Profiting from recycled belt piles

By |  June 10, 2016

The scrap conveyor belts piled up at Jobe Materials for five or six years, serving as an eyesore at a company quarry in El Paso, Texas.

Several service providers offered to haul away the belts over the years, says Victor Garcia, a company representative, but no one ever showed up to deliver on their promise. At least not until last year, when EZA Recycling Solutions – a company with Texas roots – hauled away a load of conveyor belts.

Jobe Materials generated some unexpected revenue on the project by teaming with EZA Recycling, which paid for the belts it collected.

“They paid us to pick up something we didn’t need,” Garcia says. “They were pretty quick about coming to pick them up, too.”

On some rare occasions, Ezekiel Setne finds that conveyor belt handling requires the use of a crane. Photos by Ezekiel Setne

On some rare occasions, Ezekiel Setne finds that conveyor belt handling requires the use of a crane. Photos by Ezekiel Setne

EZA Recycling is quick to seize pickup opportunities because its business is based on wholesaling recyclable scrap materials such as conveyor belts, poly pipe, metal and used equipment. Scrap conveyor belts are repurposed into cow mats, dock bumpers, grain pit covers and other products, says Ezekiel Setne, founder of EZA Recycling.

Recyclers haven’t traditionally been attracted to scrap conveyor belts, he says. But times have changed.

“When we started there weren’t any companies buying rolled conveyor belt,” Setne says. “Now, we’re seeing other companies go out and paying for used, rolled-up belting.”

Historically, Setne says scrap conveyor belts have been landfilled or, worse, buried on worksites. Now, recycling is an option to address scrap conveyor belts.

“Companies can roll it up, set it aside as an asset and sell it at their convenience,” Setne says.

A list of benefits

Scrap conveyor belts don’t even have to be in pristine condition to be recycled. Setne says belts can be recycled regardless of how dirty or clean they are. Size is not a barrier to belt recycling, either. Belts of all sizes are recyclable, he says, regardless of how they were used.

“We haven’t found a belt yet that we can’t recycle,” Setne says. “We can’t promise to be able to recycle everything, but we can promise to recycle nearly everything.”

Conveyor belt recyclers are fewer and farther in between, Setne adds.

Photo by Ezekiel Setne

Ezekiel Setne founded his company owing to his passion for recycling.

“As far as buyers for conveyor belts, there are very few manufacturing facilities that recycle this stuff,” he says. “But they buy as much conveyor belt as they can.”

In one instance, Setne says a customer netted $64,000 for all of his scrap. Conveyor belts were among the recyclable materials.

“This was money that never would have been realized,” Setne says. “That’s not profit to us. That’s what we pay to the site.”

Added revenue isn’t the only benefit companies can experience. Jobsites are obviously cleaner once scrap is collected, Setne says, and a cleaner work environment improves a company’s culture.

“If you go into a boneyard, everything looks messy,” he says. “It gives the impression that you don’t really care.”

Setne says a don’t-care attitude is contagious. The attitude can spread to workers and impact their willingness to keep tidy jobsites.

“The problem compounds until it reaches a point where they can’t even get in their boneyard,” Setne says. “We run into that a lot. We run into that with metal, too. Plant managers finally call us because they can’t get their haul trucks in to dump stuff anymore, and they don’t want to widen haul roads.”

Recycling scrap conveyor belts also has environmental safety benefits.

“The way the conveyor belt folds and holds water, it’s an absolute breeding ground for mosquitoes,” he says. “It’s also a really good environment for rattlesnakes and other animals.”

Scrap pickups

According to Setne, companies that pile up scrap conveyor belts are mostly open to the concept of collections for cash. Some companies simply want scrap piles gone, he says. In those cases, recyclers will haul out essentially anything a company wants to discard.

In other cases, Setne says companies are more particular about how they discard their scrap.

Photo by Ezekiel Setne“If they want to maximize the amount of money they can make on it, they may just want to let it sit there and have us pick it up a truckload at a time,” Setne says.

When Setne can, he prefers to visit worksites before hauling out scrap so he can assess the grounds and the scrap available. Later, he’ll assign trucks to haul away materials. Trucks are weighed on a company’s scale upon arrival and again upon departure once scrap is aboard.

As for the collecting procedure, customers have the option of how involved they want to be in the process.

“We’ll recycle in one of two ways,” Setne says. “We have contracting capabilities, are fully insured and MSHA (Mine Safety & Health Administration) certified, and can sometimes even bring our own people in to prepare and load materials. But the more producers handle in house, the more we can pay for their material.”

As examples, Setne says customers may want to roll conveyor belt or cut and stack poly pipe to fit onto trucks to maximize the amount of money they can make.

“The total pickup time for a truck to go through the gate and out is about two hours,” he says. “As far as their responsibility loading a truck, that takes about 30 minutes to an hour – sometimes more if they have a lot of small rolls.
“We try to make the whole process as efficient as possible.”

A knack for recycling

Ezekiel Setne, whose company, EZA Recycling Solutions, is about four years old, has been drawn to recycling since he was about 14.
“I started recycling metal when I was 14 or 15,” says Setne, now 25. “When I got my driver’s license and I got a truck, I would drive around picking up any metal people would let me have.”

Setne’s interest in recycling intensified when he entered college. Classes weren’t affordable, he says, but cash he collected from scrapping materials helped him through those years. By the time Setne was 20, he saw a recycling business opportunity in serving mines.
“When I was in school I had a few friends who worked in the rock mines,” Setne says. “They told me about certain materials they had problems piling up. They were paying people to come clean them up.”

The dilemma mining companies faced intrigued Setne.

“I thought maybe there’s a market for this, especially the conveyor belts and the poly pipe – the stuff they were paying people to clean up.”

Other recyclables

Besides conveyors, poly pipe that is used to pump water away from quarries is another item EZA Recycling Solutions repurposes frequently.

“We’ve gone into quarries that have absolute mountains of poly pipe,” says Ezekiel Setne, founder of EZA Recycling Solutions.
Setne’s company also recycles scrap metal and scrap equipment. In fact, the only items EZA Recycling Solutions doesn’t take off miners’ hands are tires.

“Tires are heavily EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) regulated, so they have to be charged for,” Setne says. “In that situation we will connect the producer with someone who recycles tires in their area, because we don’t work with anything that we have to charge people to take.”

Photos by Ezekiel Setne

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Kevin Yanik is editor-in-chief of Pit & Quarry. He can be reached at 216-706-3724 or

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