Stands for Integrity + Excellent Customer Service
In the early 1900’s, Rod’s grandfather Leon Lotzkar left Bulgaria and arrived in Montreal. From there he went to San Francisco for a little bit before settling down in Vancouver. After a few years working as a construction worker, he joined his brother’s business, “Pacific Junk” in 1912. He eventually took over the company and renamed it “Pacific Metals”. Back in those days, the Pacific Metal business was very labour intensive, the staff had a horse drawn carriage and go from house to house to collect scrap, anything and everything from bones to egg shells. The items they collected went to a small piece of land near the Canadian National Railway yard where it got processed then sold.
Leon’s son Joe, daughter Louis Kepeleman, along with Louis’ husband Joe Kepeleman operated Pacific Metals. In 1966, they moved 4 miles to a 2.5 acre location, designed to go vertical to be the most efficient use of space. Due to expensive real estate, Leon decided he should focus on non ferrous metals as his main business servicing fishing, forestry and shipbuilding industries. Under Joe’s management, Pacific Metal expanded their business into paper and plastic recycling.
Parents and teachers love this easy fundraising method, as children relish the idea that they’re making the world a better, healthier, greener place to live while having fun. The bottle drive empowers the children to take personal action to connect with their own community and see the reward on a financial and intrinsic level.
In 1988, Joe’s two sons, Mark and Rod had officially taken over Pacific Metals. Due to the nature of Vancouver, the Lotzkar family began to establish international business ties to sell and ship their commodities to rest of Canada, United States, and 70% heading across the Pacific ocean. Pacific Metal has been trading with China, Japan, Indonesia, South Korea for many decades now, using the ASQIC designation under the smooth leadership of international trade manager Antonia Chow. Rod says the trade is following the industrialization rise in those countries. In the 1960’s, the countries hungriest for commodities was Japan, during the 80’s it was Taiwan and Korea, then China in the 90’s. Currently with China slowing down it’s growth, the market is moving to India. Rod jokingly says: “Scrap is the world’s second oldest profession”. Another influencer in the rise of scrap business was the two world wars, as metal played a big part in the war effort.
Rod Lotzkar prior to joining Pacific Metal, carved out a niche as a gourmet restaurateur, however decided to get into the family business in 1983. He took on the management of two Pacific subsidiaries, Canadian Fibres and New West Glass. In 1992, Rod along with his brother Mark decided to sell the subsidiaries and take the company in a new direction. “We wanted to reverse-integrate into the supply stream,” Lotzkar explains. “Instead of worrying about more real estate and a bigger facility for Pacific, we wanted to build something called Regional Recycling, which is basically a one-stop-shopping recycling facility.”
This ONE STOP SHOP idea is relying very important facts about British Columbia’s environmental heritage: The province has deposit laws for nearly every type of beverage container. Deposits range from 5 to 20 cents, plus recycling fees of up to 5 cents, per container. Consumers who want to recoup their full deposit have to return their containers to an authorized bottle depot.
The Regional Recycling approach is to make those bottle depots as clean, uniform, and family-friendly as possible. By building them in convenient locations in regions with dense or growing populations; and have them share space with small-scale commercial scrap operations. From its first location in the suburb of Richmond, less than three miles from Pacific Metals, Regional Recycling has since expanded into downtown Vancouver. They also have locations in Burnaby, Abbotsford, Whistler, Nanaimo and aiming to open its largest facility yet in Cloverdale in January 2014. Each location is near a major intersection and near home-improvement or other big-box stores. Each has a slightly different set of commercial customers, but the retail sides are nearly identical. “Every brochure is the same, everybody’s uniforms are the same, all the dollies are the same, and everybody gets treated the same way,” Lotzkar says. Rod Lotzkar oversees the Regional Recycling operation primarily from his “mobile office”—a Ford F-150 pickup truck.
Behind the scenes, Regional Recycling is a labor-intensive operation. Each day hundreds of retail customers arrive, sort and tally their own containers, and receive the deposit refund from the cashier. Workers in each warehouse sort containers coming from commercial or municipal customers. Sorted nonalcoholic containers are counted and bagged in clear plastic sacks for return to the stewardship program that pays the deposit and handling fee. Domestic single-serving alcohol bottles, if undamaged, are sorted and returned to their respective breweries through a separate stewardship program. Wine and imported alcohol bottles are sorted by color, crushed, and sent for recycling. Aluminum beer cans and food containers are briquetted, bundled, and sold to aluminum processors. Lotzkar admits that all the counting and sorting, as well as the transportation of whole, unpackaged beverage containers does seem a little strange. But the deposit laws and the handling fees make it work.
Beyond beverage containers, the Regional Recycling operations purchase nonferrous metals and sorted paper and accept ferrous metal, appliances, electronics, and mixed paper. The metals and paper are sorted, baled, and sold to Pacific Metals. This backward integration has given Pacific consistent supplies of various commodities, and it has allowed the company to expand its commercial operation without expanding its facilities. “Instead of putting more infrastructure into Vancouver, we moved the infrastructure to different areas where the development growth is,” Lotzkar says. “We made a concerted decision to spread ourselves out.”
For commercial customers in the greater Vancouver area, the convenience of taking their scrap to a suburban Regional Recycling location outweighs the lower price they might get. Dennis Kinsey, the depot manager for Regional Recycling Abbotsford says. “You can go another 50 miles into Vancouver and get 15, 20, 30 cents more a pound, but your fuel [cost] is going to outweigh what your net gain is on your metals,” he explains. Thus in mid-May, when copper was hitting north of $3.50 a pound, his profit margin was a dollar or more.
The Regional Recycling facilities are a service to the community, Lotzkar points out. They make it convenient for residents to redeem their bottle deposits and, at the same time, recycle other items they’d rather not throw away. “The Province of British Columbia’s recycling program is all about convenience.” he says, “So it’s up to people like us to provide facilities that are extremely convenient [that people] can get in and out of quickly. That’s our motivation. One, we want to provide a service, and two, we want the handling fees.”
When you visit the different depots, you will soon discover the amazing regional recycling staff. They are are passionate about recycling, long term sustainability and family-like atmosphere. There are quite many long term employees that work for Regional Recycling, Tung the scrap metal buyer in the Richmond Depot has been there for over 20 years and has quite a few of his family members as co-workers. You will hear banter and jokes between the staff and its long-term customers, as well as conversations among the different customers. You will see balloons being given away to children, a recycled bouquet by the cashier, and a bin to collect food for the Vancouver Food Bank. At the Vancouver Depot, there is even a separate section specifically designed for “Binners” who make up 30% of the clientele that frequents that depot. These are homeless people who make a living by cleaning up the garbage around Vancouver, who work all night long, and taking pride in doing something good and worthwhile.