seeing it, especially in the paper area. There are a number of greenfield operations that are starting up as well as…

John Sacco: What’s a greenfield?

Robin Wiener:  Uh, new mills being built as well as, uh, there's also mills that had been shut down that are coming back online. So, we do anticipate that will grow, uh, the demand for the material even more. We're also seeing it – we're seeing it, believe it or not, out in plastics. We're seeing it in other commodities as well. So, but does there need to be more? Absolutely. And, so that's why we're looking at tax incentives on the Hill and more growth.

John Sacco: So, let's talk about that. There needs to be more.

Robin Wiener: Yes.

John Sacco: Who can provide – I mean, why aren't there more being – more mills – more steel mills, more… Is it because they don't have a demand for their product or it's just too expensive or is it maybe not enough incentives that they're getting? There isn't one answer to that question. Um, but there's a number of different factors. As you know, better than it ­– better than I know. Uh, recycling is demand driven. It's a demand-driven industry. So, you need the market demand and what we need to do, and one of ISRI’s focuses actually, uh, these last few years has been working to increase the demand and as demand grows there'll be even more investment. Uh, so we're working with manufacturers on mechanisms to create more incentives for them to use more recycled content.

John Sacco: Designed for recycling.

Robin Wiener: Designed for recycling.

John Sacco: Now, ISRI has – each year, at our national convention; this year in Las Vegas.

Robin Wiener: Right.

John Sacco: We give – well, this year it's in Vegas. Last year is Los Angeles, so it moves around. But, at our convention we give an award for the design for recycling. Tell us about that award and what are we looking for when we give that award?

Robin Wiener: Sure. Well ISRI’s designed for a recycling program. Actually goes back since before I started at ISRI 30 years ago. Um, but each year, we try to recognize a manufacturer that has truly integrated the principles of design for recycling. That they are making ­­­ – they are producing a manufactured good that's much more easily recyclable, doesn't have harmful substances in it. Um, and so, for example, this year, this past year we recognized Nestle waters for the hundred percent recycled PET, uh, plastic bottle that uh, they're now producing that also uses a pressure sensitive label so that, um, that the label is easily separated from the plastic. It makes it easier to recycle. The year before, we recognized Dell. We recognize them for one of their laptops that, actually, they removed harmful substances from like mercury. They also, um, use a removable battery now. They made – they are now utilizing standardized fasteners, all elements that help ensure that that product will be recycled at the end of its useful life.

John Sacco: All right. That just spurred a thought. We have a lot of new electric cars coming out on the market.

Robin Wiener: We do.

John Sacco:  Cell phones, lithium ion batteries. We have these great products that reduce the usage of energy, right? And it's clean, but have we found the way to recycle this stuff yet?

Robin Wiener: Not all of it.

John Sacco: Okay, where's that going to happen? Where's that investment? Who is going to, what is, what are your concerns about that?

Robin Wiener: There's a lot of questions there.

John Sacco: I know. Start with electric cars.

Robin Wiener: Well, first of all, we're seeing –  of this interview about change and you were talking in terms of change of staffing and personnel and volunteers. But, we're at a really interesting time in this industry is tremendous change in terms of that product stream that's going – that's entering into the stream and the challenges that we're facing. And, one of the huge transformations is, you know, we have an electronics division for electronic scrap. The truth is that almost every product we handle that is an electronic device. Your car is an electronic device.

John Sacco: Tesla's a doggone computer.

Robin Wiener: Exactly. And so, that raises a whole host of new issues for us as an industry in terms of how we process it. Um, the lithium ion batteries, both the large, um, lithium ion batteries that are showing up in electric vehicles as well as the smaller batteries that are showing up in toys and a lot of consumer goods. Both of those are causing huge challenges for us. Safety concerns in terms of fires we're seeing. So, we're working with the battery manufacturers, but we're also, it's working – there's research being done, actually the government. This is where the government's a partner for us. The Department of Energy is doing research to help us look at how to better recycle these materials.

John Sacco: Okay. So, the responsibility – it’s funny because remember mercury switches?

Robin Wiener: Oh, yes.

John Sacco: Okay, so everybody knows mercury's heavy metal. It's bad. Bad, bad, bad, bad, bad. Okay. Mercury switches almost been all but eliminated.

Robin Wiener: Correct.

John Sacco: Okay, because of its harmful effects.

Robin Wiener: Correct.

John Sacco: Right now, we've created a lithium battery ion battery and it's fascinating because it has a positive effect.

Robin Wiener: Right.

John Sacco: It's just we haven't finished this into life to how at the end of life of that…

Robin Wiener: Right.

John Sacco: It does not have a negative impact on the environment.

Robin Wiener: Right. And, that is something that is being worked on by everyone from the battery manufacturers to the U.S. government, the Department of Energy… I know EPA is starting to pay attention to it, um, and the recycling industry itself.

John Sacco: ISRI’s leading the charge to help to get the message out because of our recycling operation.

Robin Wiener: Absolutely. Absolutely. It's so important to raise awareness also and to prevent them, some of those batteries from even entering into the recycling stream. They shouldn't be putting the bin in the first place. But, it's interesting, part of our job is also to look into the future in what may be entering the stream in future years that we can try to get ahead of it for our members. I was at a meeting yesterday – a National Association of Manufacturers meeting and I sat down with my counterpart at the Unmanned Vehicle Association ‘cause think about drones. At one point, drones are going to be entering our stream and…

John Sacco: I never thought of that

Robin Wiener: Yeah. What are the issues that we're going to face with that?

John Sacco: What are the issues we’re gonna face with that?

Robin Wiener: Wer’e figuring them out now. Um, and hopefully we'll have some answers for you before you see it in your recycling facility.

John Sacco: I bought my brother a drone for Christmas.

Robin Wiener: Did you really?

John Sacco: Oh yeah. He, you know, he lives out in Wyoming now. This is 275-acre beautiful ranch. I go, “You know what, Phil?” I – Christmas Eve, I finally, “Now I know what to get my brother.” I was – I was –

Robin Wiener: That’s great.

John Sacco: So, I got him a drone. So, drone recycling.

Robin Wiener: Right? Think about that. And, it's essentially –

John Sacco: Because there’s a lot of components of a drone from plastic to electronics to…

Robin Wiener: Lithium ion batteries.

John Sacco: Oh boy.

Robin Wiener: Yes.

John Sacco:  The solution for that is going to come from industry who…

Robin Wiener: Yes.

John Sacco: Because they realize this is great.

Robin Wiener: Correct.

John Sacco: Okay. So, energy. Let's go back a little bit and get off the batter–but the energy savings that recycling from scrap metals to paper… What is the significance? What's the percentage of energy savings?

Robin Wiener: It's a very significant – Depending upon the commodity, can range from a 65% to a 95% savings, um, when compared to the alternative, the virgin material. So, aluminum is the highest, I think it's around 95%. Plastic is 88%. Steel, I think, is around 68%.

John Sacco: Paper is 64%, I think. Or…

Robin Wiener: Something like that.

John Sacco: So, there’s significant energy.

Robin Wiener: Absolutely.

John Sacco: How come the public isn't hearing this from the manufacturer? Like Nucor. Why aren't they talking about – Why– why don't you ever see Nucor on a Super Bowl ad saying we're producing new steel, the cheapest in the world and we're saving 64% or 68% energy.

Robin Wiener: That's actually – it's an interesting question. I will tell you that, here in Washington, as I know the steel industry and others are trying to influence policymakers, I actually see some of those ads, like in the Metro here.

John Sacco: Okay.

Robin Wiener: So, they are trying to get the message out.

John Sacco: Well, because the pizza box. Okay.

Robin Wiener: Right.

John Sacco: I love the pizza boxes. I told Leonard Zeid. I led off the podcast saying, “That's the biggest question going into the election of this next year,” and he kind of laughed, but the pizza box in Moscow, Idaho is not allowed in the waste stream or the recycle stream. Pardon me, not waste. Recycle stream. Yet, Pratt Industries and WestRock take, uh, use the pizza boxes all day long as long as they're clean of food product and any plastic, grease liner or something like that inside it. So, I don't hear Domino's, Pizza Hut, Papa John's… Nobody's – they're all about sustainability, but their message doesn't say anything about sustainability. Why? It frustrates me.

Robin Wiener:  It frustrates me too. And, one of the things that we're doing is partnering with other organizations like AF&PA to get those messages out ‘cause they are…

John Sacco: Who is AF&PA?

Robin Wiener: The American Forest and Paper Association. We do a lot of, uh – one of the things that, uh, is important to ISRI is collaboration. Um, we can't do – very few organizations out there can do it alone – every issue alone. And, you also don't want to be redundant and I don't want to waste ISRI’s – ISRI member’s money by doing something another organization's doing. So, the most effective way to leverage, uh, ISRI members’ dues and resources is by collaborating with other organizations. So, you have the strength of multiple organizations working on issues and this is one issue that we're going to be tackling together.

John Sacco: Well, you know, and this is the message I want people who hear this: You know, when I was Chairman, my biggest frustration was, ‘Why doesn't the regular member know all of what we're doing?’ It's been a challenge. Now, look, it was 2011 and we're… 2020. We're nine years after that.

Robin Wiener: Right, and I'll tell you, there's good news and bad news there. The good news is we're getting better every day. The bad news is, it's still a challenge. I remember… I'll predate you. Back in 2002 I think it was. Or, 2001 when Cricket Williams was Chair, we did a strategic planning exercise where we went out to chapters around the country and we've put together focus groups and said, ‘Please tell us the good, bad, and the ugly about ISRI.’ The same message came out of every focus group, which is they love what ISRI does for them as long as they could figure out what ISRI does for them. Okay.

John Sacco: Well.

Robin Wiener: I think we've gotten better from there, but it's still a challenge that we deal with every day. And, I welcome any one of your viewers who's listening to this right now, if they've got an idea of how we could do better, to let me know.

John Sacco: I think that's sound because, look, a lot of people don't know what we do. But I know one thing, when I was Chairman, when the EPA came out and changed the definition of solid waste that included our commodities.

Robin Wiener: Right.

John Sacco: That would have been crippling. We formed an amazing committee.

Robin Wiener: And we worked fast.

John Sacco: The top industry brains.

Robin Wiener: Right.

John Sacco: And, I wasn't on that committee. I just want everybody to know. I directed it ‘cause I knew, I knew I wasn't smart enough, but we replied and we won.

Robin Wiener: We did. It's actually a great example of one of ISRI’s greatest strengths, which is that we are amazing at stopping bad things from happening. And, so… Yes?

John Sacco: We – what do we do now? ISRI…?

Robin Wiener: We’re fantastic at stopping bad things from happening.

John Sacco: I want people to hear that because I think that is so important because they don't know. Most people don't know.

Robin Wiener: No, no.

John Sacco: Just that.

Robin Wiener: Because it's showing something that didn't happen. And, that's, um, that's something we always struggle with and we prevented, um, something that would have burdened the industry with hundreds of millions of dollars of costs had the EPA designated scrap metal as hazardous waste.

John Sacco: I think it would’ve put a lot of us out of business because I think they would've shifted, um, counties and cities, municipalities throughout America would have been able to change who got to handle recyclables. And, I think that would – that was so dangerous for our industry. And, we won.

Robin Wiener: We did. And, there's so many other victories like that that we've had over the years. Stopping export controls on the movement of copper out of the U.S. We won that, we stopped that from happening. We stopped federal metal step legislation that was introduced several years in a row that would have added an entirely new layer of  burdensome regulation on the industry. Uh, so there's so many examples like that of things we've done, but they're all examples of things that didn't happen because ISRI was there.

John Sacco: Well, we prevented the disaster and, it's like disaster prevention program.

Robin Wiener: Right.

John Sacco: Maybe we – maybe we need to do that. Maybe we need to mark ISRI: Preventing Disasters to Our Industry.

Robin Wiener: ISRI: The Voice of the Recycling Industry, comma, Preventing Disasters.

John Sacco: You know, my tagline always wanted to be ISRI takes the misery out of recycling.

Robin Wiener: We could do that. We could do that.

John Sacco: I don't think it would go over very well. But, all right. So, you know, Robin, we've known each other a lot of years and…

Robin Wiener: We have.

John Sacco: It's, you know.

Robin Wiener: Since we were both 12.

John Sacco: Yeah. You know, I'm like the choir and I just want people who hear this to know: If you ever really wonder what is he's doing, the fact that you're still in business…

Robin Wiener: Right.

John Sacco: Is probably because of the efforts of ISRI. Would you agree with that?

Robin Wiener: Absolutely. And, when you say the efforts of ISRI, it's not just the staff. It’s the volunteer leaders like yourself who are so passionate about the industry and it's all the members around the country who get involved on these issues and are helping, working together to promote good policy, to raise issues when there are concerns, um, and to also get to know their policymakers, their local congressmen, so that when issues occur, we have – we can use our voice to reach out.

John Sacco: Do we have anything major concern right now that we're working on that it's a major concern like DSW was?

Robin Wiener: Yes, who we are. It's that it's that recycling is not broken and that sounds like an odd message. But, if anyone's been reading a newspaper the last couple of years or watching TV, there have been all of the, this, uh, messaging out in the media, this inaccurate messaging that recycling is in crisis or recycling is broken because of the props that have happened at the residential level, the residential recycling, which represents well under 30% of the recycling infrastructure in the U.S, but because the blue bin at the end of the driveway is so visible, that is the visible part of the recycling industry. So. that's what people think about when they think of recycling. So, if all of a sudden in their local jurisdiction, a certain material can no longer be put in that bin, the fear is that recycling is broken or there's a story about material going to a landfill that should have gone to recycling. That becomes the message that's happening globally. But, it's not happening globally.

John Sacco: You know, at the BIR, if you remember, uh, and Budapest, uh, we have thousands of members and if each member would get out there and exalt the values of recycling and what our industry is doing, we can mute the five bloggers who are destroying our reputation and saying, ‘Oh, this is…’ because you got five. I mean, I use that five – but, we have a louder voice than these people.

Robin Wiener: We do. I mean, we're everywhere, which is great. Um, and we've done, I think as an industry we've done a better job. I remember when I first started ISRI, um, we didn't have a marketing or communications effort because members really wanted us to be under the radar. But, that's changed. There are companies like your own that are out there in social media spreading the message about recycling. But, we need more of it. We absolutely need more of it.

John Sacco: Look, it's not hard to get out there and give your – you know, Ed Kangeter of CASS. For years, he wanted to be under the radar. Well, he makes an ingot, which is aluminum free. He doesn't use al–I mean, excuse me, aluminum-free. That's crazy. Chlorine-free.

Robin Wiener: Right.

John Sacco: Okay. So, it's Chlorine-free aluminum. Well that's huge for the environment. Huge for the safety of his employees, huge for the safety of his neighbors. And, he's finally decided he's getting that message out and it's only helped him.

Robin Wiener: That’s right, and because we're such a unique industry, our industry is good for the environment, it's good for the economy and it's also a profitable business when run responsibly. And, I think that really makes us very unique and we need to be talking about all of those various elements of the industry.

John Sacco: Speaking of which, did we ever find out how many millions of dollars a year of equipment’s being purchased in the recycling industry?

Robin Wiener: Yes.

John Sacco: Did we ever – did we ever come up with that number? I know it's a hard number because will you take MRFs and you take scrap metal operations and paper recyclers and all of the recyclers… How many millions of dollars a year are we?

Robin Wiener: It's a great question because we, you may remember, we did this probably about 10 years ago and so that number is way out of date. I don't even remember.

John Sacco: It's gotta be billions of dollars a year.

Robin Wiener: It’s gotta be billions because, um, we, as you know again better than most other folks because you operate and run a company that is selling equipment into the industry, there are millions and billions of dollars being invested in the industry right now on new equipment to upgrade material, to increase the quality of the product that's being produced by the industry. And, I mean, ours after the convention, our exhibit hall is sold out already and it's been sold out for several weeks. There is so much demand, uh, for information about the latest trends and equipment and people want to see it, touch it, feel it, and buy that equipment.

John Sacco: You know, there's so many ways. Well, that's a great segue. Let's talk about the convention in 2020 in Las Vegas.

Robin Wiener: Sure.

John Sacco: How many exhibitors will we have at, uh…

Robin Wiener: Um, actually I've got the number here and I don't, I didn't remember it. 257? Is that the number? Higher? I got it written down. Sorry. You're gonna have to go back and ask the question again.

John Sacco: That's okay.

Robin Wiener: Uh, actually no, I don't have the number. I didn't write it down. How ­– I know it's more than… 275? Nearly 300.

John Sacco: So, how many exhibitors do we have, Robin?

Robin Wiener: We have more than 275 exhibitors. Over more than 300,000 square feet of exhibit space.

John Sacco: We're sold out. We've been sold out pretty much every year.

Robin Wiener: We have been.

John Sacco: We need to expand because…

Robin Wiener: We are… I would agree with that. We are the, um, the largest convention and trade show for the scrap recycling industry worldwide. We have more than 5,000 recyclers from around the world that come to our convention every year. It's a great opportunity.

John Sacco: I think this year in Vegas, we're going to see the biggest attendance we've had in quite a few years.

Robin Wiener: We're already ahead of schedule. We're excited about it.

John Sacco: What are we anticipating for, uh, for Vegas? Over 5,000?

Robin Wiener: Yeah, over five...

John Sacco: That's fantastic and I think it's very informational. Our keynote speaker is Gary, well, they call him Gary V. I don't even know how to pronounce his last name. Very interesting guy. He's a, you know, we – when I was chairman, we had Stanley McChrystal the first year.

Robin Wiener: Who was terrific. I loved –

John Sacco: Who was a general, who was in command of, uh, forces in the Middle East, uh, who was, all intense purposes, fired by President Obama.

Robin Wiener: Right.

John Sacco: But, what a fascinating story.

Robin Wiener: Right.

John Sacco: And to the man, he had no ill will towards President Obama.

Robin Wiener: No, no.

John Sacco: He know he screwed up, right? We had George W. Bush, we've had his father, we've had Hillary Clinton, we've had Bill Clinton. But we don't have any politicals coming. We have more, I think, in my opinion, these people will bring great value – take home value to the people who did.

Robin Wiener: We want members, nonmembers, whoever attends the convention to walk away feeling like this was money well invested, that they learn something, there's take home, they're going to make their company stronger as a result of coming to the convention. And, one of the things that we're doing this year is adding more thought leadership throughout our training, our workshops throughout the convention. So, doing workshops on the effect of 3D printing, um, the recycling stream, excellent. Were doing programming on blockchain, on robotics in the industry. So, we're really, uh, what the effect of um, autonomous vehicles will be on the industry both in terms of operations but in terms of the stream as well. So, we're really trying to help members plan for the future.

John Sacco: That’s fan–well, listen, I think, people who don't go to ISRI, aren’t at ISRI convention, to me, miss out. The people I have met, the business from selling scrap to selling equipment, to the networking, the trade of information with a friend who may have nothing to do with trading metals and, but you can trade information. The value of it is, to me, it's crazy. People don't­­ – ‘Oh, well, it's too expensive.’ No it isn't. It's the cheapest investment you can make because if you don't walk out of ISRI convention with–without new knowledge, new friendships, new connections, new networking, then you didn't show up.

Robin Wiener:  And, I would invite anyone who's listening to this, if they're uncertain about the convention and they’re – because it's so big, maybe they're concerned that they won't meet the right people or they won't know how to navigate the convention, give me a call, send me an email.

John Sacco: Your phone's going to blow up again, Robin. Robin, you've invited thousands of people to call you. You're gonna go…

Robin Wiener: I look forward to it.

John Sacco: ‘Marianne, put ‘em on hold.’

Robin Wiener: That's the best part of the job. I love it.

John Sacco: All right, listen. Let's wrap up here. You know, we could talk for another hour.

Robin Wiener: Yes.

John Sacco: We really could. So, will you come on again at a later time?

Robin Wiener: I would love to.

John Sacco: I think this is important because I think your leadership and telling people what this fantastic trade association does for our industry, I don't think we can get it done in one podcast.

Robin Wiener: Sure. I’d be happy to.

John Sacco: I really don't because Robin, really, it's amazing all the different things. So, all right, so when, when I was Chairman… We got funny story.

Robin Wiener: Yes.

John Sacco: And, we traveled the world.

Robin Wiener: We did.

John Sacco:  But, you've got a funny story that you want to tell about? When we left – when we went to… Was it Munich?

Robin Wiener: We were leaving Santa Barbara, which was the Board meeting where the definition of solid waste issue came up.

John Sacco: Right.

Robin Wiener: And we were – it just so happens that the Bureau of International Recycling's Fall meeting was immediately following ours. So, we had to jump on a plane from our Board meeting to go to their meeting. And so, we had already spent five very intense days together working ‘til midnight every night on this issue. Um, and then got in the car, just the two of us to take a two-hour drive to LAX. We reach lax. We're both exhausted and know that we have, what, a 10-hour plane ride in front of us?

John Sacco:  10 and a half hour – yeah.

Robin Wiener: We're checking in, um, and the gate agent looks at us and – or the ticket agent says, ‘Do you guys want to sit next to each other?’ Two of us. Neither one wanted to say, ‘Hell no.’

John Sacco: I remember your face. You looked at me, ‘No.’

Robin Wiener: ‘No, no. We're not going to do it.’ We need a 10-hour break.

John Sacco: I wanted to sleep. I don't want you to see me sleep.

Robin Wiener: And then with the drool as I'm sleeping or my snoring. Um, so yes, that was embarrassing and funny all at the same time.

John Sacco: And, you know, those – we had a lot of great times. And, you know, that's another thing I want people to know. When you get involved with ISRI, you're going to have the great–I had and I've had, and I still have, the best time when I come to ISRI events.

Robin Wiener: And, you've asked me before, one of the questions you may have sent me was, um, ‘What's the best part of being president of ISRI?’ And, the best part are the people. And, I know that sounds really clichè and corny, but it really is true. Getting to know everyone, they get to know you and all the members of ISRI is a phenomenal experience. And it's, I will never forget something that Shelly Padnos told me in like ‘92 or ‘93. I wasn't President of ISRI yet. I was doing the environmental compliance work. I was at a Board meeting and I was getting to know Shelly later. She became Chair several years later. But, I asked her about the industry to, I was still getting to know the industry and she said, ‘Robin, the best part of the industry, the best way to understand the industry is: I could be driving through the middle of the country.’ She's from Michigan. ‘And, I'm in the middle of the country. It's late at night and I run out of gas and I need place to stay and there are no hotels nearby. I pull out my ISRI directory and I look for the closest member and I call them up and I say, I'm an ISRI member and I need help and they're going to be there in a minute.’

John Sacco: Well, you know, I got a great shot. It's true. ISRI member – everybody's always so welcoming. When I traveled as ISRI Chair, everybody was welcoming. They were excited. Um, but it is a brotherhood, you know…

Robin Wiener: And sisterhood. Sorry.

John Sacco: Okay, people kind, not mankind. Oh my goodness. Come on. But, a funny Shelly story for me…

Robin Wiener: Right.

John Sacco: Is, I was a Board member of the South – of the South – Southern California chapter at the time. And so, somehow George Adams and Dave Williams convinced me I need to be President and having – because nobody was going to do it. So, ‘Oh, okay.’ So, I go to my first meeting. We're in Toronto, Canada. And, I don't know, the first thing to do is prep: what meetings. So, I go to the Chapter Presidents meeting. I go, ‘Well, I know I need to go there. And, Shelly was president, not Chairman, at the time. Remember, we changed the name. So, she was President. She came in…

Robin Wiener: I remember that meeting.

John Sacco: And, she proceeded to chew out the Chapter Presidents for not doing their job, for not attending meetings, the whole thing. And, all the while, she looked at me. I went…

Robin Wiener: I don't think that was intentional.

John Sacco: No, but the great thing about that was is, I went, ‘Okay, message received.’

Robin Wiener: Right.

John Sacco: And, I understood what to do. And later, I would become friends with Shelly and I have so much respect for her because what a brain. What a brilliant, absolutely brilliant woman. And, lot of fun too.

Robin Wiener: Yeah.

John Sacco: So, you know, I remember that. Then you know, Shelly impact on what I did as Chairman because she­ – she opened my eyes to the fact that when you're a Chapter President, you gotta attend, you got to pay attention because you're the messenger back to the Chapter. So, there's a lot of great things. Well, listen Robin, I said… ‘We could go on for a long time.’ Oop, there's the bell.

Robin Wiener: They're already calling.

John Sacco: They probably are. It hasn't even been ­– somebody’s hacked us. Thank you.

Robin Wiener:  Thank you.

John Sacco: Thank you for spending the time with me this morning and going over this.

Robin Wiener: My pleasure.

John Sacco: This has been a lot of fun, very information. I think people really going to enjoy this. Thank you so much. You're doing an amazing job. Everybody at ISRI, the staff.

Robin Wiener: Thank you. Thank you very much. It's been, um, as you know, I was a little nervous.

John Sacco: You didn't look nervous during this podcast.

Robin Wiener: This has been great. It's been a great conversation, so thank you very, very much and thank you for your leadership.

John Sacco: Well, thank you. So, that's it. That's another 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.

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Topics: Recycling, Scrap Recycling

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