Text reads: Recycling Champion Michael Timpane. The RRS logo is in the lower left corner with a photo of Michael in a blue collared shirt with gray short hair.

Recycling Champion: Michael Timpane

Michael Timpane is the Vice President & Principal of RRS and has been with the company since 2015. Below, explore Michael Timpane’s “Papers In Profile” feature that was included in an e-newsletter from Paper Stock Industries, a national chapter of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI).

Quick Facts

Born: I was born in Schenectady, N.Y., and I’m 69 years old.

Education: I earned a bachelor’s degree in Geography-Ecosystems from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), in 1977. Afterward, I took graduate classes in City and Regional Planning at San Diego State University, but I had already been managing a recycling plant and decided to pursue that career.

Family: My wife Elizabeth and I married in 1981, so we’ve been married 42-and-a-half years now. We have three sons, all of whom are in the medical profession, as well as five grandchildren, with a sixth one on the way.


Recycling Insights: A Journey Through Five Decades in the Industry

When and how did you start working in the recycling industry?

In 1974, when I was a sophomore in college, I took a summer job at Reynolds Aluminum Recycling Co. to help pay for my schooling. In 1975, I started working there 30 hours a week while still going to school and ended up working for Reynolds for 15 years, filling various positions at its operations in Los Angeles, San Diego, San Francisco, and Williamsburg, Va., until 1989. I then went to work at BFI and stayed there until Allied Waste Industries bought the company in 1999. After a brief non-compete period, I joined Waste Management, initially making process improvements in its materials recovery facilities (MRFs). I also helped develop WM’s single-stream MRFs, was the director of its e-cycling business for several years, and served as WM’s Director of Municipal Recycling. After 13 years in total with WM, I joined RRS in early 2015.


What was it about the industry that inspired you to build a career in it?

While working for Reynolds, I got opportunities for special assignments in metal trading, state public affairs, and understanding consumer behavior in recycling. I was hooked.


What have been your most rewarding professional achievements?

Over the course of my career, I’m proud that I’ve led local projects or managed operations in 49 of the 50 U.S. states as well as seven Canadian provinces and St. John and Puerto Rico in the Caribbean.

At Reynolds, we pioneered advanced technologies for consumer recycling, like eddy currents for separating aluminum cans and other alloys from contaminants and use of automated reverse-vending machines in Richmond, Va. In addition, my team at Williamsburg collaborated on an enterprise-wide quality program before the popular advent of TQM or Lean Mfg. and results prove their worth: We were able to build my business area three times its size, with a furnace operation, 100 consumer recycling locations, and six densifying plants.

At BFI, I helped grow its roster of plants from zero MRFs to over 100 in 10 years and rationalized the plants’ footprints, safety cultures, and best practices.

At WM, I served on the recycling executive leadership team as well as the company’s Technology and Recycling Council. I helped to turn the e-recycling business into a profitable venture and co-developed a pricing approach and easy-to-understand national messaging to combat contamination for WM’s public-sector MRF services.

I’ve published numerous articles on recycling from 1979 to the present. And I’m proud—and can’t believe—I’ve been in the recycling industry for almost 50 years. I’ve had a blessed career, and I’m now starting to “taper down.”


What are your personal achievements?

I served as a board member for the Guana Tolomato Matanzas National Estuarine Research Reserve in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., for seven years. Members rotate off the board, and I plan to continue that work in 2024.


What are you passionate about?

Recycling in general, but especially ensuring funding for proper recycling, lithium-ion battery management, preventing environmental degradation, and development of large, broad-scale diversion projects. I’m lucky to have a good marriage—almost 43 years—and our family is very close. Also, I do a lot of hiking and walk three to five miles a day.


Tell us something about you that would surprise people.

I’m one of nine children whose father died before any of us had graduated from high school.


What do you like to do in your free time?

I like to hike with my grandchildren, attend Jacksonville Jaguars football games, and volunteer for research efforts. At any given time, you’ll also find me reading three types of books—nonfiction, world classics, and good pulp fiction.


When and why did your company decide to join ISRI and the PSI Chapter?

I was aware of ISRI and one of its predecessor associations, NARI [the National Association of Recycling Industries]. In the past, I would go to NARI events from time to time as a speaker or as a guest of the Aluminum Association. I convinced RRS to join ISRI because it represented the key market segments of the supply chain. This gave RRS access to conversations on economics, supply, quality, and contamination. I have volunteered to help on given issues, like curbside recycling, the industry’s initial response to lithium batteries, new grade specifications, and the formation of the MRF Council. Our company believes ISRI’s work is extremely important and what we gain in knowledge and connections is valuable to our understanding of recycling. It encompasses all of the recyclable commodities, it fights trade and business barriers that hinder the supply chain, and it presents common parameters for successful recyclers. What’s more, I’ve formed lifelong friendships through our ISRI membership, which has been an honor for me.


Have you held any PSI leadership positions?

Yes, I served as a PSI board member for over a year but—as it turned out—I had to give up my seat because ISRI bylaws don’t allow board positions to be filled by associate members like RRS. I also serve on PSI’s New Grades Subcommittee when it is active and acted as a PSI/ISRI liaison to the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) and the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) when lithium-ion battery fires became a big problem for recycling and waste operations.


What are the major challenges facing the overall recycling industry today?

Four of the major challenges facing the industry—besides the increased fire threat from lithium-ion batteries and the related higher insurance costs—include:

  • the shrinking volume of recycled material at a time when major new domestic capacity is coming online
  • the growing power of brand owners and their recent high-profile involvement in the recycling supply chain
  • the retirement of many experts in the industry and ISRI while a new generation of recycling managers are less willing to commit to volunteering in industry associations. Attracting and maintaining an inspired new generation in the recycling industry is a big priority
  • higher contamination rates in the post-consumer recycling stream