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Career Story: Plastics Re-Cycling Entrepreneur

Plastics Re-Cycling Entrepreneur

Job Title: President Of Small Plastic Recycling Business

Type of Company: My company finds businesses that generate plastic waste in large enough quantities to make recycling it lucrative and we market what we collect to companies which use it to manufacture new products.

Education: BS, Chemical Engineering, Lehigh University •• MBA, Temple University

Previous Experience: I was a process engineer and development engineer for various companies and later became a group leader in the recycling research and development group of a company. From there, I moved on to a business development position in a new recycling company and eventually to starting my own business brokering recyclable plastics.

Job Tasks: As the owner and sole employee of my company, I manage everything: I make the phone calls to find customers and do the paperwork to track the business cash flow. A typical day consists mostly of phone work, both to seek out recyclable plastic materials and companies in the market to buy those materials. When a deal is made, I have to do the resulting paperwork. Once I've found a buyer and a seller, I have to broker a price that makes financial sense to both but still has enough built in to reimburse me for my own efforts. Not surprisingly, I work very hard to prevent the seller from knowing who the buyer is (and vice versa) so they can't cut me out in the future.

Once a sale has been agreed on and the purchase orders have been drafted, I make arrangements for the plastics to be trucked -- yet another negotiation. The key to striking a deal is asking a lot of questions beforehand to forestall any last-minute surprises. Every once in a while, though, a load of material arrives that is not what the customer wanted and another negotiation ensues. For example, one company I moved material for collected the shrink wrap that they used to wrap their pallets in the warehouse. As they unwrapped the stuff that was stacked on the skids, they shoved the shrink wrap in a box. As the boxes filled up, they compacted the wrap into blocks which they baled (or wired together). They then deposited the bales in their parking lot outside. I located a buyer for this sodden material, negotiated a price, saw to it that the material was shipped and in due course billed the buyer and paid off the seller. Only problem was, the buyer kept finding "product" in the bales as he unwrapped them and I had to troubleshoot and negotiate so the plastic didn't have to be returned -- which would've cost me the sale and forced me in addition to pay the freight to have it trucked.

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part of my job is the ability it affords me to work when and where I want. I also like being my own boss and not having anyone else accountable to me. It uses both my education and my work background in a way that makes me feel I am doing something worthwhile for the world.

Job Tips: Do not approach this type of job with the attitude that anyone who can use a phone could do it. That may be true, but comfort on the phone does not necessarily equate to success in this business. Secondly, there are a lot of swindlers in plastics recycling, so make certain you know who you are working with before you strike a deal. In this economy, a penny a pound profit is a very good amount. Third, be as open and honest with your customers and suppliers as possible. If something will delay a deal, let them know right away. If you are uncomfortable with something, let them know and go with your instincts rather than allowing someone to talk you into (or out of) anything.

Additional Thoughts: I would not recommend this job to anyone wanting it to be their sole source of income. I have gained my customer base through years of hard work. But in the end there is no real loyalty in this business: price is everything, and every deal is a triumph. But many triumphs can still make a good year.

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