Like many other transplant recipients from the North, Harvey Schneider, 70, found himself living in South Florida. The difference is, it was the mixed C&D and wood recycling opportunities, not the weather or the beaches, that ultimately drew Schneider to the Sunshine State.
Schneider, who grew up in Quebec, got his start in recycling after dropping out of college. On a whim, he decided to invest in a Fargo dump truck and go door to door to introduce himself to industrial business owners all over Montreal. Eventually, Schneider started buying scrap metal from these customers, and since he had a truck, they started paying him to haul their waste as well.
This business evolved into the transformation of Schneider wood waste to produce wood chips, including boiler fuel for a power plant in Chateauguay, New York. When the Okeelanta Power Plant in Belle Glade, Florida was built in the 1990s, Schneider saw the opportunity to expand his company’s services to provide fuel to this market as well.
After years of commuting between Montreal and Florida, Schneider finally decided to sell his Canadian business and settle permanently in the Miami suburb of Medley in 1996.
An expanding business
Schneider, along with his son Jesse, ran several waste and recycling businesses on a 10-acre property in the industrial heart of the city.
Through their Florida Wood Recycling operation, the father-son duo process the incoming mixed C&D and clean wood. The company’s Medley Metal Recycling arm is responsible for the buying and selling of ferrous and non-ferrous scrap, and its recyclable material recovery division is the company’s rolling transport service that collects construction waste. and demolition, lumber, yard waste and storm debris in the area via the 300 dumpsters and 12 trucks.
“We have different material flows,” explains Harvey Schneider. “One of the streams that comes in is the mixed C&D, which we run through a picking line, and we select rock, metal and wood. And then another stream that we have is source separated lumber, which comes from roof truss and pallet manufacturers, and we also get dimensional lumber from construction sites. Then we have another stream which is yard waste, because with the tropical Florida setting there is a lot of yard waste, falling trees and branches – it’s a separate stream coming in. . Then we have a metal recycling facility where we buy and sell ferrous metals and non-ferrous metals. So everything fits together because everything is diverse.
Using C&D materials alone, the company processes around 125,000 to 130,000 tonnes per year. Including wood and garden waste, that number approaches 200,000 tonnes per year, explains Schneider. He notes that the company’s processing capacity depends on the material. For garden waste, he says the company is capable of working up to 100 tonnes per hour. This drops to around 50-60 tonnes per hour when processing C&D and 50-70 tonnes per hour when processing clean wood waste.
Speaking about the company’s evolution in the treatment of wood waste, Harvey says the business has become more sophisticated and selective over the years.
“I think to create a quality product you have to have certain criteria in place,” he says. “So some materials that we won’t accept. For example, we do not accept pressure treated lumber at this facility. When we started our picking line and started manufacturing mulch, we worked with the University of Miami to develop best management practices for recycling facilities so that we could source clean and reclaimed wood. .
“The university has developed a liquid, called PAN Indicator stain, where you can put a drop of it on a piece of wood, and if it turns purple, it’s pressure-treated. If it turns orange, it’s good, ”he continues. “I also have an XRF gun where we can test the wood at random to make sure everything is clean wood that we are using. If you go to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection website, they have a document on what they call the best management practices for C&D recycling facilities to source clean wood, and we have helped to create that.
By insisting on demanding clean wood and communicating this mandate to its customers, Schneider says the company can simply separate this part from the incoming material to be processed through its Morbark shredders.
For its more unpredictable mixed loads, the company uses a simple but effective system to sort materials well.
In conjunction with manual sorters, the company uses a finger sifter to divide the material into three fractions: fines, medium (about 5 to 7 inches of material and less depending on the flow) and surplus (anything over from 5 to 7 inches depending on the flow). This material is transported to lines A and B where a cross-belt magnet removes the steel before it goes to an air density classifier which blows the lights into a reject pile intended for setting. discharge while the heavy aggregate falls into the line for collection. The material from Line A is then collected by about three or four manual sorters which help divert aggregate, metal and wood to four designated bays.
Through the company’s various outlets, the metal is sold on the scrap metal market, the wood is transformed into mulch that the company delivers directly and the aggregates are mainly used for backfilling the quarry lakes in the region.
While the company’s sorting system has worked well for Schneider over the years, he says he contacted Sparta Manufacturing Inc.’s vice president of sales, Howard Fiedler, regarding the potential update to the line of business. He notes that the company previously worked with Fiedler during his tenure at Erin Recycling to install the equipment currently in use at the site.
“I installed the first A line in 2004, expanded it and installed the B line in 2007,” he says. “The line is aging a bit and it will be time to upgrade it in the near future. “
Schneider also says he is closely monitoring the evolution of C&D robotic sorting systems, in part due to the success and efficiency it is currently enjoying with the robotic equipment used to stack the bagged mulch produced by the ‘business.
“I’ve been watching developments in C&D robotics for some time now,” he notes. “I currently have two lines equipped with Kawasaki robots to stack the mulch, so I am very familiar with the technology. There is a learning curve, and with my current system they are deployed for a single task of stacking bags on pallets, but it’s not that easy when you choose C&D. I’m watching the developments, and I’m very curious to see where it’s going to go in the near future because I think it’s going to be the future of harvesting. The question is whether this technology is capable of handling volume and at what cost? Like anything else, everything has to be profitable. It’s all well and good to spend millions of dollars on bots, but if you don’t make money, it doesn’t work.
By focusing on products in demand like metal and wood, and avoiding those more prone to volatile commodity markets, like paper, Schneider says it has been able to find regular outlets. Moreover, by emphasizing the creation of value products, he cultivated a reliable base of loyal customers.
“It doesn’t take a lot of intelligence to be successful as a recycler,” he says. “Yes, it takes a little bit of intelligence, but it takes a lot of hard work. A lot of times you have opportunities, and there are a lot of people who are offered opportunities, but they maybe don’t. the courage to reach out and grab it and say, “I’m going to do it. We’re very, very forward thinking and always looking to improve what we do to become more efficient and create better products than the consumer wants.… You know, you take care of your customer, you offer your customer a quality product and service at a competitive price, that’s the key to business.
In addition to creating valuable products, Schneider says investing in people has been essential for the growth of the business. Depending on the season, the company’s workforce can vary from 35 to 45 employees, many of whom have been with the company for years.
“The key to all of this is hiring good people, paying them well and treating them with respect. My employees are like my family, ”he says. “I take good care of my employees and listen to what they say. If an employee comes in and says we could do something different, I listen and try to use those things to help me grow my business and make my business more efficient. It is very important that you have a good staff and that you take care of them, and we have been fortunate to have a very low turnover rate. I have people who have worked for me for 25 to 30 years here. It is quite rare in this industry.
Despite having more than five decades serving the recycling industry, Schneider has no plans to retire anytime soon. Although he has come a long way geographically since his beginnings, his passion for the profession is still close to home.
“The recycling industry is quite interesting,” he concludes. “It’s a lot of fun, really. You know what, I’m 70 years old and still come to work every day. I love coming to work because every day is more exciting than the last.
This article originally appeared in the November / December issue. issue of Construction & Demolition Recycling magazine. The author is the editor of Construction & Demolition Recycling and can be contacted at [email protected]