Candace Rutherford • 334-288-5002
Candace Rutherford said that
ending up at United Plastic Recycling (UPR) was “kind of serendipitous.”
While the company has three locations, her job allows her to
do a lot of her work from home, which is ideal for her. “I’ve
worked for large companies, and I’ve worked for small companies.
Now I work for a privately owned company. It’s a good fit.”
Rutherford buys scrap plastic
and sells regrinds to end users. She said that UPR was “ahead
of the curve” when it came to recycling. They were in the market
before most people realized the potential in plastics.
What Rutherford buys “goes along with the general industry,”
changing as the face of American manufacturing changes. When
she first started with the company, Rutherford was buying a lot
of yarn carriers from textile companies. Now, much of the plastic
comes from the automotive industry.
“The markets are always interesting to follow,” Rutherford said.
The market for plastic scrap is affected by things as disparate
as consumer spending and the export markets. For a time, the
audio industry was a big producer of scrap as CDs were misprinted,
defective, or otherwise needed to be destroyed. Now, with more
music being sold as downloads, Rutherford sees fewer CDs coming
in as scrap.
“Most of what I do is clean material,” Rutherford said, but noted
that the company has processes to handle mixed and contaminated
material as well. “We’ve gotten loads with vermin,” she said,
explaining that part of the problem can be where and how the
scrap is stored by the producer. Material that is clean when
it is produced can become infested in storage, making it less
attractive as a scrap product.
When contaminated material comes in, UPR can wash and density
separate the material to avoid cross-contamination and to get
the best value from the material.
On the selling end, some of the regrinds go back to the people
who produced the scrap. But “some can’t use back recycled material,”
Rutherford said. She explained that in the automotive industry,
there are a few parts that can be made from recycled material.
However, in visible areas where color matters, they might require
She said that the carpet industry is using more recycled materials,
and that if you look closely at carpeting, the darker fibers
may be from recycled materials. The construction industry also
uses recycled materials to make things like drainage pipes.
Foreign exports have slowed, she said, particularly exports to
China. “China’s not taking much,” Rutherford said, “They’re trying
to clean up for the Olympics.” On the other hand, the automotive
industry has been good recently. “We try to keep on an even keel,”
Compared to dealing with post-consumer recycling, Rutherford
said that “it’s a lot more fun to be working in the post-industrial
market.” She explained that industrial producers “are going to
be making a product every day,” whereas consumer recycling isn’t
as steady. She said that the growth of the automotive industry
in the southeast has helped UPR grow.
Rutherford also said that learning to identify all of the varieties
of plastics has been interesting, but that it’s also rewarding
to know that “you do help people out.” She said that when she
can buy material that producers have been paying to dispose of,
“you can be their hero.”
“I’ve seen a lot more people be more conscientious about the
waste they’re generating.” Rutherford said. They pay more attention
to what they are throwing away, and are more interested in finding
A new trend that has emerged recently is companies that move
scrap material overseas and then sell it back to the United States.
Previously, the material was consumed overseas and didn’t make
its way back. Rutherford said that she’s not sure how that will
ultimately affect the domestic industry.
As far as the future of plastic recycling, Rutherford said, “I
hope it keeps getting bigger.”