Pat Suiter, owner and operator of Bluegrass Recycling in Russellville, was preparing for what he would do as an adult at an early age, only he didn’t know it until he was grown. Starting in the walnut buying business, Suiter has always had a knack for taking something someone else had and finding someone to buy it. He credits a lot of his know-how to his stepfather, Bobby Watkins, who according to Suiter, “was eager enough to keep me in line.”
“Bobby showed me how to work,” said Suiter. “If it were not for him I don’t know where I would be.” Watkins ran an implement business in Russellville which Suiter worked. He would travel with his step-dad and learned great lessons from him along the way. On one of those trips an idea sparked in Suiter that later began a lengthy career in the recycling business.
“We went to Missouri and brought back irrigation piping,” Suiter said. “We took it to my cousin in Hopkinsville who owned Green Earth, a recycling business, and sold it to him. It was then I decided to look more into the business of recycling and learn what I could.”
Suiter apprenticed with his cousin and soon he and Watkins opened their own business in 1991 called S&W Recycling. They dealt mostly in metals, but found as the years went on plastic was the way the industry was going. In 1994, Suiter opened Bluegrass Recycling, which began on Nashville Road, eventually expanding to Cates Bypass.
“I remember in the beginning I would go dumpster diving to find recyclables,” chucked Suiter. “It was really fun.” Now, Suiter doesn’t do much of that. He deals with industry from all over the region and buys and sells millions of tons of product each year.
In 2016, Bluegrass Recycling saw 6.5 million tons of recyclable material come through. Out of that, 104,000 lbs of aluminum cans, 4.9 million lbs of cardboard, 24,000 lbs of batteries, 650 tons of metal, 1 million lbs of paper, and 6.3 million lbs of plastic have been sold.
“This has really been a family business,” Suiter said. “My wife and kids have all helped make it what it has become.”
Suiter, who will turn 50 this year, is married to the former Cindy McCormick. They have four children, Katelyn, twins Nelson and Lucy, and PJ.
“I love what I do,” said Suiter. “Recycling is very important. But with everything there is a time, and it’s time to do something else.”
Bluegrass Recycling will be closing soon. Not because the business is struggling, in fact it’s thriving. But Suiter is ready to go. He says he will miss it, but God has gotten him this far and he knows He will take him where he is to go next.
“I’m gonna do something else,” said Suiter. “I’m not sure yet, but I have faith God will show me.”
Suiter said he couldn’t have accomplished what he has with Bluegrass without the wonderful employees he has had over the years. As many as 22 to be exact. In 2016, Bluegrass paid out over $500,000 in payroll, all to Logan Countians.
“That is one of the hardest parts of closing,” said Suiter. “My employees rely on me and I hate to let them down.”
Donna Kidd has been the office manager since 1996. She, according to Suiter, is his right hand.
“I can’t say enough about Donna. She knows what to do and what I am thinking before I even think it,” laughed Suiter. “She has taken so much stress off of me over the years knowing she is here to take care of things.” Kidd said she will miss working with Pat.
“We have had a great run,” said Kidd. “I have learned so much along the way and will miss it greatly.”
On Jan. 27, 2017, Suiter will close the site on Nashville Road. He said it will take a few months to close the Cates Bypass location simply because there are so many assets to sell, as well as material in the warehouse.
Bluegrass Recycling has been servicing the Logan County Fiscal Court by taking its recyclables from the center on Morgantown Road.
“We will not just drop our customers,” assured Suiter. “I have told them all I will find someone who will serve and care about them just as Bluegrass has.”
It will be hard for Suiter to walk away from something he has been vested in for the past two and a half decades. “It will be bitter sweet,” he said. “But it is time.”
To contact Chris Cooper, email [email protected] or call 270-726-8394.