Joe Szany • 251-272-3630
Ecovery, in business for less than two years,
may be a newcomer in the recycling industry, but its roots run
deep. Joe Szany, the director of sales and marketing, has been
with the company from its start.
Szany said that he started in the recycling
industry in the 1960s and was already retired when he starting
doing consulting work for the fledgling Ecovery. It wasn’t long
before he was officially working for the company. “I didn’t like
being retired,” he said.
His introduction to the recycling industry
was his first job after high school, when he started working
for a baler manufacturer because it was close enough to walk
to work. Over the years, he moved several times, worked for a
few different companies, and had his own business for about 10
years, but he was “always in the sales and marketing department.”
While at his last employer, he saw an opportunity
when working on a project for a customer who wanted to destroy
computer hard drives so they would never again be readable. He
did some research and presented the idea to his employers, but
they had no interest in moving into that field.
However, others were interested, including
Ecovery’s founder and some investors. Szany said they saw “the
opportunity to take recycling of electronic scrap to a new level,”
and that was the beginning of the company.
Ecovery took advantage of tax incentives
available for businesses that moved into hurricane-devastated
areas, and started building in January of 2009. Equipment was
purchased and installed, and by April, the first electronic scrap
Ecovery takes “anything that ever had a plug
or a battery in it, excluding white goods,” according to Szany.
That includes toys, home electronics and computer equipment.
Some of the material isn’t worth much, but the company would
rather take it all than to make it complicated for customers.
The company doesn’t buy from small peddlers
or street traffic, but purchases from scrap dealers who collect
the material and send it to Ecovery. Szany said that many of
those same scrap dealers had been consulted when Ecovery was
forming, and those dealers didn’t think there were sufficient
markets for pulverized and chopped materials, but now those same
dealers are regular customers.
Helping the business along is the fact that
there are laws in place that restrict the export of electronic
scrap and ban the landfilling of electronics. “Demand has been
created almost automatically,” Szany said.
The processing, in short, is to “grind everything
up,” but it’s a little more complicated than that, with the material
being ground into very small pieces and sorted several times
to separate each material “into its own commodity,” including
plastics and a wide range of metals.
Since Szany has always been the “equipment
guy” he was very interested in the $6 million dollars of equipment
that Ecovery uses to process the material that comes in, and
the company has become a reseller and distributor of that equipment.
Unlike some businesses that keep their processes
hidden from competitors, Ecovery shows off their equipment and
has sold everything from small equipment for auto wreckers to
large machines used by the military to destroy old weapons. They’re
also their own customer, since they recently bought equipment
that is so new that it wasn’t available when they were setting
up the business.
Although the company is young, it’s already
looking at growth. “We have a 30-acre plant site, and right now
we’ve cleared 10 acres,” Szany said. When the company was founded,
they expected to be regional, but they are now bringing in material
from all over the county.
Future expansion will focus on new materials,
as well as new markets. “We now know that we can separate any
two materials,” Szany said. “It doesn’t have to be electronics.”
An interesting idea is the possibility of re-processing shredder
fluff to recover the fines. Szany said that there may be as much
as 4 percent metal in the fluff, and most of it would be copper,
which would make reprocessing worthwhile.
But the real fun, according to Szany is “the
whole phenomenon of looking people in the eye and saying there’s
an alternative to disposal and a way to make money.” He said
that he’s happy he decided to come out of retirement. “It’s a
fun place to work for to make a living, and it’s good for society,