11/02/09 — Scrappin' it for Workin' it

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Scrappin' it for Workin' it

By Laura Collins
Published in News on November 2, 2009 1:46 PM

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Reporter Laura Collins empties aluminum cans after they were weighed on Can Day Wednesday at Goldsboro Iron and Metals.

The company: Goldsboro Iron and Metals

The Job: Scrap Yard Worker

The Location: Goldsboro

I thought I looked fine when I showed up to work at Goldsboro Iron and Metals.

"Hi, I'm Laura, from the News-Argus."

"Is that what you're wearing?" said manager Neil Sevier.

"I was planning on it."

About 30 minutes later, I realized the cause for his concern as I was carrying car batteries and stacking them. I briefly remembered a time when my friend put an old car battery in the back of her car and it ended up eating a hole through the floor mat.

"Is this car battery acid going to eat holes in my clothes?"

"Probably," Sevier said.

"'Probably' like 'definitely' or 'probably' like 'maybe?'" I ask for more clarification.

"I thought holes in your clothes are in style now anyway," he said, completely unconcerned.

That was the point I decided to move on to safer things, and spent some time weighing cans. Once a week, on Can Day Wednesday, they pay three more cents per pound. Though the prices change depending on the value of aluminum, this week they were paying 45 cents per pound.

The scrap yard has about 175 customers a day and approximately 5,000 customers who bring items to the scrap yard on a regular basis.

Every person who brings items is entered into a database, which helps the company ensure items brought to them aren't stolen. The most common items at the scrap yard are steel, aluminum and copper, but Owner Gregory Brown said they take almost anything.

"We buy car parts, washers, dryers, old boyfriends and mother-in-laws who are misbehaving," he joked, but then handed my a list with over a hundred different things they'll pay for and take off people's hands.

From the scrap yard, the metals are shipped in bulk and sold to a variety of places, including China and Korea.

"We sell our old metal to China and it comes back as an iPod," he said. "So not only is it not taking up space in our landfills, it's being recycled."

Next I join Wilber Pagan on the shaker table line. After the metal is shredded, it's dumped on a conveyer belt that shakes and bounces the scrap metal so any trash, wood or non-metal items can be removed. It's kind of like a mini scavenger hunt except the metal pieces are sharp and I'm pretty sure the shaker table somehow made me car sick.

I ended the day riding with Vince Atkinson, who drives a rolloff truck to different companies to pick up their scrap metal. At AP Parts we pick up about 20,000 pounds of mufflers.

As Atkinson, a 23-year employee of the scrap yard, drives his truck, people along the road honk or wave at him. He said he's been doing the job long enough, he's gotten used to some of the faces.

We pass a group of students getting home from school and they gesture for him to honk.

"I always honk when little kids go by and want you to do the horn for them because I used to do that," he said.

Working at the scrap yard is only the second job Atkinson has had and he says he loves it.

"I'm doing something different everyday," he said. "And everyday I live my dream. It was my childhood dream to become a truck driver."

His love for the job is refreshing and seeing how many people recognize him while driving his route seems to be the norm for the scrap yard. Both Paul Holmes, who buys the non-ferrous metals at the scrap yard, and Chris Talbot, the financial analyst, seem to be staples for the customers when they come.

"If they are a regular here, Paul or Chris knows them," Sevier said. "If they're sick for a day and I fill in, the first thing they ask is where's Paul or Chris."

Goldsboro Iron Metal Recycling, 801 N. John St., is open 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday and 7:30 a.m. to noon Saturday.