Walk into the dining area of Cohen’s main office and you might find Justin Noble in there grinding coffee beans by hand and preparing hot water for a perfect, French-pressed cup. It’s a habit that can turn heads in the usually no-fuss world of scrap metal recycling, but for Justin, it’s worth it.
“I like the ceremony of grinding the beans and getting the water to the proper temperature,” he explains. “You get a coarser grind than drip or espresso. I think it makes a better cup of coffee.”
Doing things the right way to get the most out of your efforts is a value Justin brings to his work with his customers, too – and why he believes in recycling to begin with.
THE WIDER WORLD OF SCRAP RECYCLING
When people learn that he works at Cohen, Justin says they often assume that he is posted on the retail side of the business – the recycling centers that Cohen operates throughout the region, where the public can bring their scrap metal to sell. Justin himself says that when he came to interview for his position here, he assumed he too would be working with customers bringing in cans and copper wiring to our drive-thru’s. He soon learned that that’s just one of many ways the Cohen sources scrap metal.
As a scrap buyer and account manager for Cohen’s commercial scrap services, Justin works with businesses that generate scrap and the dealers who trade in it, to keep the metal flowing through the supply chain efficiently.
That side of scrap is largely invisible to the average person, but Justin points out that it’s actually all around us. “People do not realize how intertwined recycling is with their lives. The paper products you use, the car you drive, the electricity supplied to your house – recycling has had a hand in these things, one way or another.”
For instance, a lot of scrap material comes through the construction and demolition industries. “Old hospitals, coal-fired power plants, bridges, roadways: all of these have a wide variety of metals in them,” Justin explains. “Aluminum, copper tubing, copper pipe, steel, wire, and so on. All of these companies need an outlet for their byproduct.”
During the COVID-19 pandemic, disruptions to the industrial supply chain have affected the global scrap trade, including manufacturing and demolition activity. As an essential business, Cohen was able to keep servicing commercial customers through the disruption and supplying material as manufacturing began to pick back up.
BRINGING RECYCLING LESSONS HOME
Having the inside perspective on the recycling industry really drove home for Justin just how much waste material can be reused and recycled, and why it should be. The positive impacts of recycling are something he hopes future generations continue to value.
“Recycling is easy, it’s just a matter of getting used to it and making it a part of your routine,” he explains. “What makes the difference is the individual effort to recycle as efficiently as possible.” He believes in the importance of starting young, and looking to schools and other public venues as opportunities to help educate kids.
As a father of three, it’s an example he is already setting for them at home. “My older [daughter] asks me all the time, ‘Is this recycling or trash?’ When I was a kid, we didn’t have a recycling bin. A generation later, now there’s more material in my recycling bin at home than there is in our trash. It just comes naturally now.”
He points to consumer habits as one of the more pressing reasons to reinforce a good recycling reflex. The trend toward disposable products and replacing things rather than repairing or reusing them has created an ever-increasing volume of waste. While there is a growing effort to push product designers and manufacturers to take responsibility for the end of the product lifecycle, Justin says consumers can also do their part by choosing brands that show a commitment to sustainability.
PEOPLE POWERED RECYCLING
It’s easy to reduce the story of recycling to one of stuff – material, landfills, pollution, natural resources, and economics. But ultimately, it comes down to people. Protecting and preserving the environment is a benefit to communities and the people who work, live, and play there. As a family-owned business for four generations, service to the community always been one of Cohen’s central values.
“It’s great working for the family,” Justin says. “They are experts in their field, and I don’t find too many folks that care about their people and their community like Ken Cohen. He does it so unconditionally.”
Justin points out the electronics collection events that Cohen has put on for the public, as well as for individual organizations or businesses that recruit our help to hold their own event. Due to the labor and costs involved in recycling many electronics, events like those are not always the most lucrative for Cohen, but the benefit to the community is evident when we see how many people are eager to come recycle their old e-waste.
That eagerness to be of help is reflected in how Justin builds relationships with his commercial clients, too. “It’s always going to be a very personal interaction, daily,” he says. And with the breadth of Cohen’s capabilities, “We’re here to help in any capacity, whether it’s scrap related or not.”
Ultimately, it’s the future — “handing off a better planet than we were given” — that inspires Justin to continue advocating for recycling, at work and at home.
LIGHTNING ROUND Q&A
Favorite meal to make: Chicken with cream of mushroom soup, stuffing, and mashed potatoes
Skyline or Goldstar Chili?: Skyline all the way
Pineapple on pizza? I will eat it but not order it
What will you catch him singing along to? “Baby Shark,” or other catchy kids songs I can’t get out of my head
Words of advice: “Recycling is great, but reuse is better. Get as much longevity out of your stuff as possible. But if it is absolutely done, please recycle it. Stuff sitting in landfills doesn’t do any good.”