A fifth-generational recycler, Sam Shine works every day to create his own legacy in the recycling industry, while maintaining the lineage of the Shine name. He owes much of that balance to the mentors he’s had throughout his career. Shine spoke with Scrap News about his journey to the industry, his family’s impact on his career, and his upcoming conversation with industry pioneer Shelley Padnos as part of the Young Executives Council (YEC) podcast series.
How were you introduced to the recycling industry, and what’s your earliest memory of it?
I’m a fifth-generation recycler, so I grew up around the industry. I remember my dad, Brian Shine, talking about his day at work during dinner, and his work always sounded interesting. I think my earliest memory was when I was five or six. My dad and I went to his office, and I remember looking around and wondering if I could see myself there after graduating college. I was thinking that far ahead already. I also remember touring the Manitoba Corporation plant with my first-grade class, which was an incredible experience. It was so cool seeing how everything worked in the plant.
Did you ever consider a different career path?
I was always interested in business, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to be in the recycling industry after college. After graduating from Colorado State University, I decided to stay in Colorado. I worked in logistics for two years as a freight broker for Total Quality Logistics. I was happy there, and I loved living in Colorado, so I didn’t have much interest in moving back to Buffalo at the time. But a great opportunity came up in 2015. My dad called and said that if I was interested in a career switch there was an opportunity with Utility Recyclers International, a joint venture company between Green-Port Managers and Manitoba. I’ve been here ever since, and I currently work remotely for the company from Colorado. I’ve fallen in love with the industry, the people, going to conferences, and getting involved with ISRI. I thought I’d stay in logistics longer, but I’m very happy I made the switch when I did.
As a fifth-generation recycler, what’s it like carrying on the Shine name? Do you feel any pressure?
I don’t feel pressure in a negative sense, and I credit my dad for that. He never said, “This is what I expect you to do for a living,” or “This is what we do in the Shine family.” It was always about doing what made me happy. There wasn’t any external pressure to join the company. Now that I’m in it, I view it as an opportunity to learn from the two generations before me that are in the business. That’s my grandfather, Richard, my dad, Brian, and my uncle, Adam. It’s an incredible learning opportunity, and a privilege that I can learn from them every day.
How were you introduced to ISRI, and what are some of your fondest memories from your involvement with the association?
My first ISRI conference was in 2014 in Las Vegas. It stands out because I met Hillary Clinton, which was pretty cool. I wasn’t in the industry at the time, I was still working as a freight broker. I was just there with my parents and brothers. I had a lot of conversations with people in the industry, and many people asked if I planned to join the industry. I think that conference was a catalyst for joining Utility Recyclers International in 2015.
What role has mentorship played in your career thus far, and how important is mentorship for young executives in the industry?
It certainly has played a huge role for me, learning from people in my family, as well as outside of my family. My dad was my first mentor. I’d also call my uncle and grandfather mentors as well. Since expanding my network outside of the family business, I’ve met many people both in and outside of the industry who I consider mentors. It’s nice talking to someone who’s been in your shoes. The most successful young executives I know have mentors and keep in touch with them. Mentorship is pivotal in my opinion.
What are you most excited for your conversation with Shelley Padnos?
It’s such an honor to talk with an industry legend like Shelley. I couldn’t be more excited to learn more about her and her trajectory through ISRI. I’m grateful for the opportunity ISRI presented in getting to interview her (along with fellow young exec Jacqueline Lotzkar). I’m also excited to kick off the first podcast for YEC.
What do you hope attendees take away from your conversation with Shelley?
For people who didn’t know of Shelley, I hope they learn how big of a role she played in ISRI’s development, and that they see what kind of leader she is and all she’s done for PADNOS and ISRI. I hope people appreciate who she is and just how much she’s done for the industry in a selfless way, and paved the way for the next female chairperson of ISRI. I hope she serves as an inspiration for attendees and listeners.
Where do you see yourself in the next year, five years, and beyond?
I see myself becoming even more involved with ISRI. If given the opportunity, I’d really like to take some of these experiences from being in the YEC and leverage them into leadership opportunities down the road.
I see continued growth for Utility Recyclers. We’re only about 10 years old, so in many ways, we still operate as a startup. I think we’ll find avenues for different business opportunities. Personally, I see myself continuing to serve in a sales role, but I want to grow my skills and transition into a leadership role as we get further down the road, so that I can serve the company as best as I can.
Learn more about the role of mentorship in the recycling industry by attending Sam Shine and Jacqueline Lotzkar’s conversation with Shelley Padnos. Registration information can be found here.