H.C. Morris wasn’t born into the scrap
business. “I’ve always been in sales,” Morris said. Before founding
Environmental Recycling, he’d been selling insurance for years, was
tired of it, and was looking for something else to do.
In 1993, the perfect opportunity
arose, and Morris jumped into the recycling business in Kentucky and
hasn’t looked back since. That year, a law was passed that banned
the land-filling of appliances which contained Freon. At about the
same time, the charge for Freon removal increased.
Suddenly, used appliances became a
problem. Stores weren’t taking them as trade-ins, so consumers were
stuck with the old appliances when they bought new ones. Morris
noted that there were a lot of appliances left on roadsides, and the
counties were paying to clean up the mess. That’s when he hatched
his idea for a white goods program, and he started selling his idea
to the local governments.
What Morris proposed was that the
counties would set aside space where consumers could drop off
appliances. Morris, with a portable baler, would bale the material
and haul it away, and he would pay for the metal. The counties were
interested, and Morris’s Environmental Recycling was
The first full year in business,
Morris and his one used baler processed 3,000 tons of local
material. “We made a real good reputation with all the state
people,” Morris said. Now he has five portable balers, and last year
he processed 27,000 tons from Kentucky and several other states. One
of his balers has been in Florida, working on a 6,000,000 pound pile
of aluminum left from last year’s hurricanes.
Morris said that the key to doing
business with people is that “you find out how you can help them –
it’s all sales.” When there was a fire at one of the local Jim Beam
distilleries, Morris looked over the situation and realized that the
alcohol-fueled fire had burned almost everything except the barrel
hoops and nails. With his portable baler, he cleaned it up in five
Since then, he’s been involved in
similar projects at two other distillery locations, and estimates
that he has baled a total of 300 tons of metal from those projects.
Most of that metal was barrel hoops, while a small portion was from
the buildings that burned.
Morris likes to take on challenges;
where other companies estimate that projects will take months or
years, he tries to find ways to shorten the process. One such
project was for Reynolds Aluminum in Arkansas, when they were
demolishing a 1940’s era plant that had asbestos contamination.
Competitors scoffed when he came up with his proposal. “They said,
‘you can’t do this’ and that’s what I needed to hear,” Morris
explained. His workers attended classed to get asbestos-worker
qualifications. With the mobile baler, the project was finished in
11 days. “We do projects like that,” Morris said.
While the outside world may call
Morris a recycler, he thinks of himself as a salesman, “Everything
I’ve done has been on a handshake,” he said. He is also frank with
his customers that he is in the business to make money, “I tell them
I’m a mercenary, not a missionary,” Morris said, so later on if they
have any questions, he tells them to refer back to that statement
and understand his position.
While Morris didn’t learn about the
recycling business from his father, his children are involved with
the company. He noted that his daughter and son “were the best
balers we had.” His son, Shawn, is now the company vice
Morris said that when Shawn got his
first car at 16 and was going take the car for an oil change, Shawn
said he didn’t have to know how to change the oil – he was going to
get a college education and would always be able to pay for the
service. Morris told him “it never hurts to work on things and
Now, Shawn is the best at fixing any
piece of equipment the company owns, and often comes in with grease
and dirt on his clothes. Morris teases him that he got that college
education just so he could get dirty working on the equipment.
But while Morris teases his son, he
also is confident that some day Shawn will have to take over the
company because, “when you get old, you want to ride motorcycles and
act like you’re