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Behind the List with Matthew Cougle of Cougle's Recycling Inc.'A proven record of reliability'

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Today, having a green thumb is imperative to maintaining a healthy ecosystem. Recycling products from plastics to cardboard, and everything in between, goes a long way in sustaining a clean environment.

Businesses in the Greater Lehigh Valley and beyond produce mass amounts of waste daily. Fortunately, there are waste hauling and recycling companies throughout the region equipped with the resources to properly dispose of and recycle leftover materials and trash.

One company that has a significant impact in the region is Cougle's Recycling Inc. in Hamburg.

Here to answer this week's “Behind the List” questions is Matthew Cougle, chief operating officer of the recycling plant on Route 61.

Lehigh Valley Business: How long has Cougle's Recycling Inc. been operating in the Greater Reading/Greater Lehigh Valley and what are its primary services?

Matthew Cougle: Cougle's Recycling was founded approximately 70 years ago by Charles Cougle as a civic duty during World Word War II. The first location was a small garage in Salisbury Township (Lehigh County).

In the early '80s, Robert Cougle and his late wife, Debra, took over the business. After taking the helm, CRI experienced significant growth. With this growth came the need for additional personnel and equipment, which led to a new location in New Smithville. A tragic fire in 1992 destroyed the entire facility and led us to our current Hamburg location.

CRI continues to grow and develop new markets and opportunities with the third generation of the Cougle family leading the charge.

We are a recycling service provider specializing in municipal, commercial and industrial recycling solutions. Our focus on recycling helps companies to maximize recycling and returns while reducing waste.

CRI is able to provide complete recycling and waste handling solutions, consultation, logistics, education, recycling equipment and receptacles.

LVB: What have been some of the biggest challenges and opportunities that Cougle's Recycling Inc. has encountered throughout its years in business?

Cougle: This is a challenging time for many businesses but possibly more so in the recycling industry with the low commodity prices and additional equipment and personnel needs associated with single-stream processing.

Some of the most difficult challenges we face is dealing with an overall increase of business costs (imposed by increasing regulations and requirements as well as employee and benefits costs), all while the commodity markets that we are handling have continued to decrease.

With these challenges there are often a number of opportunities that can be captured. Our 70-plus years of experience has allowed us to be flexible to changing markets and make the needed adjustments to provide the best value to our customers.

We have a proven record of reliability, regardless of the state of the markets – making ourselves an unwavering landmark in the recycling environment. …

Another area that is both a challenge and opportunity is that people are becoming more aware and conscious of our environment, which has led to new items being collected and a greater interest in making environmentally responsible choices.

This new insight is helpful, but without proper education can also be detrimental; despite wanting to do the right thing, if you are not recycling correctly, you may be doing more damage than good.

LVB: Recycling is imperative to maintaining a healthy environment and ecosystem. What strategies does Cougle's Recycling Inc. implement in its business to ensure that waste is properly treated while being environmentally conscious?

Cougle: Our focus is strictly on recycling, and our goal is to ensure that the highest percentage possible leaves our location bound to become something new.

We have an overall residual rate of 6 percent (which has drastically increased from 2 percent as we have increased our single-stream material processing capabilities). A residual rate is the percentage of material that is brought to our facility as recyclables and after sorting leaves as garbage.

We will exhaust all other feasible options, but if material can simply not be recycled and must leave as waste, it will always go to a DEP [Department of Environmental Protection] qualified landfill or incinerator.

We find that the most important and often lacking aspect of recycling is education. Our company is proud to utilize social media, on-site visits, school events and other educational opportunities to provide recycling instruction and information to decrease overall contamination in bins and recycling programs.

We partner with our customers to help them get the most out of their waste stream and provide recommendations and solutions on how to do this efficiently.

LVB: How does Cougle's Recycling Inc. directly stimulate the local economy? Does it provide its services both on a residential and commercial level?

Cougle: We do our best to support our over 100 employees and the area community in our daily purchases and interactions. Some of the raw materials we produce are directly utilized by area manufactures in the products they produce and consumers use every day.

We are proud of the work that we do and all of our team members that make this possible. Working together with our customers and vendors, we are able to complete the recycling loop from scrap to finished product right here in the Berks and Lehigh area.

The bulk of our business stems from municipal, commercial and institutional facilities. We assist in developing, optimizing and educating facilities on how to maximize their recycling and reduce their waste.

Many times when companies properly sort and handle their recyclables, they are able to either reduce the costs associated with the waste or potentially create an additional revenue stream.

Although CRI does not complete curbside pickup solutions, we do accept delivery of curbside material to our location (other haulers will pick up the material and deliver to us for processing). We are also open to the public to receive residential recycling at our facility.

LVB: What rules and regulations must Cougle's Recycling Inc. adhere to in regard to the Environmental Protection Agency, among others?

Cougle: Just as any other business, we must adhere to the growing list of all federal and state government regulations and requirements.

LVB: What does the future look like for Cougle's Recycling Inc.? Does it have plans for growth and/or new, innovative ideas in the pipeline?

Cougle: We remain focused on continued, sustainable growth in the scope [of] recycling efforts we can provide, the efficiency that we can process incoming material(s) and the tonnage of material successfully returned for reuse.

We strive to utilize the newest, proven technology available to our industry to most successfully sort and process items with the continued lowest possible residual rate.

There are also continued evolving opportunities in new areas where we can help our customers become more environmentally friendly and reduce their overall waste.

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Christopher Holland

Christopher Holland

Christopher Holland is a researcher for Lehigh Valley Business and writes about arts and entertainment in the region.

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