Zach Mallin

Vice president of Mallin Cos.

Zach Mallin fell in love with the scrap recycling industry at the age of 16 after spending some time working alongside his father, Jeffrey Mallin, at Mallin Cos. in Kansas City, Missouri, during his summer break. Mallin Cos. specializes in recycling insulated copper and aluminum wire, along with various other kinds of nonferrous metals and plastics.

“I began learning the industry, working in production lines and in our nonferrous warehouse,” the younger Mallin says. “At an early age, I experienced quite a bit as far as learning about our industry. I really knew I wanted to go to a university, study business and finance, then later on come back to our family business and begin my career in recycling.”

Aside from working at the family business, Mallin spent a short time working for a hospice and palliative care nonprofit in Kansas City, which he says gave him a new perspective on how to operate a business. He took those skills back with him to the family business when he joined Mallin Cos. in 2014.

“A large part of recruiting younger individuals for our industry is truly the exposure and explaining what our industry really does.”

Recycling Today (RT): Since you began working for Mallin Cos. full time, what are some challenges you have faced in your career?

Zach Mallin (ZM): One of the largest challenges so far has been employee retention. I think many firms are finding this, be it in recycling or anywhere in corporate America. [With] the rise in wage inflation and the amount of job opportunities, it’s difficult to retain employees. Our company has tried some different tactics [and] different benefits to retain employees and really try to revamp our training program to create quality jobs and set these employees up for success.

RT: What tips would you offer to the recycling industry on recruiting and retaining the next generation of industry professionals?

ZM: A large part of recruiting younger individuals for our industry is truly the exposure and explaining what our industry really does. [We need to] get out to college recruiters and career fairs and explain that we’re not just junkyards—we’re turning metals and plastics and papers into something that will benefit and become a new product. Our society is a throw-away society, but we’re turning things into new products that can benefit the future.

I think younger individuals take pride in what they’re accomplishing with work, too, as opposed to sitting at a desk and pushing paper. So, in this industry, they know whatever part they play, it’s benefiting the environment and society of the future.

RT: What technologies or processes have Mallin Cos. embraced?

ZM: Coming from a wire chopper’s perspective, something we have implemented is a few refining systems on our plastics byproducts. Any metal that is remaining in our plastic byproducts is now recovered. So, we have a specific process where we recover all that metal.

RT: Where do you see the industry headed in five years?

ZM: I think the industry will continue to grow. There are constantly expanding markets, especially with China as an unknown entity. I think we will continue to see an expansion in our industry domestically. I think that people are still trying to find more ways to refine metals, more ways to recover more metals from their processes and to add value to what they’re producing here.