01/13/13 — Recycling business brings jobs, revenue

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Recycling business brings jobs, revenue

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on January 13, 2013 1:50 AM

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Goldsboro Metal Recycling General Manager Dennis Gehle, left, and owner Greg Brown pose in front of a freshly compacted cube of metal at the scrapyard on North John Street. Brown said much of the nation's scrap metal is sold to China, where it's made into electronics.

It's often decried as a cause with value only in its environmental impact, but Greg Brown is championing the role recycling plays in combating the U.S. trade deficit with China -- and its ability to put more cash in your wallet.

Brown has owned and operated Goldsboro Metal Recycling for more than five years and said that rising energy costs have made recycling a more lucrative business, not only for professionals but for everyday consumers as well.

"It's no longer just nice to have. It now makes economic sense to recycle," he said, saying the increase in energy demands across the world has "changed the game."

Those increases are especially noticeable in China, where demand for aluminum means manufacturers are sending money from their shores to recycling firms in the United States, quite literally employing American workers with yuan they are paying for U.S. scrap metal.

That's because the amount of energy needed to manufacture metals compared to using recycled metals is such that companies making goods from iPads to computers and flat-screen televisions are snapping up scrap metal to increase their bottom line.

"When you ship aluminum to China, it's like they're importing oil," Brown said.

Recycling aluminum products, like cans, saves about 90 percent of energy versus creating new ones, he said, while recycled copper can cut the amount of energy required for manufacturing by 85 percent.

Those savings have pushed prices for those metals up immensely from prices in years past so that an aluminum can is worth about 2 cents, now, Brown said, and copper has become so pricey that criminals have begun ripping out components from air conditioning units, cell phone towers and electrical utility substations.

Brown said his businesses -- he also owns Raleigh Metal Recycling -- have led the industry in limiting criminals' abilities to profit from their thefts through increased measures, going even further than the state-mandated requirements placed on scrap metal dealers in October.

Besides photo ID requirements, video surveillance and vehicle information documentation, visitors to Brown's businesses can expect to be photographed no fewer than twice, typically standing alongside the metal goods they bring in.

The surveillance investments came along with electric fences to keep criminals out, but Brown is most proud of the innovations he's implemented into his process to ease stress on retail recyclers.

While his companies have contracts to process recyclable materials from businesses, he said his recent investments into his operation were to improve the recycling experience of patrons who simply collect cans or scrap metal for a bit of extra cash.

Instead of driving through the scrapyard, being weighed twice and waiting in line for a cashier to pay retail recyclers, the process has been streamlined by computers, which print receipts that are redeemable at an ATM in the cashier office. Large loads can still be weighed on the industrial scale, but there is now a smaller scale that's more easily accessible for those who bring a few bags of cans.

Brown said it's easy to get started recycling, encouraging those interested to just fill a box with recyclable materials and bring it by once a month. His center specializes in metal -- cans, extension cords, vacuum cleaners, computers, batteries and more -- but doesn't accept monitors or sealed tanks.

For more information about what is accepted and prices, call Goldsboro Metal Recycling at 919-731-5600.