Why do we do it?

Sometimes I ask myself why I work in this industry. Let’s be honest, at a dinner party or social occasion, when I’m asked what I do, and I reply referring to scrap metal processing or scrap machinery, normally there aren’t any follow on questions, the conversation moves on to more interesting “other” things.

For some reason scrap is not generally interesting.

For sure the scrap metal processing industry seen from outside has an image problem.  And yet the people I have met who work in it for the most part are real characters and some are really great businessmen and great people too, these are people I listen to,  respect and try my best to learn from.   So, not just me.. but also you reading this, why do you do it?   How did you get into scrap metal  recycling? What is it about scrap metal and scrap metal processing that keeps us here day in day out?

My particular interest is  scrap metal processing machinery , things like scrap shear and balers,  gravity feed shears and 1,2 and 3 compression balers and our No.1 best seller, car balers, all of which I find fascinating. I love scrap machinery,  what it does , how it is built, how it breaks and how it’s fixed, anything to do with scrap recycling equipment really.

My start in scrap was from a very early age.

GPS ship breaking - scrap metal processing - scrap recycling equipment - scrap machinery

I used to go to my dad’s Scrap Yard. Mostly to play but also if my luck was in to earn good money too. (picking up nonferrous to fill an oil drum which took all day. I’d get 4 pounds sterling in about 1970 which was big bucks for me!!).  So yes, my dad was a Scrap Man (he’s now 84 and he’s still what I call a Scrap Man). He started as a boy himself in ship breaking and demolition at the age of 14, it was his first real job even though he’d worked almost full time from the age of 8.

A brutal industry.

Ship breaking was quite a brutal industry to be in. It forged his personality, he’d have been a tough guy no matter what he did. But the Scrap Industry just amplified it. And that somehow got distilled into his parenting approach, so you can forget all about me playing at a Montessori school with kids called Tarquin and Tobias, no we (me and my brother) had scrap yard dogs to play with. I can tell you a few of them were pretty mean, nasty, hard dogs. And what a great place it was to grow up in. If a car came in I could smash it up… nobody cared!  I found all sorts of things that would explode off the ships which I used to put on the bomb fires and then run for cover!

The scrap yard was full of anything that came off a ship. I could make and build all sorts of contraptions using whatever I found laying around. I think my favorite was the explosions I used to cause with whole cans of easy start spray. One day I threw in so many full cans in one go that after the explosion all that was left was just …. a crater!  I ran for cover (dad wasn’t around that day thank God).

Actually one day dad did fire off a beautiful brass flare gun that came off a vessel, it was amazing. This flare went up very high and had a kind of parachute that kept it aloft. It seemed to burn for ages bright red!!  Dad and me, we were admiring it up there and within 2 minutes we had a search and rescue helicopter hovering over our scrapyard searching for a sinking ship. Oops… Dad ran for cover and after a while the helicopter went and he didn’t get a fine either for wasting the coastguards time. It was silly really because we were on a tidal creek maybe 2 miles inland. Even if your ship had sunk you could have just waited for low tide and walked ashore across the muddy creek.

Can’t see myself doing anything else

I did actually study to work in the construction industry. But somehow I’ve gravitated back to what my dad (and older brother) did all their working lives and now I couldn’t see myself doing anything else. I really like the scrap metal industry and scrap recycling equipment. I’ve met some outstanding excellent people at all levels.  I’ve traveled far and wide across various continents, for me scrap has been and continues to be a great adventure.  I know that what I learnt just from observing my dad has been a good foundation and now  hopefully I’m seen as a reliable trustworthy person the way he was.

Scrap metal processing yards, scrap machinery, the piles of metal, the smoke, the dust, the smells of God knows what toxic substances in the air. The grease and oil mixed with mud are normal to me. As a kid I played in that environment and as an adult dirt doesn’t bother me at all.

For me a scrap yard is a business opportunity and a Rubik’s cube rolled into one. If you lost money today, never mind. Tomorrow you won’t make that mistake again. You got ripped off today, never mind. Next time you’ll look harder. You did a great deal, great! But don’t think it will always be like that. The scrap industry and the scrap itself will test you every day, they will try to knock you down and if you can get up, you’re stronger for it..

Scrap Industry: Where a handshake still counts

The scrap industry seems to have resisted the modern world. It’s still an industry where your handshake counts and your reputation is your calling card and your word is your bond, and if you lose face in this game you won’t go very far.

The scrap metal recycling industry has been a very good schooling for me. I’ve been in contact with it all my life. I feel at home there and I just like it. I found my niche in selling scrap recycling equipment. My feeling is that the scrap metal industry is a bit like the wild west I suppose. Still untamed by boring men in suits. Scrap never gets boring and keeps you on your toes, so at the proverbial dinner party when I get bypassed for being a ruffian accompanied by the associated looks of horror, I just have to laugh to myself and think… “yeah.. who cares what you think anyway? you pussy you..”

Pierluigi Sambolino