‘This industry has bred nothing but tough people’ • Recycling International – Recycling International

US recycling technology specialist John Sacco is looking back on ‘very good’ results last year. The Sierra International Machinery frontman is optimistic about the next couple of months. He says resourceful and tough people in scrap are keeping their eye on the ball.

How would you describe the market for recycling tech?

‘The market is still strong. People are investing and processing. The recycled materials industry continues to grow for the need of those materials to feed the consumers with the raw materials they need to make new products.’

Is there a much demand for XL, large or smaller recycling equipment?

‘All the above. Growth in the recycled materials industry is on the rise and investment from small, medium to large players is there. I also think the market is strong for both stationary and mobile solutions.’

How do you look back on 2023?

‘Overall, 2023 was a very good year for Sierra. A lot of it had to do with some of the innovative products we’ve had, plus a strong market for the recycled materials.’

What’s your most popular product?

‘On the waste and paper side, it’s definitely the REB-4 two-ram baler. As far as the shears go, we still see a lot of strength in our regular models – from the RB6000 to the 700 to 900-tonne shear models.’

What do you expect for 2024?

‘I think 2024 looks to be a decent year. In terms of sales, we are seeing growth. This is because the volume of scrap continues to increase as our market is growing. It’s also thanks to new product lines that we’re introducing. We are adding the material handler line for our North and South American markets and are seeing great perception in these products as well as the current product line. Of course, there are always some market constraints.’

Are recyclers ready to invest in innovation or extra capacity?

‘With interest rates as high as they are right now, there is a little bit of hesitation from some people. Many processors know that if they’re not processing the materials they’re receiving, then it doesn’t really matter what interest rates are… they’re not maximising their profits. So, we’re seeing people investing when they know they must produce. Many businesses are growing, so they’re having to reinvest to help produce the extra capacity they’re receiving.’

What would you say to recyclers who would rather save the money and wait?

‘The scariest thing about being in the recycled materials industry is not being able to process your material when the markets are down. That’s where you really lose money. And, you’re not going to be able to take advantage of sending the material out in the month that the price is good when it goes down the next month. I would remind people to keep processing scrap and do what they can to maximise their dollars.’

Is it hard to attract new clients?

‘Our current customer base is vital but new customers are a necessity, too. You can never rely on your current customer base. You always have to grow to reach new customers. I travel a lot to seek out new customers as well as working with our current customers to fill their needs. I’ve been all over the world: South America, Europe, New Zealand, Australia – across the US, Canada and Mexico. Travelling has introduced me to a new network of people who are fantastic.’

Should recyclers apply for more government funding?

‘In the US, government funding grants aren’t so easy to get, and they’re very narrow in what they’re going to give money to. So, yes, there’s money out there but you have to be specific and lucky. Besides, recycling consists of a lot of a niche markets.’

How would you describe the people in scrap?

‘They are definitely tough and driven by an entrepreneurial spirit. They’re not just my colleagues, they’re my friends. These people work with their hands on a daily basis. They’ve risked their investments from the very start. They’ve worked this industry for decades, growing their business. They’ve taken their lumps when the markets drop. They’re taking their lumps when government interferes with the business. This industry has bred nothing but tough people. And in the future, it’s going to be the same.’

Have you checked season 2 of John Sacco’s documentary ‘Repurposed’?