Call opens doors for recycling depot

“Because I was operating out of a home office with one truck, I had zero overhead. I started bidding on full containers of copper products out of the States, very aggressively. To make a long story short, within the first year, I was one of the biggest brokers for AT&T for scrap metal, in North America.”

By John Devine

If one definition of success is preparedness meets opportunity, then Rudy Westerneng was prepared for the phone call that helped propel his recycling business and vision, GreenGo Recycling Depot, forward.
The Barrie entrepreneur, a self-described ‘recychologist,’ began his recycling business four years ago, running it out of a pig barn in Innisfil and with a cube van he bought with a line of credit.
The venture has since expanded to a 13,000-square-foot enterprise at 151 John Street, a building owned and maintained by PBM Realty Holdings Inc., currently “putting through anywhere from 100 to 200 tons a month in electronic waste.”
From its humble beginnings buying and selling non-ferrous metals from local commercial and residential sources, the business has grown into one of Ontario’s top three collectors of electronic waste, employing as many as six full-time employees and five to 10 part-time workers.
It was an early attempt at branding and marketing, which including brokering as a listed service, that brought about ‘the call’ from AT&T asking if GreenGo Recycling Depot was interested in being added to the telecommunication giant’s bidding list of brokers.
“Brokering is where you buy and sell material – the middle man. I got a phone call … and it was, ‘hello, my name is Karen, and I’m calling from AT&T. I’m the purchasing director for the whole west coast of the US.’ And I laughed and said, ‘oh come on, who is this?’ And she said, ‘seriously, this is AT&T calling. We heard that you’re offering brokering services and we would like to put you on our bidding list.’”
Of course he would, he said. As it happened, his business setup at the time lent itself to successful bidding outcomes.

“Because I was operating out of a home office with one truck, I had zero overhead. I started bidding on full containers of copper products out of the States, very aggressively. To make a long story short, within the first year, I was one of the biggest brokers for AT&T for scrap metal, in North America.”
A broker, he explains, buys material such as scrap metal and sells it on the open market to the highest bidder. AT&T is a source of a lot of material, literally hundreds of thousands of kilometres of cables and power lines all over the United States. When the lines are replaced, the company arranges for a contractor to remove them.
“They package it and sell it to the highest bidder, as scrap material. As a broker, I purchase that material, but, of course, being just a guy in an office, I can’t process it or turn it into raw goods. So I sell it to someone who can.”
The opportunity, he says, gave him his first business nest egg – time and funds to focus on the growth of his business.
“Using those funds, I started trading full-load materials locally – doing the exact same thing, just right here in southern Ontario. I was more hands-on, I could visually see the material I would buy and sell to local dealers and processors right here.”
GreenGo Recycling Depot was subsequently established in a 3,000-square-foot plant on Morrow Road, where residential, commercial and industrial customers could drop off scrap metal, and specifically non-ferrous scrap metals like copper, brass and aluminum, and electronic waste, and be paid market-based rates.
A series of marketing campaigns were overwhelmingly successful, says Westerneng, resulting in the move to 151 John Street, under the PBM flag. Not only is business good there, MIT (maintenance, insurance, taxes) are taken care of as part of his gross lease.
“I found dealing with PBM to be a great experience – they are very flexible and accommodating. Move-in requirements for us were nil. They were very happy to make adjustments and renovations to make us comfortable here.
“At the time, I had only been in one other facility for one year. I was very fresh, completely entrepreneurial with no track record at all, and they basically welcomed me in there. At the end of the day they were eager to support me.”
Green Go Recycling Depot, says Westerneng, is a certified reuse and refurbishment facility, as well as a generator.
“What that means is that we abide by all the standards put in place by Ontario Electronics Stewardship. All of the material collected locally goes to an approved processor, which is an audited company in Ontario that has been certified to recycle electronic waste.”
It’s also a family business, employing his sister, Jenna, in administration and his brother, Greg, in sales. Originally from Winnipeg, the family moved to Toronto and then to Utopia, giving Westerneng his Barrie roots. He got his start in the recycling business with Barrie Metals, where he learned his trade, leaving to start his own business.
Based on his own experience in the business, Westerneng wrote a curriculum three years ago, and named it ‘recychology.’ The course, he says, was originally approved by Georgian College, but didn’t generate a lot of interest at the time. However, the push is on for it to be approved as a university-level course, to be taught under the environmental sciences and engineering departments.
“It’s basically a manual that covers solid-waste recycling technology from a commodity-recovery point of view, which is very unique. You’ll find many environmental sciences courses focused on stainability and how to create products that are more efficient, but recychology focuses solely on the de-manufacturing of those products and how to create products that are easy to recycle, strictly from a secondary commodity point of view.”
“I do claim to be the first recychologist.”
His dream and vision for GreenGo Recycling Depot is a facility to which one could bring almost anything to be recycled, and get paid for that commodity. He imagines a drive-through depot of sorts, where commodities are dropped off at one window, and payment collected at another.
“I want to make recycling accessible and convenient, and I want to educate people that anything that is physically tangible has use as a secondary commodity.”

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