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Farm Family's Recycling Business Uses Remodeled Bus
Edwell Cartwright gets a lot of funny looks when he drives around in his modified school bus loaded down with 5 1/2 tons of scrap metal. In fact, he was once stopped by the police but it turned out the amused officer just wanted to take a picture of the rig because he had never seen anything like it.
The recycled 1975 Chevy C-60 perfectly compliments Cartwright's business - Raven Hill Scrap Metal. He's been in the scrap metal business for eight years near Pickardville, Alberta. The operation is truly a family business, with Cartwright's seven children, ages 8 to 19, pitching in to help.
The roof of the bus was cut off, and the side and back walls removed so that only an 18-in. perimeter remains above the floor, forming a "box" for cargo. A closed-in cab was created by installing a wall with a window directly behind the front seat. The cab roof and back wall are made from plywood, insulation and aluminum.
The bottom part of the back emergency door was left intact for easier loading, and it can be locked closed with a hinged padlock system.
The low profile of the bus works well for using a Caterpillar with a bucket to load and unload it.
The Cartwrights have signed agreements with local waste dumps and they offer free pickup service to numerous automotive garages, gas plants, farms and the local recycling depot's tin can bin. The family saves their local municipal government thousands of dollars in trucking fees by hauling discarded materials.
They purchase old catalytic converters, radiators, transmissions and other cores from garages because it is profitable to take them apart and sell the valuable metals contained inside. All metals are separated so that the final sale is of a specific metal rather than mixed metals.
The Cartwrights use a truck with stock racks to pick up the materials at one or two stations and garages each evening, and the items are later unloaded at home for "processing." Before it is ready to load on the bus for marketing, much of the scrap metal must be dis-assembled. Household appliances must be taken apart so that the various types of metals they contain can be separated. Edwell uses a portable chop saw to separate the materials and a Cat crawler to condense them for more efficient transportation. Items such as aluminum lawn chairs must be painstakingly dis-assembled by hand, removing the nylon webbing and screws.
The Cartwrights say there is also a market for car and truck bodies, but they've got so much to do already, they simply don't have the time to travel around to farms and acreages, collecting them.
The most profitable materials are steel, aluminum and catalytic converters, but steel is the best because it's easier to get a high volume and there's usually less dis-assembly required, " says Edwell's wife, Sherry. "The scrap metal market fluctuates quite a bit. We were getting $97/ton for steel but last fall the price dropped to $40. The price always seems to drop in the fall. Aluminum is currently bringing about 55 cents a pound."
When prices are low on certain commodities, the Cartwrights try to stockpile them. Items such as starter cores, wiper motors and heater cores take longer to accumulate a load, so the family sells these only twice a year.
Each week, the Cartwrights haul one or two loads of steel (regular and stainless), cast iron, lead and magnesium to a nearby recycling company. Every six weeks, they deliver zinc, copper, three types of aluminum and brass to a different recycler. On the way there, Edwell stops for pick-ups at various garages and on the way back he takes advantage of the added seasonal opportunity to haul fresh fruit back from orchards and market gardens.
I'm always looking for more suppliers in British Columbia and Alberta of non-magnetic metals such as aluminum, copper, zinc and brass, as well as more catalytic converters," Edwell points out..
When the Cartwrights deliver a school bus load of metal to one of the recycling plants, it is unloaded by a large crane magnet.
Edwell used to operate a roofing business, but a fall from a ladder eight years ago sent

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2000 - Volume #24, Issue #2