Cooper Tank Recycling

BROOKLYN-BASED COMPANY THAT RECYCLES C&D IS ONE OF NYC’S LEADING WASTE-TRANSFER YARDS

Oct 4, 2012

Reliable Komatsu equipment and top dealer support

In New York City, where land is scarce and expensive, disposing of waste is a problem. Creating enough new landfills to bury everything is not feasible — not only would it be cost-prohibitive, it would also be an environmental nightmare. That’s why recycling is so important. It extends landfill life, saves energy, and creates products that allow us to conserve natural resources.

Brooklyn-based Cooper Tank Recycling, located between the Queens-Midtown Tunnel and Williamsburg Bridge, is a city leader in recycling of construction and demolition (C&D) waste. A division of Cooper Tank and Welding Corp., Cooper Tank Recycling opened its doors in 1986. The company accepts brick, concrete and aggregate, as well as wood, metals, rigid plastics and paper products, primarily from demolition contractors, contract haulers and garbage contractors.

“We’re an independent transfer station,” explained General Manager Ray Kvedaras. “We accept C&D waste and do some initial processing, then most of it goes to secondary recyclers that process it further for end-market use. We don’t own any trucks. People deliver waste to us, and other people pick up material from us.” Kvedaras says Cooper Tank Recycling is able to recycle 80 percent of the C&D debris it takes in. The remaining 20 percent is waste that the company sends to a landfill.

“Our recovery rate is good compared to industry averages,” said Kvedaras. “More than 100 trucks a day pass through here. We currently handle about 1,300 tons of material per day and we recycle well in excess of 1,000 tons of it. Of course, it’s an ever-changing marketplace. Right now, due to the construction slowdown, there’s limited demand for recycled brick and concrete, so our preference, at least for the time being, is to focus primarily on commodities such as plastics and paper.”

Cooper Tank Recycling is a 40,000-square-foot property that’s open 24 hours a day, from Monday morning until Saturday evening.

“New York has been called ‘the city that never sleeps,’ so staying open all night is just the nature of things for a business like ours,” said Kvedaras. “We’ve got to be open when our customers need us, and because construction and hauling go on 24 hours a day here, our doors are always open.”

Teamwork and safety

Cooper Tank Recycling employs 60 people. In addition to Kvedaras, key personnel include Equipment Manager Fulvio Guggino, Office Manager Debbie McNamara and Scale Operator Jennifer Karlsen.

“This isn’t an easy business,” said Kvedaras. “It takes hard work to be successful and everybody who works here contributes to the success we’ve had. They understand we’re a team. It takes all of us working together to make a go of it, and our employees are willing to do what needs to be done.”

“He can’t say it himself, but Ray Kvedaras is also a big reason we’re where we are,” said Guggino, the equipment manager. “Everybody looks up to him. He keeps business coming in and keeps us all on the same page. We all have to work somewhere, and because of Ray, I can’t think of anyplace I would rather be — and I think most of the employees feel that way.”

“We don’t have much turnover, so our crews are very experienced,” said Kvedaras. “That helps us operate more efficiently and safely — and safety is our top priority. We have regular safety meetings and inspections from outside consultants. Our goal is zero accidents. Working safely makes us more productive and more profitable, plus it’s the right thing to do. We’re a family-oriented company and we want to do everything in our power to ensure that our workers go home safely each night.”

Reliable equipment and top dealer support

When it comes to mobile equipment to handle the constant flow of material coming into the yard, Cooper Tank Recycling has turned largely to Komatsu machines from Edward Ehrbar Inc. The company has five Komatsu PC160 hydraulic excavators and four Komatsu WA380 wheel loaders.

“We believe in buying quality equipment,” asserted Kvedaras. “We could buy stuff that’s cheaper, but I don’t want the headaches that come with it. We run 24 hours a day in a tough environment. We don’t have any extra machines sitting around, so we have to be able to count on our machines to work every day and every night. Our equipment has to be productive and reliable, and our Komatsu units are.”

“We first turned to Komatsu a few years ago and have been very pleased,” reported Guggino. “Our operators like to run Komatsu machines and our mechanics like to work on them. We keep a fairly new fleet so we don’t have much repair work. We do our own routine maintenance, and compared to some other brands, we’ve found Komatsu machines are easy to service.”

In order to ensure outstanding uptime, Cooper Tank Recycling recently entered into a warranty agreement with Ehrbar to purchase Komatsu Premier 36-month warranties (essentially full, bumper-to-bumper coverage) for virtually all their machines.

“Our plan is to turn the machines over basically every three years,” said Guggino. “At the end of three years, we’ve probably put about 8,000 hours on our excavators and 13,000 to 16,000 hours on our wheel loaders. Again, we want maximum uptime and the productivity that comes with that. Our thought is that by continually updating our fleet and keeping the machines under full warranty, we’ll get the uptime we’re looking for.”

“Beyond the warranty and the quality of the equipment, another big factor in our buying decision is the dealer, and Ehrbar, in our opinion, is the best dealer around,” insisted Kvedaras. “They do more for the customer than the average dealer does. Everything is not always black and white. Often, there are gray areas as to what’s fair. At Ehrbar, they’re always willing to consider our point of view and try to meet us halfway. We’re not just a number. They care about us and try to make us happy, and that means a lot.”

Business is improving

Kvedaras says Cooper Tank Recycling has plenty of competition for its waste-handling services in New York City.

“There are probably six facilities within about a one-mile radius of our yard. Price is crucial so we stay competitive with everybody. But we also try to differentiate ourselves by offering an easy drop-off experience. And because time is money, we get trucks in and out as quickly and efficiently as possible.”

Kvedaras says he sees business picking back up again, but it’s still not at the level it was pre-recession. “There’s definitely more work being done now than a few years ago. That means more C&D waste and we’re certainly seeing an increase. But our volume is still about 200 tons a day less than we were doing back in 2006 and 2007.”

One of the problems, he says, is too much competition for demolition jobs. “Contractors have to bid so low they don’t have much money left over to pay to dispose of what they tear down. So we’re being rather selective about who we accept. We hope that situation begins to work itself out soon, and when it does, we should be able to get back to previous tonnage levels and possibly exceed them.”

In the meantime, Kvedaras says Cooper Tank Recycling will do what it takes to remain competitive.

“I like this business and I think most of the people who work here like it too. It’s fast-paced, ever-changing, and there are always new challenges. As long as we continue to modernize our yard and our equipment, and continue to give our customers a superior transfer experience, we are optimistic about the future.”