Recycling in the Rio Grande Valley may not be as prevalent as it is in other parts of the state and nation, but for 37 years a Brownsville family has been “going green” to make a living.
Owned and operated by Ruben Guerrero Sr., his wife Rosa, and sons Ruben Jr. and Rolando, Brownsville Scrap Paper on FM 511 not far from the Port of Brownsville, the business buys, sells and processes a variety of reusable products; operates two large public scales; and has a shredding machine to handle jobs for commercial and private customers.
“Our father began this business doing cardboard at first,” Ruben Jr. said as he grabbed a bite to eat on a break. “But as the years went by, he diversified the plant and today we process all sorts of recyclable products from the area.”
Those include cardboard, newspapers, plastics, old cell phones without batteries, old satellite receivers, computers and other items that have value as recycled materials. Among its newer services, Brownsville Scrap Paper also provides paper shredding and destruction of documents.
Guerrero said one thing they tell their customers is that whatever they bring needs to be sorted out by the type of material being recycled. “As far as we know,” he said, “no other company in the Valley handles as many recyclable materials as we do.”
The Guerreros took over the plant in 1980 after Ruben Sr. acquired it from a Mexican partner. They relocated the plant in the old Brownsville Compress behind what was then known as the University of Texas at Brownsville. The company moved operations to East Seventh Street for about 12 years before settling in at its current 20-acre location off FM 511 in 1997.
Ruben Jr. said his father initially went into business for himself operating a used car lot in Brownsville along the frontage road called Guerrero’s Used Cars. But following one peso devaluation after another in the 1970s, he decided to call it quits and began thinking about running a different type of business. That’s when he partnered with the Mexican businessman, a deal which helped make his dream come true.
But running a small, yet efficient, type of operation has not been easy, Ruben Jr. said. “No matter what you do, nothing comes easy.” said. He credited their business success on the faith he has in God and the way they manage the recycling plant.
Brownsville Scrap Paper employs 17 people and, although it’s a company with a large capital outlay, the Guerreros said they have faced challenges along the way and have had to adapt to modern technological changes.
Large companies such as Allied Waste, GMS and Lone Star Shredding have plenty of financial resources to expand, buy equipment and invest, but the Guerreros have carved out their own niche where the plant continues to play an important role in the recycling business.
In an age when identity theft and business confidentiality are growing concerns, Brownsville Scrap Paper has added document shredding and destruction to its list of services. They offer free document shredding for area businesses and government offices. A shredding machine pulverizes the paper, which is then compressed into bales and sold to paper recyclers.
Brownsville Scrap Paper handles anywhere from 600 to 1,200 tons of paper products a month and has clients in the United States, Mexico, China and India.
In the yard behind the plant, mountains of plastic products of all shapes and sizes, plastic bottles and aluminum cans can be seen, some packed in bales ready to be shipped out. The bales are transported to other recycling companies for processing. Some of those products are later returned to Brownsville for further processing before they are sold.
The two large certified public scales operated by Brownsville Scrap Paper are open seven days a week. In addition to weighing commercial trucks, the scales are available to private individuals who need to weigh their boats, travel trailers and recreational vehicles, which is a requisite for paying taxes at a county tax assessor-collector office.