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Web enabled; the days when only "techies" used the Internet are long gone. Nowadays, more people find that using the Internet is an essential part of day-to-day business. (Recycling On The Web).

Everyone knows by now that the dot-com bubble burst. Many of the craziest schemes have long since faded into relative obscurity, taking billions of dollars of wealth with them.

However, because companies such as Pets.com, Webvan, eToys and other purely Internet-based companies have faded, it doesn't mean that the Internet has disappeared.

Quite the contrary. Internet use continues to swell, as more people find out that the Internet provides great opportunities. One major change in thinking, however, is that the Internet as a tool won't replace the present business model; rather, the Internet can be used to enhance a company's existing business operations.

The days when people threw around terms such as "first mover," "eyeballs" and the like have been replaced with a more grounded approach to what can be done over the Internet.

AN IMPORTANT ADD-ON

The most apparent issue is that Internet, at least in its present form, will not replace traditional methods of business in the recycling industry. Rather, proponents now realize, the Internet holds the capability of enhancing existing models of business.

Paul Roszel, president of Recycle.net (www.recycle.net), Guelph, Ontario, Canada, has been one of the earliest pioneers connecting the Internet with recycling. As one of the first, and one of the few, purely dedicated to using the Internet as a basis of business, he sees one of the biggest advantages of the Internet as expanding the geographic ground one can cover.

Even more treacherous, Recycle.net has carved out its business in the buying/selling sector. This area, more than any other, has seen the greatest amount of attention, as well as the largest losses. What Recycle.net has been able to do is bring a localized coverage to an international audience.

This area was where many of the deep-pocketed venture capitalists attempted to stake their claim. While hundreds of millions of dollars were lost in these failed attempts to bring suppliers and consumers together, Roszel is still very bullish on the outlook for trading recyclable commodities via the Internet. "There is no way you can use traditional exposure methods and get this many people in such a quick way," he comments.

Roszel notes that before branching out into an Internet-only site, his company produced a printed book of items to buy or sell. However, he estimates that it might have taken 45 days for the information to be compiled, printed and then mailed. Now, through Recycle.net, a company can post a buy/sell order and have a response within minutes.

Even more impressive, Roszel notes, are the advantages of using the Internet for buying and selling less traditional materials. Finding a buyer for a hard-to-recycle commodity may take six months or longer through conventional methods. However, having a ready audience of hundreds of thousands of people often speeds up the time it may take to bring a supplier and buyer of "odd lots" together.

One target for many recycling-focused sites has been the ability to target the buying and selling avenue for the recycling industry. Since the recycling industry is a commodity-based industry, the ability to trade materials on line is one many feel holds the greatest promise.

On the surface, using the Internet for transactions makes perfect sense. As opposed to buying and selling material via traditional methods, the Internet would offer great economies of scale -- creating a much larger pool of buyers and sellers in a worldwide sector.

However, the reality has so far been far from easy. As the Internet moved from the bastion of the technology savvy toward being embraced by the business world in general, a host of trading sites cropped up. These sites promised to bring the two sides together. The reality, however, is that overall the recycling industry has been slow to embrace this method of business.

While many Internet trading sites have struggled to remain a viable entity, other pioneers have stayed in business. Along with Recycle.net, ScrapExchange.com has been one of the few companies that has been able to stay in operation. Terry Chavla, marketing manager for ScrapExchange.com, says that the recycling industry, in general, is behind many other industries in embracing the Internet as a business tool. However, the global reach of the Internet offers many companies significant "economies of scale," she notes.

Both Chavla and Roszel note that more active use of the Internet gives companies the opportunity to reach a worldwide audience. "Making contacts is important for the industry. That is one of the key advantages of the Internet," Chavla says.

While several of their competitors have failed in their initial forays into Web-based transacting, some are being recreated. ScrapSite (www.scrapsite.com) and its sister site, MetalSite (www. metalsite.com) have been re-launched under new ownership after initially being unable to operate profitably.

Management Science Associates, Inc., the new owner of the two e-commerce sites, opened up the sites about four months ago, after they were closed last June. According to a news release, MSA cites four factors that should allow the company to succeed: MSA's record of providing a level playing field for clients within highly competitive industries; the company's success in developing supply-chain solutions used by both U.S. and foreign industries; analytical capabilities that turn data into knowledge; and domain knowledge and practical experience gained by working with most of the North American steelmakers over many years.

WHAT'S THE NEWS?

The Internet is a terrific source of news, but can media organizations deliver their Web content profitably? The perception by most users is that anything on the Internet is free. However, searching for an article or a research topic can often be time consuming.

"Lots of people are seeking information," says Mary Cesar, general manager for Forestweb, a Web site dedicated to the forest products industry (www.forestweb.com). One step that Forestweb and other companies are looking to take is moving users from the concept of receiving news for free to using a paid subscription service.

An advantage a site such as Forestweb offers, according to Cesar, is the ability to have all the news in one location, reducing the time spent searching for news. An extension of that is the opportunity to send out news alerts that send people news whenever it breaks.

Because the recycling industry is based on commodity issues, news, along with research, statistics and economic and industry-related trends, are essential to many people, she notes.

The biggest difficulty could be that the information must be tailored to particular industries. A number of government agencies have been providing statistical information that provides wide ranging information such as capacity figures, export totals, prices for material and consumption patterns.

While searching for statistics at government agency sites can be extremely time consuming, a host of associations have made the step much easier by providing links to the sites that provide the information that may be needed by their members. The American Iron and Steel Institute (www.steel.org) provides monthly steel statistics.

For a more global approach, the International Iron and Steel Institute (www.worldsteel.com) provides raw steel production figures for the major steel producing nations.

IF YOU BUILD IT, WILL THEY COME?

The perception of many observers is that the traditional scrap recycling industry has yet to embrace all of the possibilities afforded by the Internet. But there are some companies that have made significant changes to their businesses to enhance their operations.

While recyclers may use the Internet to search out needed information, many of them have neglected to create a site that can provide value to their own company.

One company that is working to use the opportunities the Internet provides with the traditional methods of the recycling industry is Advanced Recycling Services (www.advancedsteel.com).

The company, according to Nathan Frankel, president of the Rancho Cucamonga, Calif., scrap facility, has fully embraced many of the possibilities of the Internet to provide greater information for its customers. "We develop methods to manage from A to Z with the scrap industry, and we integrate them with all of our clients worldwide."

While only in business for several years, Frankel's family earlier owned and operated Frankel Iron and Metal, before selling the facility off to another recycling operation.

Frankel points out that by using Advanced Recycling's Web site, customers are able to track the flow of scrap from when it was collected, to the scale house, with additional, more specific information also available. Most of the company's customers consider the recyclable assets as not necessarily as integral a part of the business as the finished product manufactured. However, he feels that once many of these companies get familiar with the possibilities available via the Internet, including e-mail, there will be an increased recognition of the time and cost saved by taking advantage of new methods to improve business.

While these additional features don't necessarily translate into increased sales right now, he is sure that down the road more manufacturers will see the benefit of being able to track their shipments, as well as being able to access past shipments. While Frankel has embraced the opportunity, he feels that few scrap companies have moved past putting up a Web site that is used basically as a contact sheet.

STAYING IN TOUCH

Many recycling associations and media outlets have built progressive Web sites

On the RecyclingToday.com site (www.recyclingtoday.com), anew section has been dedicated to providing general information on associations affiliated to the recycling industry. While most have a Web presence, many of the sites, including national sites, lack a well-structured, easily navigable site that actually provides some value to the user.

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries Inc. (ISRI) has become one of the more proactive associations in building up its Internet presence. Janet Kreizman, ISRI's director of member communications and public affairs, says that a focus for the site is providing information on what is going on in both the industry in general, as well as with the association specifically.

Along with providing news of the association, ISRI has used its Web site as a platform to send out news alerts when pressing matters crop up. For example, Kreizman notes, ISRI sent out a news alert last fall when anthrax concerns swept the country (including the plants of paper recyclers). Alerting members via e-newsletter and e-mail, as well as by fax, helped get the association's position and recommendation out to its members in a timely fashion.

While many of the tech savvy recyclers feel that the scrap recycling industry has been slow to adapt to the Internet, all feel that it is inevitable that Internet-based business methods will be further integrated with traditional business practices.

RECYCLING TODAY LOOKS TO BRIDGE THE GAP

Like many other publishers, the Recycling Today Media Group has been building up its Web presence. The Web site, www.recyclingtoday.com, has been designed to allow the publishing group to offer additional information to its readers.

One of the most popular sections has been the issues archives, which allows visitors to view back issues of the magazine. Issues of Recycling Today from as far back as 1995 can be found at the site, while articles from every issue of C&D Recycler (which began publishing in 1999) can be found there.

The site also contains a steady feed of daily news, sorted into more than 30 different categories. This design makes it much easier for visitors to search for articles having a direct impact on their businesses. On average, more than 100 original articles appear on the site each month.

New to the RecyclingToday.com site is Association Central. This section provides general information about and links to local, state, national and international associations involved in the recycling industry. The section includes links to association events, contact information, and links for new memberships.

The site also has two sections that can bring a company increased exposure at no cost. The classifieds section allows any registered user to place a classified ad at absolutely no charge.

Along with these features, RecyclingToday.com has a weekly e-newsletter, sent out every Monday.

For more information on the RecyclingToday.com Web site or the e-newsletter, contact Dan Sandoval at dsandoval@recyclingtoday.com.

The author is Internet Editor of the Recycling Today Media Group. He can be contacted via e-mail at dsandoval@RecyclingToday.com.
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No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
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Article Details
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Author:Sandoval, Daniel
Publication:Recycling Today
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Mar 1, 2002
Words:2059
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