In today’s modern world, industries must adopt new technologies and practices to ensure they are able to remain competitive and relevant. Although the metal recycling industry is one that operates on a lot of the traditional practices, it too has had to modernize. In this blog, we had the opportunity to sit down with Harbinder Dhillon, president of Richmond Steel Recycling (RSR). RSR’s business involves a range of services aimed at collecting, processing, and selling scrap metal for reuse in manufacturing or other applications. Having been with RSR, which started in 1972, for over 30 years, Harbinder has seen the industry change dramatically. Recycling as a whole wasn’t on most people’s radars until about the mid-20th century, this is when environmental awareness and resource conservation efforts spurred increased interest in recycling, leading to the industry’s initial mainstream recognition. Technological advancements in sorting and processing techniques during the 1980s and 1990s further streamlined operations, making metal recycling more efficient and contributing to its widespread adoption as a crucial component of sustainable waste management. Today, the industry continues to evolve with innovations in recycling technologies, regulations, and a growing global emphasis on circular economy principles. RSR and its president, Harbinder Dhillon, try to ensure they stay at the forefront of the industry leading in safety, innovation, the environment and empowering their team members.

Another day, another challenge.

Embarking on a career in the metal recycling industry brings an exhilarating sense of dynamism and adaptability. The excitement lies in navigating the ever-changing commodities markets and staying ahead of evolving competition. This dynamic environment ensures that every day in the metal recycling industry is filled with challenges and opportunities, making it a thrilling and dynamic field to be a part of.

We asked: What is exciting about working in the metal recycling industry?

Harbinder shared: The commodities markets are always changing, and competition is ever evolving requiring a person to be dynamic.  Change is being caused by all stakeholders and product to be recycled.

We asked: What has changed the most in the metal recycling industry over the past 5-10 years?

Harbinder shared: The biggest change has come from the industry’s ability to attract top talent. As more talent enters the industry, transformation of the industry accelerates.

The history and value of the industry

Scrap metal recycling involves collecting and processing discarded metals like steel, aluminium, copper, and brass to create new materials. The process begins with the collection of metal items from diverse sources, followed by sorting and processing to remove impurities. This may include shredding or melting, depending on the metal type. The recycled metal finds new life in products such as cars, appliances, construction materials, and packaging, fostering a closed-loop system that reduces the demand for virgin materials. Overall, scrap metal recycling is a pivotal practice in extending material lifespan and reducing the environmental impact of metal production, contributing to a more resource-efficient and eco-conscious industrial landscape.

We asked: What is unique about working in the metal recycling industry?

Harbinder shared: Although metal recycling has been going on for a long time, recent change has happened suddenly. This change is quickly reshaping the industry and its potential.

We asked: What is something that most people don’t know about metal recycling or recycling in general?

Harbinder shared: I think the sheer size and role the metal recycling industry plays in everyone’s life is not well understood.  

A deeper understanding and appreciation of the industry. New vs. old.

As stated before, the metal recycling industry is one that has seemed paused in time for certain aspects of the business. This does not mean that businesses and employees were not evolving and improving, but that the traditional practices still had value. RSR prides itself on being a leader in safety, using technology to improve metal recycling processes, and investing in environmental practices, while still taking time to keep the more traditional ways of doing business alive. Visiting client’s, listening to their unique stories and learning from them is something that a lot of companies don’t make the time for, but the relationships that RSR builds with its clients and stakeholders is important to them. As time goes on, RSR hopes to continue to invest in its employees, technologies and the environment to create a beautiful blend between the classic and modern, leading to a sustainable, timeless business.

We asked: What are the biggest challenges facing the metal recycling industry?

Harbinder shared: As some legendary talent retires out of the industry, replacing that talent with employees who are motivated and have the same work ethic will be challenging.

We asked: How does RSR leverage data and analytics to improve operations?

Harbinder shared: RSR uses a host of data collection and analytic tools in assisting decision making. Decisions are data driven rather than based on opinion.

Onwards & upwards: Metal recycling won’t stop, but we must evolve

Having now determined that metal recycling is an essential, sustainable and highly eco-friendly practice that the average consumer should be aware of – it is important to Harbinder that RSR looks ahead and sees what still needs to improve. RSR continues to invest in all aspects of its business to remain competitive and ensure they are bringing their client’s the best metal recycling has to offer. Operating in a commodities market is a challenge within itself, so being able to really prioritize the things at the center of the scrap metal recycling business such as safety, the RSR team, the environment, the communities in which they operate and of course, their clients, is impressive to say the least.

We asked: What upcoming trends do you foresee having a big impact on the metal recycling industry?

Harbinder shared: I think the social licence to operate will dictate which operators remain in business.  Stakeholders will not support old operating practices.

We asked: What is your vision for the future of Richmond Steel Recycling and the metal recycling industry as a whole?

Harbinder shared: For RSR it is to be the most trending setting operator in the industry.  For the industry it is for it to have an image that is in line with current times.

We asked: What makes RSR stand out as an industry leader?

Harbinder shared: RSR is an amazing company for it’s size and that all has to do with the talented people who work as a team to make this happen.  

We asked: What technologies has RSR invested in to improve operations?

Harbinder shared: Recently RSR has invested in multiple technologies including metal separation, radiation scanning and storm water treatment. 

After having the opportunity to sit with Harbinder, there is a feeling of deeper understanding and appreciation for the scrap metal industry and Richmond Steel Recycling. This is a company that backs up the talk with their business practices and provides an essential service to the communities it operates in and around. With RSR, there is no corner cutting or shady deals, they pride themselves on being ethical. Having the opportunity to serve Western Canada, Washington state and Alaska is viewed as their pleasure and they look forward to improving their business so they can better serve their clients, industry partners and the environment. The biggest takeaways from this are:

Safety: The forefront of RSRs business, making sure their employees, industry partners and customers are safe on all of their sites. Without safety, there cannot be any recycling, the risk is too great to humans and the environment.

Innovation: Although Harbinder has been in the industry for three decades, he recognizes the importance of investing in technologies, processes and team members in order to keep the business moving into the future. Being a changemaker, envelope pusher and sometimes the odd one out is OK to RSR as long as it rings true to their core business values.

The work: What must continue regardless of societies trends, regulations, the economy and well, anything really. Since metal recycling is one of the more environmentally friendly resources to reuse it is essential that the average consumer learns that metal recycling, on the smallest level, makes a long term difference to the environment.

The environment: Of course, what really matters to the Richmond Steel RECYCLING. Before it was a buzzword – it was and is the core of the business. From decommissioning huge industrial sites to recycling cars and old appliances, Richmond Steel Recycling Ltd. continues to focus on enhancing their business practices to better serve their customers, communities in which they operate and Mother Earth at large.
Read and learn more about Richmond Steel Recycling at their website or youtube channel.