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Cleaning up scrap metal is also recycling

Recycling is an important environmental function for many people and for Jeff Huber, it’s a way of life.

2/10/15 (Tue)

Scrap iron will one day be new metal... Jeff Huber of Carpio has made a business of cleaning up old scrap metal and iron from farmsteads in the area. 

By Marvin Baker

Recycling is an important environmental function for many people and for Jeff Huber, it’s a way of life.

Huber, who lives on a farm near Carpio, covers a large geographical area of northwestern North Dakota that includes Bowbells, Lignite, Portal, Kenmare and Stanley. His business is picking up scrap metal that can be melted down and turned into new products.

Farmsteads are literally full of old tractors, combines, parts, farm implements, fence posts, old motors, old cars, household appliances all the way down to nuts and bolts just sitting there and rusting.

Huber often contacts the landowner to let them know what he does and that he will remove the old metal.

Whether people are having family reunions, hosting dignitaries or putting their property on the market, Huber says he can remove whatever has recycling value.

“There’s not a lot of money in it, but you have to understand, it’s part of the bigger picture of the recycling effort,” Huber said. “And it gets busier and busier. I like to help with the community fire department or the church, then the members become customers.”

Huber has seen his share of ups and downs in the 14 years he’s been involved in recycling farm metals.

But as he explains, a dry spell can turn around in a hurry.

“The Lord has blessed me,” Huber said. “Eight years ago I thought I’d run out of iron, and about the time it runs out, the phone rings again.”

Sometimes he’ll run across old cars or trucks that may have more value than scrap metal, something he also considers as recycling.

“It saves a little nostalgia and rather than crushing, we can sometimes restore them or part them out,” Huber said. “And that’s a whole other business.”

There’s also the business of appliances, or “white goods” as they are sometimes called.

Huber has worked with Northern Appliances in Kenmare and would like to see other business in Kenmare.

Huber got into recycling about nine years ago. He was working for a construction company called C&J Builders.

“Construction wasn’t booming and they had an idea,” Huber said. “They considered picking up scrap, which was good money then.”

About that same time, Alan Erickson was selling his farm near Carpio and heard that Huber did that kind of work. Erickson wanted him to “clean up” the farm.

“I took some vacation time that week and made $5,340,” Huber said. “That was good enough for me.”

As he got started, Huber said he scraped and scrounged and saved all the money he could so he could get more equipment which he now has to make his job easier as he ages.

He also printed fliers and advertised in The Kenmare News.

As his business has grown, he said next to word of mouth, the biggest volume of business has come from advertising in The Kenmare News.

Unfortunately, there is some concern on the horizon. Much like the oil business, scrap iron is on a slippery slope at the moment and he expects it may plummet.

“Money isn’t the most important thing. Most people just want it cleaned up,” Huber said. “When I’m done, they can mow it. I won’t leave a mess and that’s the key. There’s others out there who won’t take 100 percent.”

Huber also rationalizes that times in North Dakota have changed and now that we live mostly in a “throw away” society, there’s the tendency for something new.

That keeps Huber’s telephone ringing.

“The reason I’m so busy is times are changing from previous generations,” Huber said. “They held on to everything. Now, they’re cleaning up and they don’t want future generations to have that responsibility.”

So in a sense, farmers who call Huber are recycling because they want their farm yards cleaned and they know he will get it recycled.

But he doesn’t see the business of recycling going much further than it is now, unless some sort of incentives are created to spark more interest.

“Unfortunately, I think recycling will stay where it is,” he said. “It’s something we should be taking better advantage of. Take the Minot city dump for instance. When I think of the tens of thousands of tin cans in that dump, there’s money there and it keeps the tin out of the landfill. Yes, we could all do a better job of recycling.”... Read EVERY WORD on EVERY PAGE of The Kenmare News by subscribing--online or in print!