Operations focus: Value in vinyl

Features - Operations Focus

Pennsylvania-based Shermans Valley Recycling has carved out a vinyl recycling niche that continues to grow.

November 9, 2015
Kristin Smith

When Construction & Demolition Recycling (C&DR) first featured an article about Shermans Valley Recycling in the September/October 2012 issue, the Loysville, Pennsylvania-based vinyl siding and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) recycling company was processing 100,000 pounds of regrind each week. Fast forward to 2015, and the company has more than doubled its throughput and increased its reach throughout the United States.

Shermans Valley Recycling achieved a milestone in June 2015 when it recycled more than 200,000 pounds of PVC products in one week. “It was a great team effort,” says John Langel Sr., a partner and customer service manager for the company.

Shermans Valley Recycling, like many recycling companies, had humble beginnings. Its owner Sam Fisher started the business in 2006 with one small grinder. He got the idea to recycle vinyl siding by reading a trade magazine article. Back then, it took the company two months to produce one trailer load, or 44,000 pounds, of PVC regrind. Nine years later, the company is recycling more than 5 million pounds of vinyl siding and PVC each year with material coming from construction and demolition (C&D) recycling facilities and contractors in 16 states from as far west as Omaha, Nebraska, and as far south as North Carolina.

In addition to the tractor-trailer loads Shermans Valley Recycling receives, it also owns 34 10-yard roll-off containers placed within a 75-mile radius of the facility to collect vinyl siding from local contractors and mobile home manufacturers.

The plastic and vinyl siding is all recycled in a 30,000-square-foot facility comprised of two buildings located on 5 acres and surrounded by farms in rural south central Pennsylvania. Trucks loaded with bales of vinyl siding make their way across the highway to a small two-lane country road, across a one-lane bridge then up a steep hill to get to the recycling facility.

“The first-time truck drivers often comment what a journey it is to make it to the plant safe and sound,” Langel says. “Once they arrive, they never forget the beautiful country view and the great, fast, friendly service they receive at Shermans Valley Recycling.

“Shermans Valley Recycling is looking forward to partnering with anybody in the industry who handles vinyl siding,” he adds.
 

Focusing on what it does best

Shermans Valley Recycling, Loysville, Pennsylvania, has focused on recycling polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and vinyl siding since it was founded in 2006. Earlier in 2015, when a nearby metals recycling company went out of business, owner Sam Fisher decided to venture into nonferrous metals recycling. The company learned quickly it wasn’t a right fit.

“It seemed like there was a need in the community and an opportunity to grow and expand,” recalls John Langel Sr., a partner and customer service manager for Shermans Valley Recycling. “However, after the consistent lower [commodity] prices, the struggle to find the right person to operate that part of the business and finding adequate space to do it right, [founder Sam] Fisher finally concluded, ‘Let’s just get back to what we do best and focus on vinyl siding.’”


 

Processing PVC

Each bale of vinyl siding weighs from 1,200 to 1,800 pounds. The bales are torn open using a tool the company adapted from the agricultural industry. Fisher has a background in agriculture, having been raised on an Amish farm. According to Fisher, some of the bales that enter the facility are cleaner than others. Shermans Valley will accept most vinyl siding panels as long as they do not contain glue. The facility does not accept shutters.

Once the bales are broken open, the siding is hand sorted into light and dark fractions and loaded onto a conveyor. The siding then goes into a shredder, which reduces the material to a size of 3 inches.

Shermans Valley Recycling installed the shredder from Fort Mill, South Carolina-based Weima two years ago; it replaced an older Weima shredder.

Fisher says the shredder’s knives are sharpened once per month and last about one year before having to be replaced. He adds that the siding is very abrasive. “It wears down the blades fast,” he says.

After the material is shredded, it is washed. The small pieces of siding are then fed into two granulators, manufactured by Sweden-based Rapid. The regrind is discharged into Gaylord boxes for shipping.

Shermans Valley Recycling is not attached to the electrical grid. The machinery is currently being powered by a diesel generator, though the company is considering converting to electricity. Nonetheless, Shermans Valley Recycling has been able to ramp up its processing capabilities.

“It is one of the goals of Shermans Valley Recycling to average one load of baled vinyl siding to come in a day and one load of vinyl siding regrind to be shipped out per day,” says Langel. “We recently achieved one of our production goals, which was to send out a load a day for a full week. [In June] that goal was accomplished as we sent over 200,000 pounds of PVC products in one week.”
 

Power in literature

John Langel Sr., partner and customer service manager for Shermans Valley Recycling, Loysville, Pennsylvania, points to two books that have help shaped his career and that of the company’s founder, Sam Fisher. They are Lean Thinking: Banish Waste and Create Wealth in Your Corporation, by James Womack and Daniel Jones, and Go-Giver: A Little Story about a Powerful Business Idea, by Bob Burg and John Mann.

Lean Thinking is constantly teaching me about the significance and importance of flow,” Langel says.

Go-Giver continues to remind Sam of the blessings of being a servant leader and how to put your words into action. This book is a tremendous encouragement to the powerful force of hope to change the world one employee or relationship at a time,” he adds.

Langel continues, “These two books have been an incredible resource for the foundation of my life and business.”


 

Growth factors

In 2012, Shermans Valley Recycling processed 2.5 million pounds of PVC and vinyl. Three years later, the company is processing 5 million pounds. In 2012, Shermans Valley Recycling had nine employees; it now has 12. Fisher attributes the company’s growth to several factors, including advertising in C&DR.

Shermans Valley Recycling helps C&D recyclers and contractors increase landfill diversion rates, which can help them earn points toward LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification. A large amount of vinyl siding remains to be recovered for recycling, Langel says, and the company has the capacity to handle more than it is currently processing.

“There is an amazing amount of vinyl siding material that is still going to the landfill,” he says. “We are always interested in contacting new businesses, starting to build relationships and helping each other save the environment, make a good product and have a whole relationship that is green all the way around.”

Langel says attending recycling conferences has been beneficial to the company. In just the last year, Shermans Valley Recycling has sent delegates to the Northeast Recycling Council Fall Workshop in Massachusetts; NPE2015: The International Plastics Showcase in Orlando, Florida; and C&D World in Nashville, Tennessee.

“These conferences have continued to build friendships, make new contacts through networking and challenged our thinking to newer and better ways to process our material of vinyl siding,” Langel says. “It was great to meet and share with current suppliers and vendors what’s new and innovative with machinery. Plus, it was tremendous to finally meet some people face to face that you have talked with on the phone for years.”

Langel adds, “It is our hope and expectation that if you have some vinyl siding that you don’t know what to do [with] and want to stop taking it to the landfill, please feel free to give us a call or send us an email.”

More information about Sherman’s Valley Recycling is available at www.shermansvalleyrecycling.com or by calling 717-789-3552.


 

The author is editor of Construction & Demolition Recycling and can be reached at ksmith@gie.net. This article first appeared in the August 2015 issue of Recycling Today, a sister publication. The 2012 article, “Humble but hungry,” is available at www.CDRecycler.com/article/CDR-1209-recycling-vinyl-siding.