Jeremy Berger, 34
Green Processing Co., Green Recycling Group Inc., Southwest Industrial Recycling LLC
Location: Windsor, Ontario (company headquarters)
Birthplace: Windsor, Ontario
Languages spoken: English, French
Education: Bachelor's degree in communications, University of Windsor in Ontario; MBA, Wayne State University, Detroit.
Career highlights: 1984-1985 — Visiting my grandfather at his scrap yard when I had a day off from school. He let me work the scale and ride in the crane.
1997 — Started working with my grandfather and uncle in the same tiny office. My grandfather was winding down his metals business and my uncle had just started his plastics recycling company. I was finishing high school.
2007 — Started Green Recycling Group Inc. Made first sale on the second day in business.
2008 — Started Green Processing Co. Inc. Our first grinder was capable of 4,000 pounds per day, on a good day!
2009 — Sold first refurbished plastic container (by accident*) and shortly after opened Green Processing Co. Inc. Container Division.
* Our company was recycling automotive dunnage when someone visited and asked if we would collect and sell the containers, rather than grinding them. It wasn't in our business plan at the time, or even on our radar, but it turned into half of our business and half of our total revenue.
2011-15 — Started operations in Cleveland and Laredo, Texas; became Tier 1 supplier. Our group has annual sales exceeding $25 million at four locations, and more than 100 employees.
Q: Tell us about your family.
Berger: I have been married for five years to Tracy, who knows more grades of plastic than she should! (On long road trips she is quizzed about the plastics inside her car.) We have a wonderful son, 20 months old, named Jackson. We live in Royal Oak, Mich.
Q: What was your first plastics job and why were you interested in the industry?
Berger: I worked as a gofer during high school summer vacation in 1997 for my uncle, who had started a recycling company in 1996. I got hooked one day when he ran out of gaylord boxes and gave me a phone and a phone book (no Google) and told me to “find some.” I found what he needed and some extra, which we sold for a small profit. I enjoyed the excitement of making a deal. Shortly after, I began working in purchasing and sales with his company.
Q: What about the plastics industry surprises you?
Berger: I'm surprised when large companies do not recycle or handle their scrap plastics or packaging in a way that is environmentally sound.
Q: Who is your mentor, or someone you look up to?
Berger: My former boss, uncle, and best friend (Lawrence Pazner, Can-Am Recycling) is someone that I look up to as a mentor. I often ask him for advice and he's yet to lead me astray. We both started companies from scratch, but without his help and mentoring my company might not exist.
Q: What is the best advice you have ever received?
Berger: “No decision is the worst decision,” which was said to me as I was handed the keys prior to my boss going on a vacation. I use that advice to gather as much credible information as quickly as possible, and live with the decision I make. I've made plenty of mistakes (and will make plenty more), but I always own the decision and path that I choose.
Q: What advice would you give to a person considering a career in the plastics industry?
Berger: Keep learning and ask a lot of questions. The less you think you know, the more you will learn from other people. If someone knows something you don't, and they are willing to share, take the opportunity to learn.
Q: What job do you really want to have in the future?
Berger: As far as jobs go (for an uncoordinated, rather short guy) I really enjoy what I do and I enjoy the people that I work with. If I was forced to pick something else, baseball player for the Detroit Tigers because they work outside and I have to work inside.