Pile of Scrap Ep. 29: Working Through A Lockdown
After months of being cooped up in our homes day-in and day-out due to the stay-at-home orders swept across the nation, it’s easy to admit that we’ve all been itching to get our lives back to normal as quickly as possible. During this time, John Sacco gives us his take on how the COVID-19 crisis has particularly affected creativity and human interaction in the workplace as well as making a vast impact on the recycling industry in terms of rising contamination levels and declining recycling rates. Considering this, John says it’s time to open up and get this country working again.
Watch this episode of Pile of Scrap here.
Introduction: The following is an original audio series from Sierra International Machinery… Pile of Scrap with your host, John Sacco.
John Sacco: Hello, hello, hello. Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to another episode of Pile of Scrap. Well, good evening, America. Good evening, world. It's May 19th, and we're still in the depths here in California of a lockdown, shelter-in-place… Oh, they say they're easing and it's been kind of an interesting two months, I would say. And, I've learned a few things, uh, that I wanted to share. One, my hair is as long as it's ever been. Probably not critical to most people, but to me, this is too long and I – I'd like to get back to where I could just get a simple haircut, but, uh, can't do that. Um, do you know, in the recycling industry, we have stayed the course, there's been a lot of us who go to work every day. Some of us close to commercial – not to commercial – to public and just handled, uh, industrials, uh, scrap. And because the public, when it came in… for the safety of our employees, and we've cut down a lot on the public, but the public was made to cut down here in California. Other states have different, uh, rules, different regulations, and they've had different results. And, here we are today. You know, one of the results of all of this shelter-in-place and lockdown is the price of OCC – old corrugated containers – rose sharply because there wasn't any boxes being generated by restaurants and by salons and by all the other businesses that were – were shut down. There was a lot of corrugated containers – that old corrugated containers that weren't being used and discarded and didn't make its way into the recycling stream. My friend, Jason Young, who runs the Allen company, has a very large, uh, blue bin MRF operation. He told me something very fascinating that the recycling rates are down, contamination levels are way up. And, that's because the bin – when you're staying at home and your garbage bin is being loaded up with your garbage from day to day, you know, and your blue bin isn't being filled up with recyclables and your garbage bin’s full. Well, people put their excess trash in the blue bin. So, therefore, it has created a lot higher level of contamination. So, that's brought down the rates and the recyclables. And, that's been harder on operations and some MRF operations, uh, closed down for a period of time altogether. A lot of people stopped serving, uh, the community by stopping California by stopped taking the aluminum cans, uh, glass and, um, paper products and PET, uh, bottles because the amount of public that would come in. So, there was a danger people fell to their employees. So, there's been a big change in dynamics of how that part of our recycling side of our industry has gone and we have seen an increase and, uh, the price of OCC. Another interesting thing is because you can't find toilet paper on the shelf or paper towels, uh, you know, toilet paper’s made from, uh, office pack. Uh, not corrugated containers and not mixed paper, but a lot of computer paper and office, uh, pack paper and with many offices being closed throughout the U.S. during this time and everybody working at home, there has been a sharp decline in the materials that have entered into the recycling stream. Again, raising the price, which is good if you're a recycler, bad if you're a paper mill. So, this is a push/pull effect that I find, uh, you know, interesting as we, as we open up, as they say. We'll see what's going to happen. But, here's something that's interesting. Now, the domestic mills who even came all the way out to California from Mississippi in the Midwest and upper Wash–state of Washington to buy old corrugated containers from Sierra in our – from our recycling facility… They're no longer coming out because now they're having trouble selling their new, uh, paper products. So, this is interesting. Now, we're starting to see things open up. And you know, there's this big debate: Is it red states opening and a blue states closing? And, the politics of it all. You know what? I don't care. Uh, there's just a lot of people who need to go back to work. Um, and I get tired of hearing, “Oh, we need to go back to work, but safely.” Look, “Safely, Or Not at All” is the motto at Sierra. And, every day before I go into the office, I go, I get my temperature taken, wear my mask… and, I have found that – and those who can work at home have worked at home because, “that's the right thing to do.” But, it's also led to a lag of creativity. I find that in the office atmosphere itself… The people who are at home… just because you can get them on the phone or a Zoom conference… Which, I am absolutely tired of Zoom conference. If I hear Zoom conference anymore, it's just, “Ugh.” I'm sorry, I'm tired of it. I like human interaction and I think a lot of people have expressed that to me. They like the human interaction. And, for brainstorming purposes and for the marketing. I love having my marketing team in the office, but my marketing team is all at home because they can work at home. And, I have felt that there has been a drop-off in the creativity going forward and what we're going to do as a company. And, I look forward to the day that we get to come back to work and sit around and have real brainstorm sessions because it… Over the telephone, you can't see or “zoom meeting.” Uh, maybe it should be WebX. But anyway, seeing people's faces, the response to the excitement you get when you get a new idea… That it's really cool. And, I feel that has been the biggest drop-off for me. And, I've been, um – My head of marketing… She asked me, “Well, we need to do more podcasts,” and I said, “I'm not doing them over Zoom anymore,” and she said, “Well, we need content.” And so, okay, I'll go, “I'll do solo podcast, but I'm not going to do Zoom podcasts ‘cause there's just no more human interaction. I felt that the humor act –human act – human interaction that I would get when I would do podcasts with so many of the great people over the last year created the vibe that created the, you know, the Pile of Scrap, that what it is and what has become. One of the good things… I've listened, I've heard – A friend of mine out of Idaho – Moscow, Idaho – had a friend who watched an episode of Pile of Scrap and he was into recycling old used college textbooks, not recycling a census… He'd refurbish them and get them back to students because of the cost. But after a while, they – He watched a Pile of Scrap podcast with Leonard Zeid and talked about, uh, books and how they need to be recycled. And, by listening to the podcast, he's now heavy into the recycling and getting the paper from these textbooks that's no longer good into the recycling stream and going to the paper mills and I – that was one of the greatest things that, uh, this come about. You know, the people that sent me messages and notes about Pile of Scrap. And, thank you, everyone who's listened to it. It's been, it's a lot of fun. I'd rather do it like this: solo and – or in person. And, we're going to get to in-person. I've got plenty scheduled coming up in June as certain states opened up and we can go in there. So, standby, we're going to have a lot more content coming out for Pile of Scrap with – back to the human interaction, back to interviewing people that are going to bring a different perspective to the recycling industry. And, we've got some really great people lined up going forward. And, I'm super excited about that. My daughter says I should use another word and super excited – or a phrase, whatever. That's what I get from college students. So, anyway, you know, as we go back and we talk about, um, all the, um, uh, things that have transpired in the last month… And, in our industry, we have seen some so much uncertainty that we don't know what's going on. Oh, there's my dog, Wayne. Um, but anyway, you know, I want to say to all those – all the faithful out there, you know, we've kept the faith, we've been going strong and we're going to continue to go strong in this industry. And, when this thing opens up, I just get the sense that it's just going to be opening floodgates and we're going to see prosperity sooner than later. Uh, but we need to open up and, again, you know, that’s decisions by people who’s a much higher pay grade than mine. So, I'm not going to um, say something negative about these people who decide whether we open up. You know, I think the one thing we've seen for sure about all of this is nobody really has a real answer. Some countries close, a lot of countries close, some countries stayed open, cities have closed. Some cities stay op, states… Blah, blah, blah. You know, there's been a lot of different results and I think with that uncertainty, we're going to go forward, we're going to eventually, these great researchers in this country are going to – are going to find ways to find a vaccine, they're going to find a cure for this. That I know. I just – because as the world goes – that you know, look – look at AIDS – what they've come up with – with the drugs that, right now that, uh, AIDS patient – HIV, uh, people who test positive for HIV, they take these certain drugs and some people are now – they don't even – they test them and they don't even know they have it. And, I think we're gonna get the same results and hopefully, you know, some of this medicine, some of these factories will come back to the U.S. for these medicines and that's going to create economic, uh, prosperity as well. We're going to – we're going to need new – more steel for these plants. More copper, more aluminum, more paper for the packaging of everything that's going to need to fill these plants. So, I think, you know what, I'm very hopeful. Um, I'm a realist. I'm not an optimist. I'm not a pessimist. I'm a realist. But, reality tells me that we're going to see some good times coming up here because there's a lot of people who are ready to invest back into this country, invest back into North America to get things going. And, that I am certain of. How can I say I'm certain of it? Well you – you see it every day. You read it about factories that are going to open up and do this and – and what have you. It doesn't matter your political preference here. We all want to get through this and we want to get through it with, you know, nobody affected, you know, thank God I've had nobody in my family affected by COVID-19. I'm sure some of you have. I know there's a couple of workers at Sierra who's had family members who had it and actually never showed a symptom. And, when they went to get tested, they showed they had the antibody. So, they had, they were asymptomatical. And, that's again, it's interesting. There's so much more information coming out about this. So, that's great. So, you know, as we – as we plow through the COVID-19 war in America, you know, this is our – this is our World Ward II, if you will. And, so many people have lost their lives more than Vietnam war. So, let's take it to the next level, to a World War, if you will. A lot of people across the world have lost their lives and that's regrettable. Um, but we looking forward now and we're going to go forward. So, one of the things that I'm been able to do, a little FYI, you know, I'm out there on LinkedIn and I'm out there on Instagram all the time. Uh, we've celebrated my daughter's 21st birthday without a crowd, but it was fun. We had pizza at a couple of people over and we drank some amazing wine. So, that was, that was fun. Uh, you know, my son finished school and – and he had to do since, uh, late February at do it all online, which he actually liked because he got out of classes earlier and they didn't have to stay till the – to the final bell. And so he’s kind of enjoyed that. And, so look, we've all – we've all had the stay-at-home ups and downs, the emotions of family members within, you know what, we're fine. Uh, the Sacco family has been great. We've – we're actually with thrive, I think, during this. Me, I – I've kind of liked, uh, being home after being on the road so much over the last year, but I’m itching to get out there and I look forward to it. So, I wanted to give everybody just a quick brief update that, coming soon, in June and July, we're going to have some more Pile of Scrap podcasts with real life guests, not video conference guests. And, I'm really looking forward to this and to everybody, stay safe. You know, we still have an obligation to the safety for our family members, our employees, and for everybody. And, let's not forget that. Let's keep our hands clean. Let's keep our mask on where we need to. Let's keep the social distancing, you know, where – where it's respectable. Um, you know, but I gotta tell you a quick story. Over the weekend, I'm over at the coast by Santa Barbara and I'm walking down the sidewalk and somebody on the other side of the street… two–250 feet away from me sees me walking up and they throw their mask on as if at 300 feet, they're going to get infected. Maybe you can, I don't know. But, it's just so many people… They look – like, “Oh, human beings. Stand away.” I'm just going to be happy when we get to say hi to people like we used to and get back to the old way of doing business because, in my opinion, that's the better way of doing business. So, thank you everybody. Thanks for all the notes you have sent me during this time and all the support you've given Sierra. Our company continues to grow. Um, you know, we reorganized our parts department and it's just absolutely beautiful. We've made good sales during this time. Our scrap metal operation recycling centers is still doing very well. So, you know, we thank the good Lord for the blessings that He's given us to be able to stay in business during this tough time and actually thrive, if you will. And, looking forward to, uh, the rest of this year, rest of 2020. It's going to be exciting to say the least, and I think there's a lot of opportunity out there. Hope all of you can see your own opportunity. Make your own opportunity. You can choose to be successful and it's not a disease to say, “I want to be successful.” Stay positive, keep pushing forward, and I thank you again. And, that's it for another episode of solo 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.