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Pile of Scrap Podcast

Ep. 48: The Walk & Talk with David Borsuk - Our Role in the Supply Chain

Posted by Sierra International Machinery on 8/25/21 5:00 AM

Pile of Scrap Ep. 48: The Walk & Talk with David Borsuk - Our Role in the Supply Chain

John Sacco goes for a walk with a good friend and ISRI’s 2021 Lifetime Achievement Award winner David Borsuk. These two discuss topics across the board, including the negative connotation with the word “scrap,” environmental justice, the responsibility this industry has to our communities, and how legislators don’t understand a recycler’s role in the supply chain. Even while retired, David’s continued involvement in ISRI is due to how vital this industry is to him and the environment as a whole.

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David Borsuk and John Sacco

John Sacco: Welcome to another episode of Pile of Scrap Walk and Talk. I'm here with my good friend…

David Borsuk: David –

John: David Borsuk. I know who you are.

David: Just in case you forgot.

John: My good friend, David Borsuk. He is a – Well, we've been friends for years. We've worked together at ISRI and we're doing this Walk and Talk because David is the recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award at ISRI 2021 Convention that was virtual. Quite frankly, I didn't like the fact that you received your award virtual instead of in front of people because you're so deserving. Congratulations, my friend.

David: Thank you. It was – it was the gesture, if you will. And, I understand we will have the opportunity to be with everybody next year in Las Vegas.

John: So we think.

David: We'll be there. But, it was a – it was just a wonderful feeling. And, as I told the committee when they notified me was, perhaps, the first time in my life that ISRI had me speechless.

John: Well, you're very deserving. We worked a lot together, you know, when I was Chairman and then when Jerry Simms was Chairman. You were on his Executive Committee. You know, your involvement with ISRI goes a long way back and you're st–here you are… Semi-retired or fully retired? What are you?

David: About 99%.

John: Okay. But, you're still here. You're still involved.

David:              Well, it's important to me. It’s been my life. I grew up in the business and so my earliest memories are of the scrap business and the trade association and between what is important to the advancement of our industry and our responsibility, and frankly at times of our survival. And, I enjoy it.

John: Well, you know, the word, “scrap” is something we're no longer using out in California because it's not a – You know, as the evolution of policymakers, regulators, now activists… “Scrap” has a negative connotation. We understand what it means, but activists… It's synonymous with a bad thing. We are the original recyclers. We are the original environmentalists. And, words matter, but you've been so involved with this… How crazy is it to you now to see how more burdensome this whole thing is? With regulation and all?

David: I think what I find frustrating – and I should paranthetically say that that we know how to work as businesspeople with reasonable regulation, but where you are dealing with absolutists? And with people that don't take the time and effort to understand what our industry does and the contributions that it makes.

John: So…

David: Is it disheartening?

John: So, you got – you've got the situation where activism with this environmental justice has just gone crazy, trying to blame industry for the plight of neighborhoods, okay? And, what message can we tell people? What do you have to say about this? Look, you're an experienced person in dealing with these people – regulators and policy makers… What's your message to them right now?

David: Well, I think that you have to step back a moment and find out that you have to understand what their point of view is.

John: Okay.

David: And you view them, perhaps, as a customer, and then also understand as they're trying to address what their concerns are, is, are their concerns – how do we make it work? As opposed to, “I don't care what you're doing. We don't want you there.”

John: That's what it seems like that the sentiment is… “I don't care what you do, how many people you employ no matter what you do.” It's just, “We're going to oppose you.”

David: Yeah.

John: And, it seems like being – We've lost in this country right now… This ability to come together and have a real discussion because if somebody says, “Good morning,” there's somebody on the other side, “How dare you say good morning?” And, it's really affecting industry and the recycling industry. I mean, in Oakland, they're literally suing all the agencies, The Oakland A's, to get rid of Schnitzer Steel out there at the port.

David: That's a prop.

John: That's just another form of activism that is just going crazy, in my opinion.

David: But, the little bit that I understand about the Oakland situation… It's a property grab. It's a redevelopment grab and perhaps under the guise of EJ or urban renewal…

John: I think that's dangerous. I think it's dangerous, you know, and, and today, you know, your leadership would still be welcome on fighting this because you have such a sens – a common sense about how to deal with these regulators. And, are you going to be involved with that at ISRI? Or, are you just kind of like, “Look I'm done,” or you want to be involved?

David: Well, no. In fact, I'm looking for opportunities to stay involved.

John:  Okay.

David: And, even though I'm in Atlanta now is, how do I, either on a local level or national level, remain involved because it's important. And, I think, really, what you – You highlight something that, sometimes we feel as the recycling industry, that we are the ones that are being targeted, but there is the, on a bigger picture, it is all of industry – especially heavy industry.

John: Well, you know, infrastructure… So, okay. During the pandemic, our industry wasn't shut down completely though we were not deemed “essential” by name. We were essential because we were supplier of raw materials to critical manufacturing. Okay? And, we can't get that designation. But, I mean, without our industry processing them, getting materials ready to be repurposed by consumers for steel mills, copper, aluminum, paper mills, plastic recycling, nothing gets made.

David: Well, I think that what you highlight is our role in the circular economy – in the supply chain that not only are we supplying as a material – recycled material suppliers, but we're also supplanting the use of virgin material. And, when you look at today that how much steel is made by electric furnaces.

John: Which is used scrap metal.

David: Essentially 90% –

John: Recycled metal.

David: That's correct. But, being from – originally from Wisconsin, I'm aware of the role of the recycled fiber products with all the paper mills…

John: Sure.

David: …out there that are using recycled commodities. And, so it's continually important to emphasize that to both regulators and equally as important legislators.

John: Do you think we're going to find an environment, at some point here, that people are just going to have to stop the automatic lines in the san, “No matter what you do, we're not going to – we're going to oppose you,” instead of “Let's come together and really make it a better place for everybody. And, let's work together.” Is that going to come, or are we just two pendulums or two… or we’re too divided?

David: ‘Cause I'm an eternal optimist. I think that we can reach at least some kind of equilibrium point, but I think the most difficult thing, and I'm sure you've seen it during your leadership position is to let our members, our member companies, our member leadership at those companies, to understand how important it is for them to be engaged in their local communities and to be engaged on a state level.

John: Well, that was your biggest asset. I mean, how… You know, when I got to know you at ISRI long ago, it was always your involvement, your ability to get involved and, and deal with – and make sure you dealt with state local issues. And then, on the national end with the fly-in meeting with senators, meeting with Congress and meeting with your state senators, state assembly, people you… That was your – What was your passion? You – that’s – I think that's why you got the Lifetime Achievement Award because you were so effective there.

David: Well, I learned very early on from my father and uncle and perhaps even from your father that it is important that you have a responsibility to your community. Not only because that's where you become successful but also because there was always this negative cache for our industry. And, it didn't matter and that was pre-EJ days.

John: Right.

David: And, so we continually needed to let our friends and neighbors and, uh, business associates know that we were valued members of the community and that we provided a service that advanced their goals as well as the community goals, and then allowed us to be successful.

John: Well, you've done, you know, remarkable work. I've – you know, our friendship… You know, we lost a good friend, Jerry Simms.

David: That's correct.

John: And, it was after Nashville, we went to his funeral last year. I haven't seen anybody since. It was like the lost year with this pandemic. But now, here we are. We're back. And it's just great to be with everybody. And, those friendships that, you know, over Zoom. I hate Zoom. I've done enough of it. I love this in-person. And actually, that's why I'm enjoying doing these walk-and-talks because it's – we're back to being human again and back sharing, you know, our friendships and being with people. And, it's just a great feeling.

David: And, I concur. Our friendship goes 30 years. We – and, it was – it was based on working together, and common interests and enjoying each other and not on a commercial basis.

John: Right.

David: And, I think that, what, if you're fortunate enough to remain involved on a national level, you’re – what your exposure to a group of men and women in commodities… You know, there is so much talent out there. I think of one of the lines in the Zero Dark 30 where they said, “What'd you think of the girl?” and she said, “He's, she's smart,” and the responses were all “Smart.” This group was made up of a lot of really, really smart and talented people.

John: Well, they always say, “If you're the smartest guy in the room, get a new room,” and I never have to get a new room at ISRI because I'm surrounded with such brilliant people. I would look up at you, David, and you would start discussing it and you were talking parts per billions and this and that on whatever, you know, whatever, you know, environmental issue you were discussing… I'd look up at you, I'd sit there and I'd go, “How does that guy know that?” That is just incredible. But, you really delved into that and you just knew it, and you were able to deal with it and digest it, filter it, and put together a response to it for, you know, trade association. I think so many recyclers in America owe you a debt of gratitude because of your hard work and what you did. And,  that's why I think your Lifetime Achievement Award… It's just so deserving because people don't realize if it's – if you David Borsuk and other people that you work with… I mean, you're not going to take all the credit. I know you, you're way too humble. But, you did a lot of amazing work. And, without volunteers like you, I don't know where this trade association – our industry would be. I think we'd be out of business.

David: Well, I think that it's important and it's not an offhanded comment. I could not have accomplished or be part of what I've accomplished without the support of the Lasky family at Sadoff Iron and Metal Company.

John: They're great people. I mean, Mark and, you know, taking over for…

David: Sheldon.

John: Yeah. I mean, what great people and I agree with you. They supported you, but they also got the wind because your work helped Sadoff Iron and Metal thrive and grow because you were able to, you know, stop, with your work, bad law regulation, bad things that could have happened to our industry. You know, Robin said to me… This is saying – I did a podcast with her. I said, “What would you like to tell people about ISRI? What's the most important thing ISRI does?” She goes, “We stop bad things from happening.” You stopped a lot of bad things from happening.

David: But, I think the continuing message there is, especially today where you have generational changes, that it's important to coach up, to mentor the young people, the younger people in the industry that don't have a history of community involvement and volunteerism. That doesn't come naturally to a lot of people and it also has – sometimes does not come naturally as companies get more centralized with greater consolidation.

John: Right. Yeah. They have headquarters in one city and multiple facilities thousands of miles away from each other.

David: Yeah, but it's important that they encourage their local site managers and employees to be engaged in their community. They don't have to have a leadership role per se, but just if they're engaged.

John: Right.

David: I think that's terribly important. It's good for them personally as well as good for their company, and it's certainly very good for the industry.

John: Well, you’re gonna – you're sticking around, you're showing up and hopefully the younger generation here at ISRI look up to you and you, I know you, you're going to offer up your advice. So, let's talk about ISRI and what was, besides getting the Lifetime Achievement Award all the years past, what's the best moment for you, on a personal level, of all the advocacy work you did? What was the most satisfying thing that happened and all your work at ISRI?

David: I think there's two. One was the passage of the Superfund Recycling Equity Act. I think that it gave us a pathway of potential, protection from Superfund sites.

John: Right.

David: The other was the participation of work in the State of Wisconsin for a industry specific stormwater permit where there was a plan B that if we had an outside con–consultant that ran a program that audited our stormwater program and the success of it that we were allowed to do certain best management practices on one hand and a reduction in monitoring and sampling requirements on the other hand. And, the permit that we negotiated in, I think, about 1999/2000 is essentially still in effect today in its third iteration.

John: Well, that's lasting. That's lasting, and it shows the quality of the work that you were able to do. So, looking out now here… We're going to come down to the end of this walk-and-talk. For those who are going to watch this, you have given them a message. What is David Borsuk’s message to people in the recycling industry?

David: That on the level of personal development, please be engaged. But, even inward-looking, that there's nothing wrong with being selfish in saying it's good for my company to be involved. And, perhaps in a very somewhat cynical way, even if you have people within the industry that are engaged, that if you're not part of that engagement, other people are going to define your wait method of operation. And so, your involvement is absolutely critical both for your company specifically and the industry.

John: Well, I think, you know, I'm an advocate for that, but you… You are the beacon of what being involved is. You are the person, that I know over the years because of your involvement… You've made things better for the environment, for the communities, for our industry and it's because you got active and you were involved. And, I think that's a great message. I mean, it’s, you know, are people gonna listen to understand all the great work was done by somebody like you – that they have to carry the baton, the torch has to – it doesn't stop just because you're not every day in the office in Wisconsin anymore… That this work has to continue all the time.

David: That's correct.

John: Well, David, my friend, God bless you. It's awesome to be with you. And, it's another episode of 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.

The Pile of Scrap Podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Google Podcasts. The Podcast episode videos are available on YouTube. Be sure to Subscribe, Rate, and Review Pile of Scrap.

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