By Gabe Licht
DELANO, MN The recycling environment has changed drastically since PJ Hanson, of Wright Recycling, began working in the industry more than 25 years ago.
After taking those changes into consideration, Hanson opted to sell his business, and the recycling routes it covers, to Randy’s Environmental Services effective Feb. 1.
“It was a hard, but easy decision,” Hanson said. “The recycling industry has changed so much over the years. Upgrading our system to meet the industry standards would not have been cost-effective for a small company like us. Randy’s Environmental Services is a local company that has so much more to offer.”
Jim Wollschlager, executive vice president of company operations at Randy’s, painted a picture of the current recycling market.
“Recycling values are at a five-year low,” Wollschlager said. “For example, the value of glass has dipped 145 percent in three months.”
Rather than receiving $8 or $9 per ton for glass, recyclers are having to pay to have glass removed and are struggling to get rid of it. That is a problem, considering glass makes up 25 percent of the recycling stream. Furthermore, plastic prices have dipped 35 to 40 percent.
“Recycled commodities are tied to oil prices,” Wollschlager said. “When they’re cheap, recycled materials are cheap.”
Wollschlager said Hanson approached Randy’s about a month ago to ask if the company could continue service to the 15 communities under contract with Wright Recycling, including Franklin Township.
Randy’s has signed contract continuations with those communities.
Doing so will require Randy’s to temporarily use older trucks to accommodate the variety of containers individuals have been using to sort their recyclable materials. That’s because Wright Recycling was a two-stream recycler, meaning residents were asked to separate some of their materials, rather than putting them all in one container.
“We converted all our two-stream recyclers a couple years ago,” Wollschlager said. “All our customers have a cart where they mix their recycling, roll it to the curb, and we pick it up that way. Wright Recycling, to my knowledge, was the last two-stream recycler. PJ and his wife (Jeanne) were at a point where they couldn’t sustain that.”
For the time being, Randy’s will collect recycling for the townships Wright Recycling served and, whether it is sorted or not, run it through the same Materials Recovery Facility.
In the future, Randy’s would prefer those communities convert their recycling processes.
“We’ll promote single-stream recycling,” Wollschlager said. “It does increase the amount of recycling you receive. Typically, the minimum increase is 40 percent and some are as high as a 60 percent increase.”
Such a change will require a hefty investment and will result in a price increase down the line.
“PJ had more than 8,500 residential customers,” Wollschlager said. “If you look at containerizing that, just the cost to put carts at those homes is $500,000. We will also need two new trucks at a cost of $350,000. It takes a long time to get that money back.”
Wollschlager plans to work with townships to offset that cost without breaking the bank.
“We’ll be scheduling meetings within the next month to talk to them about single-stream recycling and let them know how much it will cost and work with them,” Wollschlager said. “We understand they have budgets in place. Obviously, it costs more to put a cart at a house. We’d work with them to transition into the next budget year.”
Wollschlager also took a moment to applaud the work of Wright Recycling.
“He’s been providing a great service,” Wollschlager said of Hanson. “It was just no longer a sustainable model.”
Five of Hanson’s former employees have already begun working at Randy’s and Hanson may join them in the future, Wollschlager said.
For now, he is enjoying time off.
“PJ is looking forward to a little down time, which includes traveling to watch his kids in their activities,” Jeanne Hanson said, adding that he will also, “work closely to make sure there is a smooth transition between Randy’s Environmental Services and the cities and townships that Wright Recycling serviced.”
The Hansons are thankful for the community support they have received since PJ purchased Wright Recycling nearly 25 years ago.
“We would like to thank everyone that we have worked with,” Hanson said. “We appreciate all the loyal businesses over the years. As recycling continues to change, and it will, we know that Randy’s Environmental Services will provide the type of service that the communities deserve.”