ISRI’s Commodity Roundtables Forum will take place Sept. 22-24, at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Chicago. The annual event attracts processors, brokers, traders, and other recycling professionals from around the world. Register here.

For Adam Dumes, chief commercial officer at Cohen Recycling, the world of ferrous trading is exciting, competitive, and “gets the juices flowing.” A long-time attendee of ISRI’s Commodity Roundtables Forum, he’s excited to serve as the ferrous panel moderator at this year’s forum in Chicago. But he didn’t always have ambitions of going into the family business.

After graduating college in 2003, Dumes considered a career in the pharmaceutical and biotech industry. While applying for positions, he took a temporary job at Cohen Recycling, headquartered in Middletown, Ohio, and soon realized he wanted to stay in the industry.

Scrap News chatted with Dumes about his career path, the nature of the ferrous markets, his involvement with ISRI, and what he’s looking forward to at this year’s Commodity Roundtables Forum.

How did you get into the recycling industry?

I’m a fourth-generation recycler at my family’s business, Cohen Recycling, initially Cohen Brothers Inc. It was founded in 1924 by my great-grandfather and his brother. But my path began with studying biology and anthropology at the University of Michigan. I realized I didn’t want to be a doctor so I took a sales job out of college. I was looking at the pharmaceuticals and biotech industry so I could use my science background. My grandfather and uncle suggested coming to work in the yard temporarily while I interviewed and planned my next career steps.

So, I put on my uniform and started working in the nonferrous division. Within two weeks I realized I wanted to stay in the business. It was super interesting, there’s a lot of pride in the legacy. I’ve been here for almost 20 years.

I worked in the yard for a year and then moved into a buyer role, buying scrap and managing accounts. I’ve worked through most parts of the business operations, helped found our electronics recycling division, and ultimately became our ferrous trader. My title is vice president and chief commercial officer. I oversee the ferrous side of the business, sales and marketing, and buying and selling.

What about ferrous trading drew you in to the business and continues to interest you?

I think anyone in the ferrous trading world has to be competitive and very strategic, so it lends to both of those aspects. There are many different factors and variables you need to take into consideration to try to predict what’s going on with the markets and then strategize. You need to account for your inventory positions, whether you want to speculate or not, and supply and demand. It’s the most basic fundamental business in terms of supply and demand economics but it’s incredibly complicated and exciting when you get into the details. Every month is new, different, exciting, nerve-racking, and competitive, and it gets the juices flowing.

What are you looking forward to at this year’s Commodity Roundtables? 

This is the first time I’ll be moderating a panel at the Commodity Roundtables, but it’s not my first time moderating a panel or attending the forum. I think networking opportunities are a big draw of the Commodity Roundtables, as with most ISRI events. The bars and restaurants are packed, and people are always having meetings. To get people just as excited about attending the ferrous panel, I’m hoping we can provide attendees with interesting takeaways or food for thought that can benefit their businesses or personal growth in the industry. I’m looking forward to people coming out, participating, and asking questions.

What are some of the topics that may be covered during the ferrous panel this year?

This year has really been unprecedented in the scrap and steel world. The all-time record steel pricing highs, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the chip shortage, are just some of the factors that have impacted the industry in the last few years.

I think our speaker Blake Hurtik will cover developments in domestic steel consumption with regards to consolidation, expansion, and capacity increases. Even though most people are aware of those issues, attendees may find the coverage helpful to learn about recent updates. In addition to the domestic side, we’ll look at international components in the ferrous scrap and steel world, including projections on scrap consumption and the overall landscape in China.

How did you get involved with ISRI? 

There’s always been someone from our company representing us in ISRI. I volunteered because I wanted to get more involved in the industry and meet people doing similar things to get a different perspective and ISRI offers you the opportunity to do that.

I went through the Ohio Valley Chapter officer track—serving first as secretary, then treasurer, then vice president, and then as president. Being the Ohio Valley Chapter president really exposed me to ISRI national. I started meeting people and seeing the value in the sharing of information, the networking, the connections you make with people, and the programming.

I intend to stay engaged with ISRI even after my tenure as chapter president ends. I’ve been involved in a lot of different areas at ISRI over the last 12 years including serving as director at large; chairing the state subcommittee; strategic planning; challenges and opportunities; and serving on the leadership committee. Now I’m the vice chair of the ferrous division. They say the more you’re involved the harder it is to leave but that’s fine by me, I really enjoy it.

Photos courtesy of Cohen Recycling. Featured image caption: Family members and Cohen Recycling leaders. Left to right: Adam Dumes, Neil Cohen, Wilbur Cohen, Ken Cohen, and Andrew Cohen.

Hannah Zuckerman

Hannah Zuckerman

Hannah is a Writer & Editor for ISRI's Scrap News. She's interested in a wide range of topics in the recycling industry and is always eager to learn more. She graduated from Bryn Mawr College, where she majored in History and a minored in Creative Writing. She lives in Arlington, Virginia with her husband.