Scrap Collectors Finding More Benefit Among Debris

By AARON J. KENDEALL | September 4, 2012

Mike Hixenbaugh’s truck was filled with an oil tank, some tin rods, an old bathtub and other scrap refuse from the site of a recently demolished mobile home.

To the owners of the Pennsylvania property from which the materials were hauled, the waste was an unwanted hassle. But for Hixenbaugh, it made for a good day of work.

“It would probably just sit there,” if he didn’t pick it up, said Hixenbaugh, of Avella. “Maybe it would end up in a landfill.”

Although they have recently fallen from near-record levels in 2011, scrap metal resale prices are still high. The resale values of metals like tin, aluminum and steel have been a boon to local materials recyclers and scrap yards.

They also led to a change of career for the entrepreneurial Hixenbaugh.

When the death of a manager at the electronics company he worked for caused the environment to become stressful, he decided to give full-time material waste hauling a try.

“A year-and-a-half ago, I wasn’t going anywhere with my job and I wasn’t happy,” Hixenbaugh said.

He was hauling old I-beams from the property of his late grandparents’ house to a local scrap yard when he had a revelation.

“I made more in that afternoon than I would have in week,” Hixenbaugh said. “I was a lot happier, so I decided to quit my job and do this.

“I’ve been doing it ever since.”

In addition to hauling construction waste and residential scrap, Hixenbaugh picks through antique items at construction sites, flea markets and junkyards. He resells pieces to antique shop purveyors and other collectors.

“I know what I’m looking for,” Hixenbaugh said. “So when I’m out and about I can get a decent price and resell. If I just had to rely on scrapping, it would be very tight.” Hixenbaugh said that he wouldn’t have been able to make the career change without the support of his wife, Sheri, and his two children, Kenna, 10, and Owen, 6. But the high prices in the international commodities market made the transition a lot easier, as well.

“Last year, I made a little more than I would’ve at my old job,” Hixenbaugh said.

Hixenbaugh isn’t the only person making a profit from the resale of scrap metals.

“Now we’re getting a lot more regular customers that find out, Hey, we can turn in this old refrigerator and get money for it,”‘ said Kim Weiland, office manager for Canon-Mac Metals. “Instead of leaving it laying out by the driveway, you can get a couple bucks for it.”

But the high resale value means that theft has become more attractive to criminals.

“We just recently went through a rash of thefts at the beginning of the year,” said Al Coghill, detective for the Canonsburg Police Department. He said that the majority of thefts come from older, abandoned homes with copper piping. It is important for homeowners to make sure their properties don’t seem abandoned and to secure any metals on the premises. Companies are encouraged to stamp their copper spools with a logo or seal.

“Just make sure to protect the things that are worth something,” Coghill said.

Advocates of the industry said that a healthy recycled metals industry is an important part of the economy.

“The scrap recycling industry is very important because it allows people to benefit from the front end of the global industry chain,” said Kevin Lawlor, spokesman for the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, a trade association based in Washington, D.C. “There’s desire worldwide from the international market right now for metals, plastics and electronics that are both used here and also sent abroad to fuel the need for commodities and materials.”

Development in China and Brazil helped to drive the market prices for recycled metals to their recent high point. Lawlor said that the scrap industry has a positive effect on America’s economy by adding to the nation’s exports. They also help to preserve virgin resources by recycling waste.

At Canon-Mac Metals in Canonsburg, Hixenbaugh unloaded the heap of material from the bed of his pickup truck. After weighing his truck on an electronic scale, he headed to the front office for his payout.

At little over a half-ton, the haul from the trailer site earned him $127.

Not a bad chunk of change for an afternoon’s work.

Information from: Observer-Reporter,

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.