The Shine name is synonymous with the recycling industry. The family behind Manitoba Corp., a recycling plant headquartered in Lancaster, N.Y., the Shines have adapted over the years from post-World War II changes in the industry to the COVID-19 pandemic. Brian Shine, president of Manitoba Corp., spoke with Scrap News about his family’s history in the business, his involvement with ISRI, and preparing the fifth generation to eventually take over the family business.
Can you tell me about your family’s history in the industry, and how you personally were introduced to the industry?
My great grandfather, Solomon Shine, immigrated to the U.S. from Europe and settled in Buffalo. He couldn’t speak English, so he couldn’t get a job in a local factory. He started with a pushcart and walked the city streets collecting anything that anyone wanted to get rid of. He started out going door to door in various neighborhoods, and eventually built the business up enough that he purchased a small shop and a horse and wagon so he could collect larger quantities. Solomon founded the company in 1916 under the name S. Shine and Son.
My grandfather, Nathan Shine, joined the business after practicing law for six years. He and my great-grandfather built the business, and it eventually became one of the largest rag recyclers in New York state. After World War II, though, synthetic rags were invented, which took the economics of rag recycling off the table. My grandfather switched gears and started to focus more on metals. At that time, Buffalo was very industrial, so they decided to get into the nonferrous business. Initially, it was mostly aluminum.
My dad, Richard Shine, did not plan to join the business. After serving as a pilot in Vietnam, he planned on becoming a commercial airline pilot—but that was every pilot’s plan coming back from Vietnam. At the time, there was also a significant recession, and airlines were laying people off. One day, he came down to the plant to get some advice from his dad, and he saw some airplane scrap that he recognized, and knew all the parts and pieces. That was his introduction into the business. He recently celebrated 50 years with the business, so he ended up making a great career out of it.
Throughout high school and college, I worked summers and vacations at the facility. I graduated from Bowling Green State University in Ohio on a Saturday, and started working at Manitoba on a Monday. It wasn’t supposed to be that way, though. I was supposed to work for a copper broker in New York city, but three months before I graduated, he unfortunately passed away, so that was the end of my outside work experience.
When you were first introduced to the industry, did you anticipate being in it for your entire career?
I did. I knew I loved it. When I was preparing to graduate, I had so many friends that had no idea what city they’d be living in or what career they’d be in. I knew what city and what career I’d be in. I still had anxiety like most kids graduating college about how I’d like it and what it’d be like working full time, but after working at the plant in a variety of capacities, I knew what I was getting myself into, and I was hooked.
What about the industry do you find the most compelling?
There’s no shortage of challenges. Every day, there are new and different challenges that we face, and there are opportunities to solve those challenges. We do so many different things each and every day, from making decisions regarding the buying, processing and selling, to making sure our employees are safe and healthy. There’s also a certain sophistication to the business. I enjoy the financial trading activity. At the end of the day, I think it’s about differentiating and trying to find out different ways to compete, add value, and give great service.
How did you first get involved with ISRI, and how did your involvement with ISRI over the years culminate with you becoming the chairman?
When I started working, I only knew my family’s way of operating. I wanted to get involved in things outside of our business so that I could learn and grow personally and professionally, and bring something back to my company of value. The first thing I did was get involved with my local ISRI chapter, the Empire Chapter. After serving on committees, I ran for office, and went through the chain of officers at the chapter level.
Once I became president of the chapter, I got involved with ISRI at the national level, and I was hooked. I loved the people, the process, the staff. After my chapter presidency ended, I looked for ways to stay involved nationally because I thought it was good for me personally and professionally. I looked for other ways to stay involved, mainly through committee work. After a while, I was asked if I’d consider running for a national position, and fortunately I was elected and moved through the chairs, which was an incredible opportunity.
What are some of your fondest memories from your time with ISRI?
In a nutshell, it’s really the people; and by people, I mean both members and staff. It’s a member-led organization and presumably always will be member-led. I think that’s important because we’re the ones in the trenches day after day, doing the actions. The staff that we have is second to none. It’s a staff that is skilled, passionate, supportive, and responsive to our members’ needs. The opportunity to chair our trade association and see the big picture in action was a real highlight.
Another highlight for me was the work that ISRI did when COVID-19 first started. When I first started working from home in March 2020, I had no idea if our business was going to be closed down or allowed to operate. ISRI was instrumental in the recycling industry being deemed an essential industry. For our member companies that were able to conduct their business safely, ISRI helped open the door for them to do just that.
During ISRI2021, you participated in the What Can We Gain from Being Local and Vocal session, and spoke about engaging with your community. Why is community engagement so important?
I’ve long been an advocate for getting involved with our local community. Yes, you run the risk of raising the ire of your neighbors, but I think that makes you better. I think that makes you a better business and community partner. We aren’t perfect; we don’t do everything perfectly; but the opportunity to demonstrate consistency over time that we care, that we’ll listen, and that we’ll respond is really important. I’m not suggesting that you can solve every problem, but you certainly need to engage and give the opportunity to interact with the local community, which includes both citizens and locally elected officials.
Why is Environmental Justice important to you and Manitoba Corp.?
It has the potential to impact our ability to operate our business. I think everybody in the recycling industry and beyond needs to understand that this is a powerful influence and factor that we all need to understand the potential to impact our businesses. The Biden administration has certainly made no secret that it’s a major focus, on everything from social justice to climate change, so we all need to be prepared to start to understand that and how it impacts us and to develop strategies to make sure that we can operate within that system. It’s really important that we engage with all of our stakeholders, internally and externally.
What’s next for you and Manitoba Corp., and how are you preparing the next generation to eventually take over the family business?
My father actually sold his interest to my brother and me in February 2021. Fortunately, he’s still working with us, so we didn’t lose his experience or connectedness to the business. He’ll work as much as he pleases, and hopefully we’ll be able to keep him engaged and benefit from his experience.
The fifth generation is involved in the business. My oldest son, Sam, is working for us out of Denver. He is also getting involved with ISRI’s Young Executives Council. My brother also has very young children, ages 11 and younger, so we’ll see what the future holds for their involvement as well.