Junkyards and scrap collectors. Recycling centers and environmentalists. These two phrases may trigger different images, depending on your age and other factors but they’re basically the same thing.
Recycling metal to help the environment, however, is the latest thing that comes to mind for today’s generation, according to Matthew Hinson, 34.
“We’re trying to change the perceptions,” Hinson said.
Hinson, 34, co-founder of Arizona Environmental Recycling, since his high school and college days has been trying to encourage and educate people to think in terms of recycling, rather than accepting images of piles of junk in their communities and company yards and scrap collectors trying to make a buck at their expense.
And, if the bottom line — and the growing number of Valley companies and people who are recycling materials — is any indication, Hinson is a success.
His company, started as a family-owned firm in 1998 with annual gross revenue of about $1.97 million, last year earned nearly $19 million.
Its initial employees — Hinson, his mother, Phyllis Hinson and brother, Larry — have expanded to more than 50 workers.
His mother has retired and his brother handles the sales department.
Matthew Hinson is the company president.
The firm today has four recycling centers, including headquarters at 3501 Grand Avenue, Phoenix and one each in Mesa, Tempe and Chandler and is planning to open a fifth in the East Valley later this year.
It also has 28 Cash4Cans sites, mostly at parking lots at Safeway and Fry’s stores and expects to open four more in Tempe and Mesa.
Cash4Cans are metal containers where individuals can deposit aluminum cans and directly receive 40-cents for five pounds of cans.
Arizona Environmental Recycling collects and ships more than 1.5 million pounds of recycled metal each month.
By comparison, it processed only about 200,000 pounds during the first nine months of operations.
“We’re helping to improve the environment,” said Hinson, who also admits that one of his major goals is to earn profits.
“Our family has a vested interest in the Valley and Arizona. After all, we go back five generations. We’ve lived here before Arizona became a state.”
He added: “We’re trying to keep materials out of the landfills and give back to Arizona.”
Hinson’s parents, Walter and Phyllis, are both former law enforcement officers.
His mother worked as a deputy and his father was a crime investigator, both for the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office in Flagstaff.
Their son, one of three boys, later attended Northern Arizona University, Arizona State University and graduated from the University of Phoenix.
His summer jobs included working part-time at a former recycling center at 1990 E. Rio Salado Parkway in Tempe, currently the site of a major commercial development.
“My parents’ backgrounds play a major role in how we deal with the purchase and sale of recycled metals, especially copper,” said Hinson, who noted that copper is becoming a much sought-after metal by thieves as building continues to grow in the Valley.
His company, for example, complies with state law which requires a set procedure for both buyer and seller when dealing with more than $25 worth of material.
Sellers, for example, must produce personal identification, fill out a police report and their material is tagged and numbered and held for seven days before they are paid.
The information is given to local police departments, who use the data to determine if the metal is stolen.
Copper, depending on the price of metal on the market, sells for about $2.10 per pound for wire and $1.65 a pound for pipes.
Most of Hinson’s buying and selling activity involves companies, but in 2002 his company bought the first of several Cash4Cans collectors which are aimed at individuals who recycle aluminum cans.
“Our Cash4Cans program is the busiest in the East Valley,” said Hinson, who said recyclers receive 40-cents a pound for about 25 to 33 cans.
Containers can hold upwards of 2,100 pounds of cans.
Hinson occasionally brings his recycling and environmental cleansing topic to Valley high schools where he presents seminars.His firm regularly donates $30,000 a year to area charities.
Family: Wife, Lynette; children, Courtney, Jessica and Lealynn
Resides in: Peoria
Occupation: Co-founder and president of Arizona Environmental Recycling, a recycling company with centers in Phoenix and Mesa and aluminum can deposit facilities throughout the Valley, including Mesa, Tempe, Chandler, Scottsdale and Apache Junction.
Business: Arizona Environmental Recycling collects, buys and sells primarily metals from businesses as well as residents. It is the largest recycling company in Arizona.
Key Achievements: Since starting the company nine years ago, it has continued to expand. Its initial gross revenue reached $1.97 million and, last year, hit more than $18 million. The company is expanding Valleywide, and is planning to open more centers and aluminum can collection sites soon.
Philosophy for success: Build customer loyalty through education and service.
Information: (602) 246-0923 or www.azrecycling.com