Waste Management may be king of curb-side garbage services, but almost a dozen smaller waste and recycling distributors fill the industrial Sparks area and nearby Reno— all waiting to grab a piece of the recycling trend.
A surge in home building and manufacturing in Northern Nevada has created a glut of recyclable waste. Giant bulldozers and front loaders rumble across the dirt sorting and recycling everything from plastic, metal, paper, cardboard, glass, carpet, wood and any other material that can be reused.
And because recycling is a business, many recycling centers diversify by handling and distributing more than one material to get more bang for the buck, depending on market conditions. But because metal from recycling is a commodity, prices fluctuate, affecting business volume.
The price of scrap metal, such as light-gauge steel, brass and aluminum, has plummeted by as much as 65 percent since late 2014, according to industry experts. Falling oil prices have crippled the industry creating less demand for steel products worldwide. Even though residents and businesses may be producing a lot of reusable waste at the moment, demand for recyclable products is stagnant.
“The local recycling business is tough at the moment because of the depressed commodity prices, which affect the bottom line, but that won’t stop our dedication to our recycling services in the community,” said Chris Bielser, who runs Nevada Recycling & Salvage on Telegraph Street. The 44,000- square-foot facility handles all mixed loads of recyclable materials such as metal, plastic and cardboard and then sorts each load by commodity. This process includes a sorting line and a high-speed bailing system. His tractors haul away anywhere from 800-1,600 yards of scrap a day from businesses and manufacturers. He said his facility recycles several million pounds of material annually.
“When the recession hit, both the local housing and construction industry came to a halt,” said Dan Gunzel, a sales spokesman for the company. “But now we’re seeing a steady increase in business because of the housing rebound, which creates more waste byproducts such as aluminum and cardboard for recycling.”
Gunzel predicts the real boom for recyclers will be from Tesla’s new Northern Nevada location because it will attract more housing and businesses.
Sam Richter, who runs Gone Green Recycling in Sparks, is also hopeful for a big turnaround soon. He specializes in recycling carpet material on Industrial Way.
Richter said he’s the only carpet recycler in the Reno-Sparks area. He accepts both residential and commercial customers, but he adds that residential customers create a larger market share for his business. He also accepts carpet padding, cardboard, plastic wrap, pallets and aluminum. He first sorts the nylon and polyester from the carpet. He then processes the materials into scraps that can be recycled into nylon plastic parts for cars, chairs, or back into new carpet.
He said that when oil prices were higher, his crew recycled about 80,000 to 160,000 pounds of carpet materials per month, but recently volume has plummeted. He said that at the moment there is no demand for recycled nylon.
“We have high hopes for the carpet-recycling industry as a whole as long as the oil prices go up again and the demand increases because we are at the mercy of market conditions. For now, it’s batten down the hatches and weather the storm.”
But while he’s waiting for an uptick in business, Richter said that he can still help contractors and stores save money and increase his own volume from lower disposal and recycling costs. He said that customers can drop off their carpet scraps at his recycler for a fee lower than a transfer station or landfill would charge.
Nate Stephan of Global Solutions on Wolverine Street in Sparks also specializes in recycling. He recycles wood scraps from commercial businesses. He grinds the wood pieces into small chips. He said he hauls and processes about 20-100 tons of wood products a week. He then distributes and sends the wood pieces to a mill. Next, the mill recycles the wood chips into energy conversion for a California power company.
‘Wood is very consistent for recycling,” Stephan said. “Last year when the shipping ports went on strike, cardboard flooded the market, and it still hasn’t recovered so I just stick with recycling wood.”
Sooner or later, all kinds of recyclable materials end up as scrap at a location somewhere in Sparks.
Bielser of Nevada Recycling & Salvage thinks he knows why.
“The industrial area of Sparks is called the recycling center because of the large number of warehouses, manufacturing and industrial activity. These activities yield more recyclable materials than other zones.”
Ryan Puliz, vice president of Puliz Records Management in Reno, said affordable rent in the Sparks area is also a reason.
Puliz also said recycling can be a very turbulent industry depending on the material.
Puliz said that on average his business shreds about 180 tons of paper a month from both onsite and offsite shredding services The total volume of paper recycling, he said, has been stagnant the last couple of years.
But he added that recently he’s seen a jump in electronic recycling from hard drive and tape destruction, commonly called E-waste.
“Criminals know how to take advantage from outdated technology and identity theft, so E-waste is another big growth industry for recycling.”