Empowering Communities

Woman-Owned Recycling Business Makes its Own Luck

January 2, 2018

20Eco-friendly Values, Winning Spirit Drive United Scrap Success Story

With about $200, a rented truck and extraordinary passion to succeed, Marsha Serlin started a company in the early 1980s that has grown into one of the largest recycling firms in the nation. Headquartered in the industrial corridor on Chicago’s northwest side, United Scrap serves customers throughout the United States and several foreign countries.

Power companies are one of United Scrap’s largest customer segments – it got its first opportunity with ComEd 30 years ago. It operates one of the industry’s largest lines dedicated to recycling of utility equipment, transforming overhead and underground cable and insulation into assorted copper, steel and aluminum products for auto, agriculture, pharmaceutical, and supplement industries.

The common denominator among United’s customers is a high expectation for quality products that support their own commitment to sustainability, Marsha says.

“I’ve been an environmentalist forever and I know being green isn’t the first thing many people think of when they hear the word ‘scrap’, but that’s really what drives this business,” Marsha says.  “Environmental principles have really helped distinguish us, especially in the early days when there were very few women in this business. Investing in best practices and in our people is also part of our formula. It’s created great opportunities for a diverse workforce where people are inspired by the opportunity to show what they can do. I can’t tell you how gratifying it is to see people meet and exceed their own expectations.”

In the past six years, ComEd’s total diversity certified supplier expenditure reached $2.6 billion, a 339-percent increase, providing new opportunities for African American, Hispanic, Native American, veteran and women-owned businesses.