Born: I was born Feb. 8, 1986, in Morristown, N.J.
Education: I earned a Bachelor of Science in Human Ecology in 2008 from The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.
Family: My wife, Paula, and I married five years ago. We have a 4-year-old daughter, Ella Rae, and a 1½-year-old son, Henry Elliott.
When and how did you enter the paper recycling industry? I started working for the family company—Wilmington Paper Corp.—when I was in middle school. My first job was to erase old “load” numbers on manila file folders so we could reuse them for new loads. We had one folder for every transaction that contained everything from the supplier payment to the scale ticket. Quite a few operating systems ago! I continued working for WPC during high school and college summers. I started taking the job more seriously in my senior year of college when I took some responsibilities with me to OSU. I joined the company full time a few days after graduating in June 2008.
What was it about the industry that prompted you to build a career in it? It was really all I knew. I loved working with my father [Stuart Lurie], my grandfather [Harvey Lurie], and so many other members of the WPC team that I’d known for years growing up. I enjoyed learning about family business and the recycling industry, and I was excited to try to add value as quickly as possible.
What have been your most rewarding professional achievements? The most rewarding professional achievement has been earning the respect of those both within our company and throughout the industry who had worked with WPC for so many years. There are some real challenges that come with being a family member in the company, and I had to outwork the stigma that comes with it. I took that on as a challenge and always wanted to make sure I was as prepared as possible so no one ever thought anything was handed to me. Honestly, I’m not sure the feeling of having to outwork that ever goes away. Adding to that, I’ve always strived to add value to the company and build on what was already established. I’m proud how we’ve developed so many new ideas and grown in so many ways over the past 13 years, including in overall volume, new business segments, operational efficiencies through the recycling plants, additional suppliers and customers, and more.
How about your most rewarding personal achievements? For a more personal achievement, I’m proud to be one of the top individual fundraisers in New Jersey (and WPC is one of the top company teams) for the March of Dimes’ March for Babies fundraiser. It’s a cause we recently began supporting, and we’re excited about what we’ve been able to contribute. Since joining in 2019, we’ve learned so much about what March of Dimes does, and we’re honored to be part of it. Our WPC company team was given the Hero award for its efforts at the 2019 kickoff event.
What are you passionate about? I’m passionate about our business and doing things the right way, which includes working hard and adding true value to the companies that trust us with their recycling. I’m passionate about my family and always try to step back and appreciate how incredibly fortunate we are. I also enjoy meeting new people and am lucky to have built so many close relationships with industry associates over the last 13 years. Not to be too clichéd, but I’m also passionate about our team. I truly believe that from top to bottom, through WPC, RMR, and Green Logistics, we have the most dedicated and hard-working staff in the industry. It’s pretty special to have joined the company when it had about 15 employees and been part of its growth to over 250 extremely valuable people who have joined over the years.
Tell us something about you that would surprise people. My wife and I are avid concertgoers. We love live music and have been to a wide range of shows—from the Beach Boys to Billy Joel, Crosby Stills & Nash to Joan Jett, and--one of our favorites—O.A.R. More recently we loved seeing Leon Bridges, and we’ll attend every Lumineers concert we possibly can. We’re very much looking forward to bringing our children to some shows when things open back up and they’re old enough to enjoy the experience.
If you could improve anything about yourself, what would it be? Being part of a family business, I tend to take everything in my work life personally. I wish I could let more things roll off my back or just move on. I want our company to be the best in the world at what it does, so whenever something goes sideways, I find it difficult to get over. I’d also like to be better at just relaxing. For better or worse, I’m not great at sitting still and unwinding or lounging. I need activities planned and things on my to-do list to feel comfortable.
What do you like to do in your free time? I enjoy getting outdoors with my family, exercising, playing golf, and watching games with friends—notably The Ohio State Buckeyes. My wife and I also enjoy traveling, exploring new places, and experiencing different cultures around the country and the world.
When and why did your company decide to join ISRI and the PSI Chapter? Our company joined the National Association of Recycling Industries [an ISRI predecessor association] and PSI long before my time. It was my grandfather’s and my father’s way of connecting with people in the industry and learning about the standards and practices as well as the rules and regulations.
Have you held any volunteer leadership positions in PSI? Recently a good friend and associate—Ed Tucciarone of Graphic Packaging International—invited me to join PSI’s Specifications Committee, which he leads as chair. I was excited to learn from other members of the committee and share our companies’ views to shape the grading methodology and approach moving forward. I look forward to staying involved and continuing to be a part of PSI in the coming years.
What benefits have you received from your PSI involvement? Learning from other members who have so many years of experience in all segments of our industry. This business changes every day, so it’s great to learn from leaders who may specialize in different grades and work in different regions around the country.
What are the major challenges facing your company and the overall paper recycling industry today? The major challenge in today’s market is logistics. The logistics problems started pre-COVID and have only worsened throughout the pandemic. The problems include trucking reliability and pricing, drayage costs, booking changes leading to service failures, overall capacity issues and driver shortages, and more. The recycling industry has never been the highest-paying freight customer and, unfortunately, we’re feeling the effects of getting last dibs on available freight. Costs are rising, and reliability is more and more of a challenge. We pride ourselves on service, so we’re having to work overtime to make sure missed loads are recovered and suppliers are taken care of every single day. We’re lucky to have a strong logistics team that helps us navigate these incredibly choppy shipping waters.