From the ashes of recession rises a new ‘green’ business
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Two Carbondale businessmen were forced nine months ago to diversify their construction-related company to ride out the recession. What resulted was a “green” company that has recycled 240,000 tons of metals so far in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Through their new business venture, Rob Ashcraft and Mark Terkun demonstrate why green is the new black when it comes to businesses boosting their bottom line in today’s economy.
The men are principals in Citewaste, a company that made its pre-recession bread-and-butter on providing Dumpsters to construction sites. As cabinet makers, the partners were already familiar with the concept that separating wood from construction debris could save big bucks. Contractors pay less in trash tipping fees at local landfills when recyclable materials are screened.
But as the recession tightened its grip on the Roaring Fork Valley and strangled the construction industry in 2009, supplying dumpsters to construction sites wasn’t as lucrative as it once was. Terkun and Ashcraft pondered what to do to keep Citewaste alive when they essentially stumbled into the metal recycling business.
“It came from driving the truck around thinking, ‘What else can we do?'” Ashcraft said.
He Googled “recycled metals” and found the name of a broker in Denver. He contacted Rocky Mountain Recycling and discovered the brokerage was seeking an affiliate in the Roaring Fork Valley to handle metals. Workers at the Denver firm helped educate the Carbondale men about metal recycling, and Citewaste expanded last August.
They pay contractors to separate out aluminum, brass, copper, copper wire, zinc and lead at construction sites. They also accept walk-in shipments of nonferrous metals, or metals other than iron and alloys that do not contain an appreciable amount of iron, as well as electric motors and aluminum cans at their Carbondale warehouse. They are likely the only business in the Roaring Fork Valley paying people for aluminum cans.
In addition, Citewaste takes steel off the hands of people who don’t want it, but they cannot pay for it because prices are so low. Ashcraft said that the money Citewaste gets for steel barely covers transportation costs. The thin profit margin is possible only because of economies of scale: Citewaste collects enough steel to make trips to the broker worthwhile.
So far, Citewaste has recycled 44,200 pounds of aluminum other than cans; 11,200 pounds of brass; 49,900 pounds of copper; 24,500 pounds of copper wire; 2,950 pounds of lead; 14,000 pounds of zinc; and 328,600 pounds of steel, according to statistics supplied to them this week from their broker. They recycled another 6,300 pounds of electric motors and turned in 293,000 aluminum cans.
“All this stuff can be recycled, and it pays good money,” Ashcraft said, steel being the exception.
Citewaste’s gamble of making investments in equipment to make expansion possible has paid off. Ashcraft said Citewaste’s gross revenues are up almost 500 percent for the first quarter of 2010 compared to the same quarter in 2009.
In their warehouse are collection piles of everything from Christmas tree lights (which contain nonferrous metals) to stainless steel sinks and auto parts. Among the strangest thing they have recycled are a brass deer statue that had a couple of legs broken off and dismantled telephone booths, unwanted in the era of cell phones.
“We’re not inventing anything new here. It’s just new to the valley,” Ashcraft said.
The Pitkin County landfill separates metals from construction debris, and it accepts metals, but it doesn’t pay people for it.
Ashcraft and Terkun are betting their payment for metals will spur even more business once the recession eases. Contractors have been receptive to the idea of separating out nonferrous metals. Ashcraft said they have heard contractors say numerous times, “We’re all about green but it can’t cost any more money.” Now that there is financial incentive to take the time to separate certain metals, it’s catching on.
Once the economy turns around and construction activity picks up, Terkun predicts contractors will remain in the habit of separating out metals and turning them in for cash. As the international economy improves and demand for metals increases, commodity prices are on the rise, making recycling more worthwhile for all involved.
The Citewaste partners said it is satisfying to create a profitable business that also helps the environment. “It’s nice to have found a niche where we’re serving the community,” Terkun said.
The company can be reached at 963-8877.
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