The highlight article focuses on four sessions from ISRI2021, State of the Industry: Economic Outlook and Impact Study with Presentation of the ISRI Design for Recycling® Award; ISRI Century Club Presents: Leading Through Change — The Family Business; Questions Senior Leaders Should Be Asking About SIF Prevention in Their Organizations; and Plastics Spotlight. If you would like to watch these sessions in their entirety, you can still register for ISRI2021 here.

Day Three of ISRI2021 offers convention and exposition attendees the ability to take stock of where the recycling industry has been, current marketplace trends, and where recycling is likely to go in the near future.

State of the Industry: Economic Outlook and Impact Study

The good news: After a year of uncertainty in which COVID-19 swept the Earth, economies all over the world are recovering. The bad: Shipping costs are not coming down, despite high demand for materials. That’s the message from economists in this session, moderated by Brian Shine, president of Manitoba Corp. Speakers Jason Schenker, president of Prestige Economics, and John Dunham, president of John Dunham & Associates, talked about the pandemic recovery and how recyclers can keep their workforce strong.

“While folks [in 2020] were scratching their heads wondering what’s going on terms of the economy, manufacturing was really strong,” Schenker says. The U.S. had 80 million first-time jobless claims in the past 57 weeks, so skilled laborers and high-wage earners are available — but competition is tight, with construction and service industries scooping up workers as the COVID-19 recovery begins.

As an added bonus, Dunham discusses preliminary results of the 2021 U.S. Scrap Industry Economic Impact Study, prepared by John Dunham & Associates for ISRI. When it is released in a few weeks, the study data — collected at the state and local levels from recycling companies — can help members get energy credits, low-cost finance, tax credits, employee subsidies, and more data localized for all facilities. “As I always say in economics, ‘It’s not about being right about your predictions it’s how good a story you tell,’” Dunham says “This data allows you to talk to your community at the Rotary Club or the chamber of commerce dinner, and you legislators, and your partners. It’s all designed for informing them to develop partnerships, making decisions, and community-government relations.”

ISRI Design for Recycling® Award

In recognition of its innovation and commitment to sustainability in the design and manufacture of new products, ISRI named Cascade Engineering as its 2021 Design for Recycling® (DFR) Award winner. The DFR Award is ISRI’s most prestigious award given annually to the most innovative contribution to products designed with recycling in mind. Cascade Engineering received the award specifically for the design of its EcoCart™, which contains up to 50% recycled content from used carts and curbside recyclables. Read the full Scrap News article on the 2021 DFR Award here.

Questions Senior Leaders Should Be Asking About SIF Prevention in Their Organizations

Why should organizations focus their safety improvement efforts on serious injuries and fatality (SIF) prevention? This ISRI2021 session addressing the question featured ISRI Vice President of Safety Tony Smith; Dr. Tom Krause, partner, Krause Bell Group; Dennis Jackson, vice president/executive consultant, Krause Bell Group; Jerry Sjogren, safety director at E.L. Harvey & Sons Inc.; and David Borsuk, senior advisor at Sadoff Iron & Metal Co.

The consensus: Don’t look at actual SIFs at a jobsite as much as potentials for SIFs. High-risk situations that keep repeating, causing minor injuries, will eventually lead to loss of limbs or even lives. “You look at every recordable injury that has occurred and you look at every near-miss that you have data on, and ask the question ‘Could this have been a serious event?’” says Krause. Jackson describes a recent study where his company found 21% of the injuries they reviewed had SIF potential.

Plastics Spotlight

High demand for resin, flat oil, and gas production: Some things seem to never change in the plastics industry. Moderated by Sunil Bagaria, founder-president of GDB International Inc., and chair of ISRI’s Plastics Division, and featuring Eadaoin Quinn, director of business development and procurement, EFS Plastics; Steve Alexander, president and CEO of the Association of Plastic Recyclers (APR); and Nina Butler, CEO of Stina Inc., this session examines how the demands of manufacturers and brand owners can cause headaches for recyclers.

Take pipe manufacturing. While state and federal government continue to demand more postconsumer plastics (PCR) in bottles, the same doesn’t apply to draining pipes. “Today when the virgin prices are super-high, it is cheaper to use PCR than virgin to make pipes. But when that prices starts going down, it is going to be difficult for the recycler to provide that resin at a price cheaper than virgin. That’s where we need the legislation to come in,” Quinn says.

Butler says U.S. and Canadian recyclers are gathering record amounts of material; for example, in 2019, they processed 5.1 billion pounds. While 61% of plastics recycled in 2010 stayed in the U.S. and Canada, the number rose to 88% in 2019. In 2010, the two countries exported 29% of recycled plastics versus 12% in 2019. Butler notes that changing regulations in China and elsewhere will keep recyclers on their toes for the next several years.

ISRI Century Club Presents: Leading through Change — The Family Business

Three ISRI Century Club Members representing more than 100 years of service in ISRI and the industry discuss how they navigated through multiple challenges including whether to stay small or expand, and moving their business beyond their family structure.

Jim Wilkoff, chairman of Wilkoff & Sons LLC; Rob Goldstein, executive chairman of Alter Trading Corp.; and Barry Hunter, owner of Hunter Alloys LLC, tell similar stories of finding their way with help from mentors in small and large businesses — with an emphasis on family and friends. “Know your supply base. Know your costs. Process correctly. Focus on quality. When someone buys something that’s clean segregated, make sure it’s clean segregated. All of these things are part of what my uncle Jack used to call the ‘mystery of this business,’” Hunter says.

With many family businesses on their third, fourth, or potentially fifth generation of leadership, ISRI President Robin Wiener says the industry must work to groom future employees. “We have to tell them that being in the recycling business is just as much of a profession as going into the legal or medical field,” she says.

Week Two of ISRI2021 kicks off at 10:00 a.m. EDT Tuesday, April 27. The first session will be the Keynote Featuring Gary Cohn. The session will include the presentation of the ISRI Lifetime Achievement Awards to Shelley Padnos and David Borsuk.

Photo caption: Clockwise from top left, Jerry Sjogren, Dennis Jackson, Tom Krause and David Borsuk discuss safety improvement in the SIF prevention session at ISRI2021.





Dan Hockensmith

Dan Hockensmith

I'm a native Ohioan who since 2014 has called Maryland home. My background includes print, broadcast, and digital journalism; government contracting; and marketing communications.