Celebrating the Contributions of Hispanic Americans During Hispanic Heritage Month 2021

This week’s Industry Voices was written by Leticia Acosta, safety director for Rocky Mountain Recycling, Inc.

Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to reflect on the history, culture, and great contributions of Hispanic and Latin Americans. People like Justice Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina Supreme Court Justice, and Maria Elena Salinas, a journalist known to many as the “Voice of Hispanic America,” who informed and empowered Hispanic families through her exceptional work. We also take the month to appreciate great civil rights activists and leaders like Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta, both of whom fought to improve working and living conditions for labor and farm workers, those most vulnerable in the 1950s and 1960s.

For myself, it is a time to appreciate the many contributions Hispanics have brought to Rocky Mountain Recycling and the recycling industry as a whole. Eleven years ago, I walked into Rocky Mountain Recycling with no knowledge of what metal recycling was. Fast forward to today, and I have learned the great impact our company and many others like it have had not only on the planet, but also in our communities and neighborhoods.

I reflect on the impact recycling facilities have had on my people, and the families that remind me of my own family. I am grateful for the opportunity to work every day alongside hard-working men and women who not only love their work, but also the company they work for. Most importantly, I am grateful to be in a position where I can help them be heard, advocate for them, and show that their work matters in the big picture of metal recycling facilities like Rocky Mountain Recycling.

During my time with ISRI, I have formed close relationships with many staff, members, and leaders. As the chair of the Hispanic Safety Council, I am hopeful that the council can help my fellow Hispanic brothers and sisters develop similar strong relationships within ISRI. I want the council to serve as a safe space where we can meet and share ideas and concerns about what Hispanic Americans go through, such as cultural differences that some may not understand, and policies and procedures that don’t always work for the modern-day workforce. I also want the council to serve as a place for Hispanic Americans to learn and become great leaders within their companies. Many of our current leaders look alike—older, White men. I would love to see frontline employees who know the ins and outs of recycling receive the opportunity to gain the necessary skills to grow and obtain essential roles within their companies.

I encourage companies and leaders in the recycling industry to take the time to acknowledge their Hispanic employees, as well as all their employees who come from different backgrounds and countries. Recognize the long hours they work, and the sacrifices they make. We all bring something different to the table. Our hunger for success and our meaning of success itself might be different from yours. Our generational struggles have taught us to value hard work differently. Success to us is simply having the opportunity to provide a decent home and meal to our families, regardless of the long, hard hours we spend in the yard.

Hispanic Heritage month is an opportunity for me to celebrate my people proudly and out loud. It is an opportunity for me to share with others the difference we make in America.

Photos courtesy of Leticia Acosta.