Abstract: Recycling Knowledge: Expertise As Commodity in the American Scrap Recycling Industries

Carl A. Zimring


This paper concerns the retention and use of knowledge in private and public recycling activities in the United States over the past sixty years. Knowledge retention and transfer in businesses both large and small is an enduring theme in business history, and recycling offers a useful example of how the people and skills in an industry may be retained despite dramatic changes in firm ownership and the ways in which municipalities contract with scrap recycling firms. Examples include those of two of the largest ferrous scrap brokerages. One is the retention of firm owners as management after Luria Brothers was purchased by the Ogden Corporation in the 1950s. The second is how the Hugo Neu Corporation (itself a product of mergers that retained previous owners as management) partnered with New York City to improve the efficiency of that city's curbside recycling program. The paper concludes with a discussion of how these examples might inform future changes to municipal recycling programs.