Paul Lepinsky - Remembering an industry legend
Submitted by Heidi Logosz, Sustainability Mgr. & Executive Administrator, Mt. Hood Meadows and Cooper Spur Mtn. Resort
Paul Lepinsky recently shuddered A&P Recycling in The Dalles after forty five years of service. Those who know Paul Lepinsky know that recycling is in his DNA.
Paul somehow survived over four decades in business by merely gleaning the declining commodity value of the unwanted materials that he mostly collected for free from area businesses. As many local enterprises will attest, Paul always tried to find a (market) ‘solution’ for their unwanted stuff no matter the cost to him.
My association with Paul Lepinksy from A & P Recycling began as a budding Master Recycler, when I was introduced to a place that accepted the myriad of materials that mainstream recycling would not accept. Thus began my admiration for this man and the business he had co-created. Here was a person working to make recycling happen, despite perceived obstacles.
Paul always gladly accepted what we had to offer, whenever he could (which was nearly all the time because as I said, he made things happen).
We so appreciated his efforts, we made it a point to bring extra items we knew would bring higher value to A & P as a way to show our gratitude. It’s hard to know if bringing him more stuff was received in that vein of gratitude or not. He was a man of few words, none of which were minced. The truth- underneath his weathered thorny exterior, Paul is one of those nicest people you ever met.
He was hauling beer back in ’72 when the Bottle Bill implemented. Paul’s boss exclaimed at that time: “I ain’t a godanged recycler. I sell beer! What are we gonna do with all these bottles?” Paul saw that as an opportunity. He started his own business hauling empty bottles and cans instead, in conjunction with the new redemption system. He eventually set up a more comprehensive source-separated recycling operation in The Dalles that lasted nearly a half century.
The importance of Paul’s role in local recycling has been made startlingly clear by the current extraordinary need for our community to landfill commingled recyclables. Yes, the National Sword created a volatile backdrop for this. The MRFs have responded to the impending contamination crisis by either limiting how much material they will accept or by greatly raising their fees. But the main reason our waste shed is landfilling commingled recycling is that we lost our local cardboard baling business (A&P Recycling). Paul had baled most all of the cardboard from Hood River and The Dalles for decades. Unbaled cardboard can’t find domestic markets. So we send it loose to the MRFs (instead of contaminated commingle).
Paul is to be commended not as an ‘enviro’ or ‘tree hugger’ type of recycler but as an old-fashioned resource retriever. He knew the value of these materials and made a living, or perhaps it’s better to say a life, out of managing them.
To sum it up, Paul Lepinsky is “Old Time”. He personifies the thrifty values that helped our nation through the depression and World War 2. And he has undoubtedly upheld that ethic of resource respect throughout his entire career. It has been a great honor to our community to have benefitted from Paul Lepinsky’s lifetime efforts. He was on the right path, his role mattered, and people have noticed.