Pile of Scrap Ep. 35: Walk the Yard - Scrap is Not Waste
Walking through Sierra’s scrapyard, John Sacco realizes he has a few things he needs to get off his chest. Although touching on topics all across the board, he doubles down how exactly government legislators are silencing those in the recycling industry when it comes to how recycled commodities should be labeled. John says enough is enough! It’s time to speak up and get our message out there: Scrap is not waste.
Watch this Pile of Scrap episode here.
John Sacco takes a walk around the Sierra Recycling & Demolition facility
Intro: The following is an original audio series from Sierra International Machinery; Pile of Scrap with your host John Sacco.
John Sacco: Couple of subjects to touch on today as I've walk into our recycling facility. You know, Sierra, our main headquarters is here in Bakersfield. We have a manufacturing plant in Jesup, but here's where we have our recycling facility. We process a lot of scrap metal, cardboard… I want to touch on the issue where government officials frequently, especially here in California, want to put recycled commodities as waste. And it's a battle we fight where we always say scrap is not waste. And, the reason that you can say scrap is not waste is scrap has inherent value. It's a commodity. You know, aluminum is traded on the LME. Copper's traded on the COMEX and there's now steel futures, paper mills buy the cardboard. So, because they're buying products that are being processed and recycled through our plants across, you know, North America, across the world… Scrap is not waste. And, I think it's an important issue for us to understand that we have to fight this on a regular basis here in the state of California and across the nation where they want to lump all corrugated containers – OCC – as waste. It's not waste because we pay for it. It's a commodity. Paper mills pay us to process this material, bale it and get it to them. So, how is it waste? And, what they try to do is they try to say, “Well, we just want to count your tons because it's being diverted from the landfill.” These tons were never going to go to the landfill because the people – these people who recycle and bring this material to us from, uh, businesses to peddlers, they understand that it's not waste. They understand there's a value to it. So, it was never going to go to landfills. And, if you acquiesce to government regulators and say, “Oh, well, yes, here's our tons. It's not going to the landfill,” then they're going to say, “Oh, see? You are waste because they would have gone to landfill as waste.” No. We refuse that argument at all costs at all times. Scrap is not waste. Here, we have stainless steel and aluminum mix and we got to sort it. Well, if this was waste, why do you have mills buying stainless? Why do you have, uh, smelters buying aluminum? If it was waste, they have no value. They would have nothing to do with it. Again, waste is something that has no further value. The commodities in our recycling facilities have value because this is what is material is being repurposed and put into new materials. You can't have packaging materials from Amazon to whatever your packaging that you receive without recycled paper. Toilet paper, paper towels, mask – you know, in today's world – come from recycled fiber. All the aluminum, all the copper, all the steel that goes into medical supplies, medical products that we used for our health come from recycled material. And, it's very important we continue to get the message out there. As a recycler here in California, we fight this all the time. As our trade association, ISRI, we have filed lawsuit in the state of California and have actually won the fact that scrap is not waste and we're not getting our material counted for the landfill diversion. Now, we're walking here towards the back. Now, this is the iron processing part of our recycling facility and all this scrap metal you see here, that's been processed, is going to go to a steel mill. Steel mills pay us… And, what you talk about essential business… Without steel mills, we have no steel for manufacturing, for building, for rebar, steel I-beams for buildings and housing, automobiles... How much of automobile is made from recycled steel? Here's the perfect example. This truck, this end-up steel. Most of that is going to be coming from a steel mill that used the scrap metal. The aluminum gas tanks, fuel tanks made from recycled aluminum. And, the wheels. Most these wheels Alcoa makes here. Right here: Alcoa. Alcoa uses recycled aluminum to make this product. So, without our industry, trucks don't get out. Well, trucks… They delivering the food, the medical supplies, the materials all over the world for manufacturing. So, without it, what do we have? We have nothing. Scrap is not waste. And, we have to fight this battle on a daily basis. And, I guess today, why I'm really passionate about this is we can't stand silent. Our industry has to stand up. We have to walk the halls of our capitals in our States and in Congress to let these politicians know – and the regulators know – that our industry is essential because without us, nothing gets made. You know, even further into this truck… Right here, you have the frame is steel, you have the electrical wires made from copper. You know, there's so many little parts of this truck and it comes from recycled material. Here in Bakersfield, where we’re at… We’re a big oil community and a big agricultural community. And, a lot of the scrap you see here is coming from the oil fields, oil field tubing. Well, that's never going to go to a landfill. Oil companies know that the product that they're buying for new infrastructure and they're pulling out the old, has value, it’s a commodity. They know it, they understand it. We have to make our regulators understand it. You know, obsolete scrap to water heaters, refrigerators are being recycled, repurpose, and when they get to a steel mill, they're melted and made into different, new products. Again, part of the recycling chain of what we do to be able to say, ‘Scrap is waste’ and the let the government take control of our commodities that we fight for every day in the marketplace would be criminal. We can't allow government to dictate to us that scrap is waste because governments own their waste. Every city, municipality, counties… They own their waste. And, because they own their waste, they get to dictate who handles that waste and franchise fees. Well, this is a for-profit industry: the recycling industry. We buy scrap and commodities; aluminum, copper, steel because they're commodities and letting the government… What they want to do is take over our industry because they're short of revenues. So, what better way is to take over the recycling industry by calling it all waste? The government says, “Well, we handle – we own the waste. You know, you have your waste fee and your property tax, your trash bills, and what have you.” Who owns the landfills? Municipalities. So, that's what they're trying to do to us. And, I think it's important that we fight it. Now, here we have, like I said, in Bakersfield, we have our areas – a heavy agricultural area here. We are taking in old, used tractors, pulling the fuels out on the oils, the transmissive fluids. And, we will process this, take the rubber off, process the scrap metal, get it ready, prep for steel mills so they can melt it and make new steel. All right. So, here at Sierra, this year, we're finishing up our stormwater – our new stormwater filtration system – because, somehow, the old filtration system, that was good, no longer meets the standards. You know, in Bakersfield, we get less than six inches of rain a year, and we don't dump into any rivers or oceans. Our water table’s way low ‘cause we're in a desert, but we have to do our part. So, we have our new tanks and filter systems for our water that comes on our property during our rain events. So, you know, we're doing our part to prevent stormwater runoff. We do the work. We are the original environmentalists because we are preventing this material for being spewed all over our land. We're repurposing it, making sure it's getting processed properly so the mills, the consumers can use this material to make new products. And, that's what this is industry's all about. And, we do our part with stormwater. One of the things, here at Sierra, I'm really always very proud of is our housekeeping. All our facility is paved blacktop or concrete. You know, when it rains, water comes… As you can see, the land here is a little contour and it flows into our filtration system that goes into our tanks that we use for dust suppression at some point. So, very important that we make our facilities cleaned. Even though it's an industrial facility, we can do our part to keep our housekeeping up and make it look like it's a purposeful industry and not a junkyard. You know, so many times you hear, “Oh, you're in the junk business.” No. There's nothing junky about what we do. We have millions of millions of dollars invested here. And, from the equipment to the infrastructure for the roads, the foundations to filtration for water, where we steam our steam pressure wash our equipment. We recapture the water, filter out the oil… So, we do a lot of things and we try to do it right. You know, here we have our – we just finished painting our – all our new yellow paint around here for safety barriers to make it visible. Here we are, just – you see a guy sweeping because housekeeping is so important. A clean facility is a safe facility. At Sierra, we do it safely, or not at all. Now ‘Safely, or Not at All’ is an ISRI saying that they came up with, but we adopted it here at Sierra because it's a great saying. And without safety, you know, you're risking the lives of everybody who comes into your facility. So, we take safety, safety incredibly serious here at Sierra. We always participate in the ISRI Safety Environmental Council. And, the reason we do that is our input helps many businesses across the U.S. We get input back from other safety officials and companies, and it's a win, win situation. So, here we have cardboard bales ready for the paper mills to make new packaging products, you know, packaging, medical supplies, packaging food, you know, packaging the necessities of life, and without the recycling industry and processing cardboard, where are we going to get the packaging that is needed? You know, you can use cardboard… Can be used seven times in the recycle. It can be made into new boxes seven times until the fiber actually going to end up running out. So, it's a product that is reusable over and over. And, that's the great thing about the recycling industry is our products can be reused and metal products can be reused. In fact, most people don't know this, but aluminum can from the time it's recycled is only maybe 60-day process from time it's recycled and made into a new aluminum can. So, our facilities across the U.S. play a vital role in supplying the raw materials for critical manufacturing. Here, we have a box that was going to be used for, um, organic tomatoes. Sometimes during the run, farmers and packing houses don't use their cardboard for certain products. And so, instead of throwing it in the trash, they also know that it's recyclable and they're doing their part, and they're getting value for their material. And, we'll process this OCC, we'll bale it, and paper mills will buy it and they'll make new packaging products for it and get food delivered to our stores, get medical supplies delivered to the hospitals and clinics as needed. This part of our operation, as many metal recyclers for sort in different copper products. As you could see there's copper wiring for electrical purpose, copper tubing for plumbing purposes. So, copper is a highly recyclable item. It's a highly valuable… You know, copper is traded on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange – COMEX – and copper is a valuable commodity and can trade, you know, I'm not going to get into pricing because by the time somebody sees this video, the price of copper will have gone up or gone down. But it's a commodity of great value and great service in their recyclable industry because it's made into new products that use copper. Copper is used every electrical thing. You turn on – you go to a hospital. Every of those medical equipment has to be electrified, and that is copper wires… Part of that. So, copper is an incredible product and it's not waste. You know, it's back to my original saying: “Scrap is not waste.” Our industry provides an incredible service to the environment and to our local communities and to the industry in the United States. Our products that we recycle get repurposed and manufactured into new products on a daily basis, our industry is essential, but you know what? What job isn’t essential? I find that a fascinating argument too. What's essential business, what is not essential in today's time. Well, what's essential is that we have products to continue the medical and food industry and in everything we do for building products and our industry is supplying that.
Conclusion: This has been a Sierra International Machinery original audio series. Thanks for listening. Please share this podcast and make sure to subscribe.