Rockaway Recycling has always led with the phrase, “Fair Weight, Fair Price.” Since 1977, the Rockaway, N.J.-based metals and electronics recycling firm has expanded into New Jersey, Southern New York, and Eastern Pennsylvania. Owner Tom Buechel also developed the iScrap App, an application for iPhone and Android phones, and a website connecting users with local scrap yards and supplying access to their pricing information. “I’m on both sides of the coin,” he notes of his unique place in the industry.
Rockaway Recycling recently rejoined ISRI, and the company is busier than ever. Buechel has been involved in recycling since he was 7 years old, working and learning from his father, Tom, the company’s founder. His first job was sweeping the floors, then he graduated to writing receipts and, once he became old enough, he was collaborating with other employees learning all the ropes.
Graduating from the University of Connecticut in 2007 with a bachelor’s degree in accounting, Buechel took over the operations of Rockaway Recycling while still working with his dad in 2007. Since the beginning of 2008, the younger Buechel has been running Rockaway Recycling’s daily operations, setting up new customers, making more relationships, and expanding business.
Buechel says informing and educating his customers to maximize their returns has differentiated his yard from competitors all along. “The first thing that I did when I bought the yard from my dad was to have all of our prices posted online. At the time, I remember only one scrap yard out of Colorado had been doing that.”
During the Great Recession of December 2007 to June 2009, Buechel had to lay off his seven employees. He developed a website and the infrastructure that became iScrap App with transparency in mind. “The only thing that you can offer to your [materials] customers that will keep them coming back is prices. If the Weather Channel never updated the weather or ESPN never updated their scores, there’s no reason to go back [to those outlets],” he explains. “We wanted scrappers to be able to share the price they get for their scrap with other scrappers, so they could learn if they were getting a good deal, or if they were getting a bad deal.”
The app has grown and now posts updates for 200 metals value averages daily to its 35,000 daily users, Buechel says. “Now we have people posting hundreds of prices that they’ve received a week, and our goal is to increase that to thousands,” he says. The iScrap App 2.0 debuted in August after Tom’s sister, Virginia, was instrumental in the launch and a refreshed design; optical character recognition for scanning receipts; new price charts and yard searches; and other user-friendly features.
“Through our users via social media and app engagement, we knew that the availability of scrap prices was very important to them,” Virginia Buechel states. “So, building [version] 2.0 we really focused on delivering not only National Average Prices and their trends, but also easier ways that users can update and report their very own local prices to help keep the scrap industry informed.”
Rockaway Recycling’s blogs and videos are part of its wide-ranging social media presence, which includes Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube. “Because I can utilize my scrap yard as the perfect guinea pig, we’ve learned what people want, and we learned what people don’t want, and we adjust accordingly,” Tom Buechel explains. “By listening to [customers] for years at Rockaway Recycling, it’s only enhanced the iScrap App,” he notes.
Virginia Buechel joined the company 10 years ago after earning a bachelor’s degree in history from Arcadia University. “Gut reaction, everyone thinks it’s bad business to work with family, but over the years we have continued to learn to trust each other more with our decisions and goals,” she says. “We work well together because I take the direction of technology and [Tom] takes the direction of scrap, so putting those two passions together has allowed us to succeed in this space as our generation advances in the industry.”
Rockaway Recycling now employs 26 people, and its community involvement extends beyond getting to know customers on a first-name basis. The company helps customers learn how to separate metals before making trips to the yard, and how contaminants like dirt don’t belong in their loads. Rockaway Recycling has customer appreciation events at its facility and has held fundraisers for more than a decade to help St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.
ISRI welcomes Rockaway Recycling back to the association and sharing its innovations with the industry.
Photo courtesy of Rockaway Recycling. Caption: Virginia and Tom Buechel.