Recyclables Are Big Business at Recla Metals
by Kati O'Hare
Oct 11, 2012 | 2254 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
WIRED – Recla Metals' General Manager Matthews Alvarez standing next to a bundle of wires, which includes strings of Christmas lights, that will be recycled for the copper that's inside. (Photo by Kati O'Hare)
WIRED – Recla Metals' General Manager Matthews Alvarez standing next to a bundle of wires, which includes strings of Christmas lights, that will be recycled for the copper that's inside. (Photo by Kati O'Hare)

MONTROSE – People are finding that everything from discarded microwaves to Christmas lights – anything shiny, and a lot that is not – can earn them a few extra dollars.

On Saturday morning, trucks and trailers line the road into Recla Metals at 136 S. Maple Ave. in Montrose. A few pickup beds are full of aluminum cans; others hold scrap metal and batteries. And some customers visiting the multifaceted metal company in the heart of Montrose pull their old car onto one of several scales.

"People just don't realize how much can be recycled," General Manager Matthews Alvarez said.

Recla Metals has been operating in Montrose, along the Uncompahgre River, since 1974. It is a full-service steel center, with products ranging from metal roofing and landscape edging to custom-designed materials. But for many area residents, Recla provides an outlet for their junk and for extra cash.

Olathe resident Dennis Perrin arrived with his family Saturday. His pickup bed was piled high with garbage bags full of aluminum cans – 110 pounds of them – and four car batteries that were no good. But the batteries were worth something to Recla, which took the batteries and the cans, and give Perrin almost $100.

Recla has seen an increase in customers at its recycling center in the past few years.

"It has to do with the economy, and with green being all the buzz," Alvarez said.

Being able to sell a diversity of products – such as new metal roofing – and taking recyclables gives the business stability, explains Dianne Fulks, whose family owns and operates Recla. When times are good, and new construction is thriving, so is the steel-service aspect of the business. And when the economy takes a dive, its recycling center picks up the slack as people come to get much-needed cash from their recyclables.

"Scrap metal is one of the oldest trades, and steel is the number-one recycled commodity," Alvarez said. "We are a commodity-driven world."

In the Recla Metals’ yard, large bins hold recyclable items, such as bullet casings – brass currently is worth about $1.40 per pound – and copper, found in old Christmas lights, is about $3 per pound. An auto battery will bring about $8.75.

An old stove that weighs about 300 pounds can be traded for $10 to $15, and an old car is reimbursed at $135 per net ton.

Another man visiting the center Saturday brought in a few pieces of copper and scrap bailing tin, and walked away with $12.

The center takes old cell phone and power tool batteries to be recycled, as well as refrigerators, metal kitchen sinks, farm equipment and electric motors.

"I've seen a lot of people survive off of bringing things here," said Greg Fulks, son of Dianne and owner Gary Fulks.

Depending on the products Recla receives, the recyclable items will be shipped by truck or freight train.

In a week, Recla can ship one to five semi-truckloads of aluminum cans, Alvarez said.

"We try to densify, because freight is a big part of the equation," he said.

Small materials are compacted, while larger items are stripped or broken down to be sold to steel mills in areas like Pueblo, Colorado Springs and in Utah. Some items are shipped to Portland, Seattle and Chicago, while others end up overseas – wherever the market is right.

"We are moving thousands of tons a month, and it goes out every day," Alvarez said.

The center also welcomes "sifters" – artists and others who come to Recla to go through the salvageable materials. They buy that material from Recla and use it for sculptures, and in home decor – everything from deck railings to fire pits – and for their businesses.

Greg Fulks calls it "upcycling."  

For example, he said, the owner of the Horsefly Brewing Company in Montrose came in and bought all the old road signs that the center had acquired to use on its newly constructed outdoor patio and bar area.

"We get a lot of people from around the area in here," he said. "I think it's because we have the ability to serve any customer in almost any fashion."

Kati O'Hare at or Tweet @katiohare

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