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Recycling for future generations: A family tradition at Padnos Iron & Metal


May, 22 2010

Recycling for future generations: A family tradition at Padnos Iron & Metal

In many ways, Louis Padnos was a man ahead of his time, when he began collecting & reselling scrap metals just after the turn of the century, in 1905. From those humble beginnings, Louis Padnos Iron & Metal, was founded. Today, it is one of one of the busiest recycling centers in Michigan.

Headquartered in Holland, the family owned company employs more than 400 today, with 20 locations throughout Michigan. 

Louis Padnos' two sons, Seymour and Stuart Padnos grew up working in the family business and went on to lead the organization through a number of expansions. 

Third generation family members, Shelley and Mitch Padnos, daughter and son of Seymour, along with their cousins Doug and Jeff, sons of Stuart, now oversee the day-to-day operations. Most days you can still find Stuart and Seymour, now in their 80's, at the Holland offices.


Seymour Padnos describes the shift in attitudes and the evolution of their company this way, "My father was a junk man who founded the family business.  My brother and I followed into the business, but we were considered dealers in secondary materials.  Our children followed us and they promptly became recyclers."

"It goes to show how society as a whole has viewed the process." says Michael Ostrander, Account Executive and spokesperson for the Padnos organization. "Now recycling has a cool connotation, with a different feel and a different definition. As the terminology has evolved, so has our company."

Today the company's line of recycled materials includes a range of offerings, "We recycle non-ferrous metals, like stainless, copper, aluminum and brass," says Ostrander, "as well as ferrous metals, meaning they contain iron and steel. We're also hugely involved in a wide range of paper and plastics recycling."

The company also recycles appliances and electronics. "The electronics, or e-scrap, is a little different and somewhat new," says Ostrander, who stressed their company's regard for environmental safety, "Our main concern is that the material does not go overseas, where there may not be safeguards in place."

Earlier this year, the company unveiled a 636 panel solar system, covering the 15,000 square foot roof of their Wyoming warehouse.  The venture was done in partnership with Cascade Engineering.  Reported to be one of the largest solar installations of its kind in Michigan, the system is expected to provide significant cost-savings and greater self-sufficiency at the facility.

"This was done by the family to lead by example," says Ostrander, about the solar project, "They are constantly pushing in their commitment to the environment for future generations."

Ostrander said he thinks people would be surprised to learn how much technology plays a role in their organization.  "We have a business portal that allows our customers to see their material weighed in from anywhere in the country. They have secure access to a database here with their information."

Continuing family businesses from one generation to the next can be challenging.

"Statistics have shown that less than two-thirds of family businesses make the successful transfer to the second generation," says Barbara Draper, University of New Hampshire Center for Family Business, "and making a successful transfer gets harder with each succeeding generation."

With the succession from one generation to the next, the Padnos family has maintained, not only their commitment to values, family, growth and innovation, they have continued their commitment to the environment, as well.

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