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Let’s hear it for the women in scrap!

The annual Top 100 featured 32 leading ladies from the global recycling industry. We’d like to introduce a few.

See the complete list here >>

Daniela La Porta (#6)

Second generation to lead Elle-Elle, an Italian recycling business company built on solid family entrepreneurship. Based near Cesena on Italy’s Adriatic Coast, Elle-Elle is a modern, medium-size recycler handling electric motors, copper and aluminium. In the next five to ten years recyclers in general, and Elle-Elle in particular, will have to continue to invest in sustainable operations and smarter technology.

‘It’s the only logical path to follow if we want this sector to survive,’ Daniela stresses. Asked what is the main lesson she has learned from her father and company founder, she replies:  ‘His work ethic and his passion for the job: always give your best. Scrap is in my blood and I love it, probably thanks to him.’

Susie Burrage (#3)

Burrage has her roots in scrapand is md of Recycled Products. Her grandfather was a founder member in London of the National Federation of Scrap Iron and Steel in 1919. Burrage was the first woman to join the board of the 100-year-old British Metals Recycling Association in 2014. She was subsequently elected president in 2016, a position she still holds.

She is also an active member of EuRIC and BIR and was appointed president of EUROMETREC. ‘I am very proud of all my achievements – especially the glass ceilings I have broken.’ Burrage has become a powerful role model for women in the recycling industry.

Evgenia Gordeeva (left) with her colleagues.

Evgenia Gordeeva (#2)

This brave woman from southern Ukraine fully deserves to be in our list. Since 24 February, Gordeeva and her colleagues at aluminium recycling firm Mekhanicheskiy Zavod (MZ) have been on the run from Russian bombs. ‘All day long we hear the shooting and the bombing,’ she told RI in early March on the phone from a bomb shelter in the besieged city of Kherson. Meanwhile Evgenia and her son Kyrill have moved to the UK, waiting for the day they can return home.

Robin Wiener (#8)

Wiener could be referred to as the first lady of scrap in the US. She joined ISRI in 1989 and has been president since 2000, representing 1 300 member companies operating in nearly 4 000 locations across the US while lobbying with recycling stakeholders in 34 countries. Wiener ensures important hot topics, including trade policies, workplace safety and technology, reach the top levels of state and federal government. ‘Recycling volumes in the US are up +12% last year, demand is healthy and prices are elevated.’ She points out that turnover in 2021 hit US$ 16 million.

Caroline Craenhals (#14)

Craenhals leads the family business, which has its headquarters in Antwerp, and operates five sites in total. ‘We process around 1.5 million tonnes of material every year, ranging from end-of-life vehicles to washing machines and other bulky electronics.’ 2022 marks an important milestone for the recycler as the fourth generation company celebrates its 100th anniversary.

‘Many things have been thrown at recyclers over the last few decades alone: economic crashes, wars, protectionism, geopolitical games, ever more ambitious rules. It’s a long list and we overcame it all. I think it shows how resilient and vital our sector is. This calls for a nice glass of champagne, doesn’t it?’

Brandi Harleaux (#54)

Harleaux took over the family business South Post Oak Recycling in Houston, Texas having learned about buying and processing ferrous and non-ferrous metals from her parents, who started the company in 1994. She returned to the company ten years ago after a detour: studying psychology and analysing leadership DNA of successful organisations.

After getting her PhD, she was hired to boost business development at Walt Disney. She is now applying her know-how to the world of scrap. This was cemented by being chosen as ISRI’s director at large and winning the Houston International Trade Development Council’s 2021 Rising Star Award.

Brandi Harleaux (middle) with her parents.

Veena Sahawjalla (#4)

Professor Sahawjalla believes in the power of ‘big ideas’, which she developed in the SMART Centre at the University of North South Wales in Australia. Her commercialised electric arc furnace ‘green’ steelmaking process utilises millions of waste tyres, otherwise destined for landfill, as a partial replacement for coke. Sahajwalla launched the world’s first ‘e-waste micro-factory’ in 2018 and established a similar facility dedicated to plastic scrap in 2019. She was awarded the prestigious 2022 NSW Australian of the Year.

Catherine Lenaerts (#23)

Lenaerts knows everything about end-of-life vehicles, including e-mobility. She is the managing director of Febelauto’s new spin-off venture Watt4Life, which transforms used car batteries into energy storage systems. This makes Lenaerts an advocate for both car and battery recyclers.

As a popular speaker at international events, she is eager to share her know-how with industry stakeholders across the value chain. Febelauto’s turnover exceeded EUR 1.5 million in 2021. ‘We’re ready to scale-up Watt4Ever now.’

Shelley Padnos (#15)

Padnos has been a well-known name in the American scrap business for almost four decades. Her family company, based in Holland, Michigan, first opened its doors in 1984 and she is proud it now spans four generations. ‘We have 20 locations where we treat metals, paper, plastics and e-scrap and operate 13 recycling centres throughout Michigan where the public and small businesses can recycle their scrap, including used electronics, for quick payment.’

This year, in recognition of her ongoing contributions to the sector, the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries awarded Padnos its Lifetime Achievement Award. During the awards ceremony she called on to fellow recyclers to bring more diversity to the sector: ‘We can still use a lot more of that. Hire somebody who does not look like you and our industry will be better off.’

Maja Muškinja (#26)

Muškinja is logistics manager at Steel Impex, a leading Serbian recycler. Having started in 2008 on the site of a former state-owned yard, the EUR 25 million turnover company today processes more than 100 000 tonnes of ferrous scrap per year. More than a decade on, Steel Impex is said to control half of Serbia’s total steel scrap flows.

The company is eager to grow further and innovate. The warehouse at its main facility in Kraljevo is covered with solar panels, making the location ‘100% energy neutral’. Investment is also on the way for a modern tyre processing line. Meanwhile Muškinja has announced the launch of a third yard in Belgrade. 

Petra Mussmann (#45)

She heads the Austrian recycling company Ragg, together with her partner Christian Stolz. Some 120 000 tonnes of ferrous scrap a year  pass through the firm’s mega shredder near Innsbruck. In recent times, Ragg’s ‘stay local’ business model has proved a blessing and the ever-strict scrap import rules in China has led to a material boost for the company.

The couple has recently placed large signs across the yard sharing details about the various commodities that are processed at Ragg, the volumes coming in and the recycling technology/equipment used, among other things. It’s a nice tool which helps tell and teach visitors about the importance of recycling and how companies like Ragg contribute to a better environment.

Federica Foterni (#28)

Most refrigerators and washing machines on the Italian island of Sardinia ultimately end up in the shredder at West Recycling. From a bone-dry industrial zone outside Cagliari, Federica Foterni leads a solid e-scrap business under challenging conditions.

Like elsewhere, Sardinia could not escape from Covid. The good news is, West Recycling saw the influx of e-scrap explode, a result of the severe lockdown. ‘Since people could not go out for lunch or dinner, many suddenly needed bigger fridges at home. You could see a lot of replacement, which means sooner or later these the old and discarded devices end up at our yard.’

Sardinia may be a remote recycling outpost but that does not mean the state of recycling on this Mediterranean island is underdeveloped, proves Foterni, who has serious plans to introduce robotic arms at the washing machine dismantling line along with an update of the refinery lines.

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