wake of the widespread storm damage across the South, a huge
influx of appliances has been available to scrap yards. The
only problem is finding workers willing to handle the
refrigerators and freezers in particular because, to put is
succinctly, they stink.
of these units are full of rotting, decaying, putrid lettuce,
hamburger, milk, butter and unfrozen pizzas, and the problem
goes beyond smell.
"Before you can handle the refrigerators you’ll have to
find someone to deal with all of the stuff that is in those
refrigerators," says Harold Tenenbaum of A. Tenenbaum &
Co., North Little Rock, Ark. "Someone is going to have to get
them clean and sanitary."
Tenenbaum says his company is aware of the problems in the
Gulf, he doesn’t want any of the scrap until it has been
cleaned. He says, "I won’t subject my people to that kind of
thing. It is too much of a health hazard."
SETTING UP A
The government recognized the problem and has set up
programs to clean appliances left in the wake of Katrina and
Environmental Recycling (ER), Lexington, Ky., has held
its nose and taken its ferrous balers to the scene. The
company has had two units that were initially compressing
4,000 to 6,000 refrigerators daily, until the flow increased
to 12,000 per day. ER keeps adding balers in an attempt to
keep up with the work.
the appliances coming from flood-ravaged areas can be ripe, by
the time the ER folks get the appliances to bale, they are not
are not taking care of the bio-hazard. We are only doing the
baling," says ER’s James Boutcher. The Army Corps of Engineers
and FEMA are taking care of contracting out the cleanup of the
freezers and refrigerators.
President H.C. Morris is in New Orleans. He sounds somewhere
between busy and frazzled. "Everything is a problem here:
finding places to stay, getting food, finding fuel."
business is booming. By the end of October, he had seven
balers working in New Orleans and expected three or four new
units to come in shortly. Another pair of balers are working
in Mississippi, and another unit is going to Florida to clean
up after Wilma.
got one site working 24 hours," Morris says. He runs the
company with his son Shawn. He figures they are baling 20 tons
per hour, around the clock. At 15 refrigerators per ton, the
numbers add up fast.
Boutcher does not even try to describe the smell at the
worksites. "It smells pretty bad. Pretty bad," he says. "It’s
something to get used to." The staff wears respirators, which
help a bit.
goods have been brought to central sites, either area fields
or landfills. Refrigerators are processed at these temporary
debris reduction sites.
the biohazard crew shovels the decaying meat and other
semi-solid gook out of the refrigerators. The units are washed
in an alcohol-bleach solution before moving to the
"We are running double
shifts," Boutcher says. ER runs 10-hour shifts with two-hour
breaks. Currently, the company is hiring almost any qualified
person who is looking for work.
the material ER processes in the four affected parishes of
Louisiana, as well as much of the Mississippi material, goes
to Southern Scrap Recycling. "They are talking over 1 million
appliances and 150,000 vehicles in New Orleans alone," says
Randy Boudreaux, manager at Southern Scrap Recycling, of the
overall hurricane damage.
wake of the storms, Southern Scrap moved its New Orleans
headquarters to Baton Rouge. By the end of October, Boudreaux
was back doing business in New Orleans. "Our scale is
operational," he reports. "We are working out of one of the
buildings that had minimal damage." He hopes to be more fully
operational by mid-November, depending on the power supply.
Right now, the bales are being stockpiled until full power is
restored to run the shredders.
everyone else, Boudreaux has noticed the odor from the
freezers and refrigerators. "The smell is a given," he says.
"But before we see them, they are remediated and refrigerant
is removed. Other than that, they are typical
handles some Freon removal, but another contractor does most
of that work. The company also records the brand and serial
number of the units so they can be reported back to
manufacturers like Amana or Maytag.
Farther North, Sam Jacobs
of Columbus Metal Industries, Columbus, Neb., says, though he
has heard about the situation in the South, the company has
not yet seen any influx of appliances from the storm
is] kind of mediocre—we’re not real busy," Jacobs says. Part
of that is attributable to the seasonal slowdown resulting
from the amount of farm work going on in the area during the
September-to-November harvest season; part is in light of
were up about $50 in September, then dropped $40 in October.
"I’m hoping for a happy medium in November," Jacobs says. He
says it takes a couple of weeks for word-of-mouth on pricing
to circulate. "That leaves only about two weeks for hauling,"
November prices perking back up and the farm season tapering
off, Jacobs expects to see more action.
encourage counties without recycling programs to start with
white goods," says Thomas Heil, coordinator of the Kentucky
Recycling and Marketing Assistance Program, part of the
state’s Division of Waste Management, based in Frankfort. In
addition to keeping appliances out of creek beds and ditches,
appliance collection programs can create positive cash flow
for local solid waste programs.
says, "When properly advertised, a municipality will get
several hundred tons of appliances."
Iowa, the recycling of appliances is a somewhat different
game. The state has some stringent rules on the flow of
appliances. "You can’t shred or bale an appliance unless it is
decommissioned by someone who has a state permit," says Dan
Wycoff of Shine Bros. Co., Spencer, Iowa. The company started
its shredder about one year ago, and appliances are part of
the usual run. But Shine Bros. is not involved in draining or
the unwanted materials—PCBs, Freon, refrigerants—must be
removed by a certified operation. Those operators tag
individual units, certifying that they have followed state
guidelines. Shine Bros. does not perform decommissioning
services itself. But the company makes sure the regulations
are followed by those who provide materials and accept only
tagged appliances for shredding. "We follow the state
guidelines quite religiously," Wycoff says.
Typically, a load of material will come from the
decommissioning site baled and ready for shredding. Removal of
other fractions, such as plastic, is up to the individual
decommissioning firm. From its point of view, Shine Bros. is
interested only in the metal.
flood of appliances from the hurricane-damaged areas does not
dim Tenenbaum’s view of the ferrous scrap market.
don’t think it will affect the market a bit," he says. "It
will be your tax dollars at work to recycle all of this."
Tenenbaum expects the government to foot the bill for hauling
the appliances to central sites and cleaning them. "It will be
very, very expensive."
Boudreaux says, however, that he does not think that
the huge volume of material will have that much effect on the
price of scrap appliances. All of the material Southern Scrap
processes will go to domestic mills. "We could export it from
our dock right here," he notes. "But we haven’t shipped
anything overseas in 15 years."
cost of trucking is up. The price the Army Corps is paying
contractors to haul debris has driven up the price—but more in
the area of 20 percent as opposed to some of the wilder rumors
of $3 to $4 per mile that made the rounds at truck stops.
While that will add to the price of a ton of scrap, most
observers feel that the market will be able to handle the
increased volume. Much of the material generated in the Deep
South will stay in the local market, with perhaps some
displacement of material into the Mid-South and Midwest.
Pricing is seen evening out farther from the storm
author is a Recycling Today contributing
editor based in Cleveland. He can be reached at email@example.com.