H.C. Morris wasn’t born
into the scrap business. “I’ve always been in sales,”
Morris said. Before founding Environmental Recycling, he’d
been selling insurance for years, was tired of it, and was looking
for something else to do.
In 1993, the perfect opportunity
arose, and Morris jumped into the recycling business in Kentucky
and hasn’t looked back since. That year, a law was passed
that banned the land-filling of appliances which contained Freon.
At about the same time, the charge for Freon removal increased.
Suddenly, used appliances became
a problem. Stores weren’t taking them as trade-ins, so consumers
were stuck with the old appliances when they bought new ones.
Morris noted that there were a lot of appliances left on roadsides,
and the counties were paying to clean up the mess. That’s
when he hatched his idea for a white goods program, and he started
selling his idea to the local governments.
What Morris proposed was that
the counties would set aside space where consumers could drop
off appliances. Morris, with a portable baler, would bale the
material and haul it away, and he would pay for the metal. The
counties were interested, and Morris’s Environmental Recycling
The first full year in business,
Morris and his one used baler processed 3,000 tons of local material.
“We made a real good reputation with all the state people,”
Morris said. Now he has five portable balers, and last year he
processed 27,000 tons from Kentucky and several other states.
One of his balers has been in Florida, working on a 6,000,000
pound pile of aluminum left from last year’s hurricanes.
Morris said that the key to doing
business with people is that “you find out how you can help
them – it’s all sales.” When there was a fire
at one of the local Jim Beam distilleries, Morris looked over
the situation and realized that the alcohol-fueled fire had burned
almost everything except the barrel hoops and nails. With his
portable baler, he cleaned it up in five days.
Since then, he’s been involved
in similar projects at two other distillery locations, and estimates
that he has baled a total of 300 tons of metal from those projects.
Most of that metal was barrel hoops, while a small portion was
from the buildings that burned.
Morris likes to take on challenges;
where other companies estimate that projects will take months
or years, he tries to find ways to shorten the process. One such
project was for Reynolds Aluminum in Arkansas, when they were
demolishing a 1940’s era plant that had asbestos contamination.
Competitors scoffed when he came up with his proposal. “They
said, ‘you can’t do this’ and that’s what
I needed to hear,” Morris explained. His workers attended
classed to get asbestos-worker qualifications. With the mobile
baler, the project was finished in 11 days. “We do projects
like that,” Morris said.
While the outside world may call
Morris a recycler, he thinks of himself as a salesman, “Everything
I’ve done has been on a handshake,” he said. He is
also frank with his customers that he is in the business to make
money, “I tell them I’m a mercenary, not a missionary,”
Morris said, so later on if they have any questions, he tells
them to refer back to that statement and understand his position.
While Morris didn’t learn
about the recycling business from his father, his children are
involved with the company. He noted that his daughter and son
“were the best balers we had.” His son, Shawn, is
now the company vice president.
Morris said that when Shawn got
his first car at 16 and was going take the car for an oil change,
Shawn said he didn’t have to know how to change the oil
– he was going to get a college education and would always
be able to pay for the service. Morris told him “it never
hurts to work on things and understand them.”
Now, Shawn is the best at fixing
any piece of equipment the company owns, and often comes in with
grease and dirt on his clothes. Morris teases him that he got
that college education just so he could get dirty working on the
But while Morris teases his son,
he also is confident that some day Shawn will have to take over
the company because, “when you get old, you want to ride
motorcycles and act like you’re young.”