- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 25, 2014

DECATUR, Ala. (AP) - Bill O’Brien was reducing, reusing and recycling before it was the cool thing to do.

And now, Container Recycling in Decatur is a multimillion-dollar family business.

While working as a purchase agent at Monsanto (now Ascend) in 1982, part of O’Brien’s job was getting rid of intermediate bulk containers that carried dye the company bought from Georgia and New York.

The containers, which hold 275 or 330 gallons, are square plastic jugs inside a metal cage.

They replaced the steel barrels because they had a larger carrying capacity. One container equals five barrels. A forklift can more easily move the containers.

At the time, they were likely headed to a local landfill. The local metal recycling company didn’t want the plastic, and Monsanto’s suppliers weren’t interested in taking the containers back.

“The containers would never deteriorate,” O’Brien said. “The metal would rust, but the plastic would be there forever.”

O’Brien’s son, Patrick, said his dad always was looking for ways to make extra money. His parents once bought and sold antiques before her death.

O’Brien began buying the containers for $20 each from Monsanto. He then sold them after cleaning for about $90 each to local industries and a Memphis adhesive and glue company.

“Dad found a niche that was very underutilized at the time,” said Patrick O’Brien, who now handles sales and venders.

Bill O’Brien initially only sold five to 10 a month for pocket money to send his children to college, or to pay for his hunting and fishing.

It became serious business in 1993 when O’Brien rented a warehouse from Ronnie Moore on Cockrell Avenue. O’Brien retired from Monsanto two years later.

The company added another building in 1996 when his son joined the business.

“We started a system in which the containers would flow through the plant,” O’Brien said.

His daughter, Debbie, took over the business office. Her husband, Bobbie Sandoval, became general manager. Recycling Containers now was a true family business.

The company now generates roughly $3 million annually and recycles 27,000 containers a year.

Bobbie Sandoval said Bill O’Brien, 73, has a contrasting personality, but he loves working for him. He loves that it’s “truly a Christian business.” All four are active in their churches.

“He’s got a big heart and can be tender to a fault,” Bobbie Sandoval said. “But he’s also a stern businessman who demands results.”

All of Container Recycling’s customers are within 200 miles of Decatur. Spread out any further and shipping costs would eat up profits, Bill O’Brien said.

Bill O’Brien, who now handles special projects, said he isn’t interested in expanding. The company’s big enough so there’s time for outside interests, he said.

Don’t ask for Bill O’Brien from October to January. He’s probably duck hunting. Patrick O’Brien hunts, too, but said children and work make it difficult to go as much as dad does.

“We’ve got to start fishing more again,” Patrick O’Brien said.

A Westmeade Baptist Church deacon and Gideon, Bill O’Brien goes on mission trips whenever possible.

A member of Rotary Club of Decatur Daybreak, his recent passion is Rotary’s water filter program in the Dominican Republic.

“God has blessed me, so I try to give back to the community,” Bill O’Brien said.


Information from: The Decatur Daily, https://www.decaturdaily.com/decaturdaily/index.shtml

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