Profiles in Paper: Stuart Lurie
Q & A Interview with STUART LURIE
Q: When and how did you enter the recycling industry?
A: I graduated college in 1977 and first sold giftware in upstate New York. Then I went on to sell a variety of products for a national marketing company, living in Columbus, Ohio. At the same time, my father had retired from the garment industry and had a friend who was a contract gluer for the carton industry in New York. He said to my father, “If you sell my scrap paper to this mill, you can make a couple of bucks while you’re figuring out what to do.” The day after my wedding in August 1978, my dad said to me, “Hey Stu, come back to New York, and let’s start a family scrap business.” So Karen and I returned to New York, and we started our scrap business, focusing almost exclusively on industrial packaging plants in the New York metropolitan area.
Q: What was it about the industry that prompted you to build a career in it?
A: We figured a way to have a product to market rather than just buying and selling scrap paper. Our product was what we call our Recycling Management Program. That was our way of going into industrial packaging plants and helping the facilities turn their waste streams into a revenue-producing business. That was very exciting to us, and that’s what we’ve been doing for the past 40 years.
Q: What have been your most rewarding professional achievements? Personal achievements?
A: Professionally, it was the first time I had a group of plants entrust me with handling 100-percent of their scrap and teaching their facilities how to maximize the material’s value. That was in 1986, and our company took over Federal Paperboard’s eight folding carton plants. That deal turned us into a national company. We were able to make an enormous bottom-line enhancement to their business.
Outside of business, I’m incredibly lucky to have a beautiful wife, great children, and a close family.
Q: What are you passionate about?
A: I’m very passionate about our work, about doing exactly what I say I’m going to do. Outside of work, I love golf, tennis, working out, and spending time with the family.
Q: Tell us something about you that would surprise people.
A: I used to be a radio disc jockey in my college years and had a show called “The Stu Larue Show.” I played a blend of rock-and-roll and soul music. I didn’t think anyone listened to it, and then people started asking if I’d heard this “Stu Larue Show.” There were people who really liked it. That was amazing to me.
Q: If you could improve anything about yourself, what would it be?
A: I’d love to be able to relax more, just sit back and be able to watch the river go by.
Q: When and why did your company decide to join ISRI and the PSI Chapter?
A: Our company joined NARI [an ISRI predecessor association] and PSI right away. It was our way of connecting with people in the industry and learning about the standards and practices as well as the rules and regulations. Our membership also helped us understand the playing field—who the players were and what they did.
Q: What benefits have you received from your PSI involvement?
A: The major benefit has been building relationships with so many people in the industry who are still close friends today.
Q: What are the major challenges facing your company and the overall paper recycling industry today?
A: The major challenge to our business is the consolidation of paper mills, paper companies, and packaging companies. The landscape is continuing to change. It’s always unnerving to me that our company could be doing an excellent job for a customer, but it could lose the account simply because the plant changes hands. In those cases, value is not a deciding factor.
Other major challenges for the industry overall include the impact of China’s trade decisions and the growth of the kraft and corrugated business to meet the incredible demand for boxes.