Profiles in Paper: Victor Storelli
Q & A Interview with VICTOR STORELLI
Q: When and how did you enter the recycling industry?
A: My family owned both a solid waste company and a paper recycling operation when I was growing up, and I worked in the businesses from the time I was about 16. My father passed away at a young age, so my two older brothers—Joe, who was 18 years older, and Serge, who was 10 years older—became my father. One ran the waste company, and the other ran the paper recycling business. They didn’t want me to get into trouble, so they kept me busy. I’d bounce back and forth between the two companies, doing invoicing, purchasing, accounts, and route audits for the waste business, then going to the recycling business to work on the equipment, learn the grades, and pick up recyclables.
Q: What was it about the industry that prompted you to build a career in it?
A: As I got close to graduating from college, I had to make a choice of which of our family businesses to join full time. Joe already had a partner in the waste business, but Serge didn’t have a partner, so I went to work with him in the recycling company in 1969. I liked that business because it had many different facets that I could work with, including trucking, sorting, baling, and marketing.
Q: What have been your most rewarding professional achievements?
A: I’m proud that we grew our paper recycling company from a single MRF operation in Miami to multiple facilities in the United States. I’m also proud that we developed agent agreements in South and Central America, Europe, and Asia—and we still have close relationships there today.
Q: What are you passionate about?
A: I’m very passionate about the work I do in my church and the charitable activities I do for civic organizations. I’ve been very fortunate in my life, so I want to pay some of that good fortune back. I like to help others develop into better people.
Q: If you could improve anything about yourself, what would it be?
A: I’d like to be more patient, and I can talk too fast. People sometimes have to slow me down and back me up four sentences. I’ve also been accused of working too much.
Q: What do you like to do in your free time?
A: My wife and I take a lot of trips—in fact, we just returned from the Netherlands. I also like to play golf, go deep-sea fishing, and read. Most of the books I read are elevator-type books—those that lift me up—but I also like books on history and environmental topics. And I live on the Intracoastal Waterway, so I enjoy having a scotch and cigar and watching all the boats go by.
Q: When and why did your company join ISRI and the PSI Chapter?
A: Our recycling company originally joined NARI [an ISRI predecessor association] in the early 1960s. For me, learning and making new connections have been the main benefits of the association. In the beginning, most of the members were my elders, so I was able to learn a lot from them. Over the years, attending the meetings and conventions, I met a lot of people who became friends, even if they were competitors. In the association, everyone gets more open to help each other out, and that has paid a lot of dividends for our company.
Q: Have you held any volunteer leadership positions within PSI?
A: I’ve sat on numerous PSI committees, and I’ve served as a chapter leader up to the vice president level, but my travel schedule prevented me from becoming PSI president. I didn’t want to assume that position unless I could do it the way it should be done. It takes a lot of time, but I have no regrets about the time I invested in the association. I’m proud to note, however, that my brother Serge did serve as PSI Chapter president from 1984 to 1986.
Q: What benefits have you received from your PSI involvement?
A: I’ve enjoyed developing close relationships with my counterparts and appreciating what they can bring to the table. I’ve also enjoyed playing a part in changing specifications for the industry.
Q: What are the major challenges facing your company and the overall recycling industry today?
A: Traditional paper recycling plants may not survive given today’s market dynamics. Today, the market is mostly controlled by the solid waste companies, but I’m encouraged by technology from Europe that takes solid waste and recyclables in one container, uses optical sorters to remove salable items, and then converts the remaining materials into an engineered fuel. This new fuel has a Btu value of 13,000 per pound—coal has about 16,000 Btu—so it could be a substitute fuel for cement kilns, mills, and energy companies. That fuel could represent an opportunity to keep growing our industry.
The changes in China’s buying practices also are challenging, but such trade changes are nothing new. I’ve got export records back to the 1930s and 1940s, and they show how the flow of materials changes over the years, shifting from one country to another. Now, instead of shipping one large volume to China, we’re exporting several smaller shipments to different countries. We’ve had to get back to meeting certain specifications and investing in better equipment to produce a higher-quality product.