Located on the edge of downtown Vancouver, Davis Trading had its start in 1909. David Davis founded the company as a horse and buggy style operation - more of a trading company than a recycler - hence the company's full name, Davis Trading & Supply Ltd. Over its more than 100 years in the business, the company has salvaged, traded and recycled everything from glass bottles, inner tubes, cotton and mattresses to used clothing and even horse hair and animal bones.
Through the 1950s and 1960s, Davis Trading began transitioning over to metal recycling, with nonferrous, and more recently ferrous metal, as their focus. Today, run by the fourth-generation family owner Gabe Davis (shown left), Davis Trading is part of the Davis Group of companies, a leader in the Pacific Northwest and West Coast recycling regions, with sites in B.C., Alberta and California.
An Inner City operation
According to Davis Trading's sales and marketing manager, Harold Setynski, the main challenges of operating a scrap-yard in an inner city location are rooted in their relationship with the City of Vancouver. He said that, unfortunately, city officials do not seem to like scrap dealers in their jurisdiction much at all.
"I don't know why. You would expect that a city like Vancouver, that is trying to be one of the ‘greenest' cities in the world, would want to have a clean, paved, recycling centre right outside of its downtown core," said Setynski. "It appears by all accounts that they do not.
"In Vancouver, we are taxed as if we were using the raw land as a development - which is a very nice way of them saying ‘We don't want you here.' When property taxes go up 190 percent in one year, you have to look at things. In the city of Vancouver, land is continually increasing in value, and the way in which the City taxes land is really hurting people."
He said any competitive advantage they have in being close to Vancouver's downtown core is now basically moot.
"When you are paying way more to operate, you can get as much material as you want, but you're not going to be ‘rolling' in cash - or be anywhere close to having an operating budget that is going up every year, when it's just being completely drained out the bottom."
According to Setynski, one other issue they've had recently, and the topic of the September meeting for the B.C. chapter of the Canadian Association of Recycling Industries (of which Setynski is the current treasurer), has to do with a number of yards in the Metro Vancouver area which are struggling to deal with regulations from WorkSafeBC, British Columbia's workplace health and safety regulator.
"It does seem like both WorkSafeBC and our City government are targeting scrapyards in the greater Vancouver area, making it harder for them to do business. These are yards that have been around for upwards of 30 years, some of them 50, some of them longer. These are yards that have zero history of incident."
Setynski said they feel that the City, and local regulators such as WorkSafeBC, have been very clear with how they feel about recycling, and that is has a lot to do with the old, lingering perception of the scrapyard being a dirty place where "dirty things" happen.
"I think it does have to do with that. I think it's unfair. It is what it is, and you have to deal with it. But there comes a point where it's really, really grating on our business."
Davis Trading & Supply Ltd.'s main building at their yard in Vancouver is actually an old barrel-making warehouse. "When you look up at the rafters, you can see all the old little tools and items, all the strings and cords, they're still up there. So it's quite cool. And the building is made out of wood, it's a wood roof and it's got wood buttresses, so it's basically an antique. This building is what we use to house all of our nonferrous."
Outside, their 2-acre yard is completely paved. It's where they keep their piles of ferrous and copper, and where they run their key equipment, including what he calls their ‘hard' baler (a Sierra International T900) for ferrous, an Enterprise nonferrous baler (‘soft baler'), as well as a Bobcat skid steer, four Toyota forklifts and an Exodus wheeled material handler equipped with various attachments.
"Because we are an inner city yard, operating in a relatively compact area, we don't run excavators, and use just one Exodus material handler for loading, unloading and sorting."
As far as environmental, noise and dust issues, Setynski said being close to neighbours in Vancouver hasn't been an issue at all for Davis Trading.
"The company operating next to us, Direct Tap, is a brewery," he said. "They have no problem with our operation. They actually produce more smells than we do. We don't process anything with paint. We don't process anything with oil. There's no elevated risk of fire. We're a ‘dry yard.'"
He adds that they even sweep the street in front of their yard, which is city property. "We use a sweeper attachment on our Bobcat and on our forklifts. We're, for all intents and purposes, upstanding citizens. We're helping the city, but we don't feel like the City is helping back."
At the end of the day though, Setynski feels their relationship with local government and regulators is amicable overall. "With our GM serving as the B.C. chapter president for CARI and myself as the treasurer, we continue to work towards strengthening the lines of communication with local regulators."