CDRA Member Spotlight: Sam Flanery of American Classic

Sam Flanery of American Classic in Bailey, MI

What materials do you recycle? Can you describe the volume and types of incoming materials you process?

American Classic’s family of companies cast a wide net in the C&D business. The ACC Dumpster Service provides opportunities to recycle a wide range of products from a multitude of customers including wood, concrete, and asphalt shingles that provide the largest volumes. We also see a large amount of cardboard and other standard products. The dumpster company currently offers over 500 dumpsters up to 40 yarders in size.  ACC also owns and operates a sawmill business that has the usual mix of recyclables. The ACC product supply company services over 400 building contractors with anything to do with the exterior of a home or small commercial business. There is a large opportunity for additional C&D materials as our customers engage the recycling market. 


How did you get started in the business?

Leon Thompson and his wife Terri, his two sons, Nate and his wife Shannon, Jake and his wife Katelyn, daughter Raeanne and her husband Greg, all have major roles in American Classic Family of business. ACC started 21 years ago by simply roofing houses. Leon saw an opportunity to gain a business share in the roofing business by having larger quantities of roofing material on hand in stock. That led to a roofing supply business that now supplies all materials for the exterior of homes. They also provide turnkey solutions with product and installation. They have both in-house crews and subcontractors.  ACC has 40 roofing crews and 35 siding crews. They then acquired a dumpster company and a sawmill and the waste and recycling business was born.  


What are the biggest challenges in your market and C&D recycling?

One of the largest challenges is getting the contracting companies to change the way they do business and to focus more on recycling. Old habits die hard, but we are seeing a big increase in the willingness to recycle versus just sending it to the landfill. The biggest challenge for us now is managing the growth of our recycling division. 


Where are the biggest opportunities?

American Classic’s owners made the decision to go all out in the waste and recycling business three years ago, and the first big initiative they gave us was to find a way to recycle asphalt shingles. Getting a Beneficial Reuse petition approved by the state environmental office was the first order of business.  We received that in May 2021 and off to the races we went. Our main focus was finding and developing new markets for recycled shingles. Michigan has a recycling initiative called Nextcycle that is administered by RRS, a recycling consulting firm.  They sent out RFPs for recycling projects and one track was the roads track. The goal was to find recycling products to be used in the roads. Forty-eight companies summited ideas and plans. Only a handful were chosen, and American Classic’s asphalt shingle recycling use was one of them. We have many markets for the recycled shingles now. That spurred enthusiasm in the company to go after more products that can be recycled. Profitability is top of mind and long-term investment is the key. We are now over 500 dumpsters for the hauling side. We purchased a building to develop a full-blown C&D MRF to handle our growth. Busy time at the American Classic Family of Businesses. 


How long have you been a member of CDRA?

Three years.

What inspired you to join CDRA?

I was searching the internet about recycling shingles and found the CDRA’s shingle recycling website. I read every page and every document on the site and decided we needed to get to know all these people and that has proven to be the best decision I have made in building a C&D recycling business for American Classic.  

What do you find most rewarding about working in this industry?

Every industry has more challenges than solutions. However, I have always loved a challenge, and the most rewarding part has been realizing how many others there are in this industry taking on the same challenges. When I found CDRA and got to know other members and see how willing they are to work together to solve the challenges, it has been the most rewarding thing I have found in my career.


What challenges have you faced over the years and how have you overcome them?

Getting people to change and become open to new ways of doing business is a common denominator in all industries. Finding and becoming involved in organizations like CDRA that are embracing others is the best way to overcome challenges. I guess you could say misery loves company.

What’s something about you (a fun fact) that not many people know?

I’m 68 years old and feel like I am 40. I tried retirement and quickly missed having a challenge. I love working with people to create something new and believe there are no problems only opportunities. Family is everything to me and we must set an example by doing something great. Our kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids need good examples. My wife and I have been married 50 years next year and many more to come, God willing. Oh, and I love cutting down trees.

How do you think the industry is changing and what trends do you see coming up on the horizon?

People are a lot more conscious of where things come from and where they go when they have served their usefulness. Recycling is becoming the normal, not the exception. More opportunities on the horizon but you must think outside the box.

What advice would you give to someone interested in this industry?

First, join CDRA and get involved, share what you know, and learn from others. You are never too old to learn something new.

Best piece of business advice you’ve gotten or learned over the years?

Listen more than you talk. Work like it depends on you. Pray like it depends on God. Keep priorities straight. Surround yourself with people that have passion. Lead, follow, or get out of the way!


Would you like to have your company featured in a spotlight like this? Contact CDRA Executive Director Becky Caldwell at [email protected]

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