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ECR is now Environmentally Conscious Recycling


Ralph Gilbert and son Vince pose in front of Environmentally Conscious Recycling, formerly East County Recycling at 12409 N.E. San Rafael Street. The recycling firm has been operating for over 20 years in Mid-county. Open seven days a week, ECR’s phone number is 503-253-0867.
It’s an old neighbor with a new name.

The former East County Recycling, located at the northeast corner of Northeast 122nd Avenue and San Rafael Street, is now Environmentally Conscious Recycling.

The new name reflects an evolution from what used to be considered trash to the more environmentally thoughtful recycling. The firm recycles plastic, metal, cardboard and wood, among other standard recyclables. This past spring ECR began to offer recycling for carpet, computer components, copiers and fax machines.

The Memo spoke recently with the father-and-son team who own and operate ECR, Ralph and Vince Gilbert. At 47 the younger Gilbert, Vince, is the man in the driver’s seat and was busy answering telephone calls and working with employees at the bustling site while the Memo spoke with him. Ralph came into the interview later, but let his son do most of the talking.

“We’re in our 21st year,” Vince said. Since the firm opened in 1986, “there hasn’t been one year where we haven’t been named the number one recycler of all Metro-licensed facilities.”

Vince said that approximately 300,000 tons of materials are processed through ECR.

“That’s a lot of material,” he said, adding that nearly 90 percent of it is sold to various firms outside of ECR. “We have several pieces of equipment that do the actual processing right here.” Materials processed on-site include steel, tin, aluminum and copper.

“We’re innovative. We recycle things that other jurisdictions claim to not be recyclable,” Vince said. Such items include rigid plastic and the previously mentioned carpet and electronics. Vince stressed that no other recycler in Oregon or Washington recycles carpet.

“We’re always coming up with new and innovative ways to recycle things that have never had a home before,” Vince said. “Nobody’s recycling (all) wallboard right now. If they are, it’s only new trimmings, not waste.”

Innovation has kept ECR a leader in recycling. The company is making a road-based product out of toilets, granite counters, ceramic tile and glass. ECR takes those refuse items, crushes them, and turns them into Oregon Department of Transportation-specification base rock.

“It meets ODOT spec,” Vince said. “We sell it as fast as we make it.” The material ultimately ends up in the construction of driveways and roads and is also used as fill for sewer projects.

But it’s not all about the recycling business at the company.

ECR also provides family-wage jobs to the approximately 80 employees who work at the site. In addition, ECR provides health insurance to employees, and to their spouses and children.

ECR is also in the waste hauling business.

“We go and get dry mixed loads,” Vince said. “We have a trucking division that goes and gets the loads and brings them back here. We provide the service to anybody that needs it.”
ECR also has a business division that manufactures the drop boxes that the trucking company delivers to job sites.

To improve the image of the grounds and to contain any errant waste, ECR constructed a concrete fence around the nine-acre property several years ago. Workers are consistently sweeping the perimeter of the property to keep it as tidy as possible.

“We’ve got buildings going in to contain things even more,” said Vince, “so that our cleaning efforts will cost us less money.”

Vince said he’s constantly monitoring the sanitary conditions of the site and that paving of roads inside the grounds is an ongoing project. While we were on-site, workers were pouring concrete slabs to support new structures.

“We’re paving and improving our business,” Vince said, “and going into the future to stay the number one recycler and put even more distant between ourselves and anyone else.”

Before it was ECR, the site was a ready mix concrete, sand and gravel operation, started in 1964 by Ralph Gilbert.

Vince remembers his childhood adventures at his dad’s business.

“I used to play in the rock piles,” Vince said, “and look for agates and stuff, when I was very little.”

Vince took over the operation in 1997.

For computers and what Vince called “e-waste,” ECR employees disassemble the units, and then the components are marketed. Vince said employees at the site take the electronics apart and separate the usable from the unusable, making certain that parts that could potentially leach dangerous chemicals into the earth are dealt with appropriately. He said ECR takes those computer parts and manages them in an Oregon Department of Environmental Quality-approved manner.

Ralph said he was “more than proud” of what his son is continuing.

“This is my life,” said Ralph. “What gravitated us to this is that we’re doing something environmental.” He said that a former business card read, “environmentalists, recyclers and conservationists.”

“We’re all three of those,” Ralph said.

“We also have a lot of fun,” Vince said. He’s enjoyed ramping up the carpet-recycling end of the business because he and his dad visited those in the carpet manufacturing business together. “It’s fun to go with your dad and talk to these business people,” Vince said, “and find out what their issues are, and have two heads solving a problem together.”

Neighbors may have noticed a new electronic sign on the corner of Northeast 122nd and San Rafael. The sign primarily promotes the business, but it’s also meant to be a free forum for local nonprofit and public organizations. Vince said that if local high schools or churches, for example, have a message they want to put up or a community event to promote, ECR would do so free of charge. He advised those interested to contact ECR.

ECR will accept computer components and office electronics for free, but does not accept TVs.

Other items accepted are bottles and jars; construction and demolition waste (except lath and plaster); coolant-containing appliances; drums and barrels; fill material; large appliances; laser printer cartridges; newspaper; pallets and yard debris. Call ECR for fees and information on other items accepted.

The address for ECR is 12409 N.E. San Rafael St. The phone number is 503-253-0867.

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