Michael Timpane, who has most recently worked as a consultant at RRS, is known as an expert on material processing.Courtesy of RRS

During his decades in the recycling industry, Michael Timpane has made a huge impact on a number of companies and local recycling programs. But perhaps more important is the way he has uplifted and inspired the people around him.

Timpane, who speaks today on a markets panel at the Resource Recycling Conference in Orlando, is retiring from full-time work at the end of this year. And this morning’s session will be his final presentation at a national conference.

To mark the occasion, Resource Recycling received comments from a number of sector professionals who have worked closely with Timpane during his career – a stretch that started in the 1970s at Reynolds Aluminum Company and included tenures at BFI, Waste Management (now WM) and, most recently, the consultancy RRS.

Timpane has also been a regular contributor to the pages of Resource Recycling, providing recycling pros with in-depth analysis of recycling economics, stakeholder coordination, facility operations and more.

Below are some of the perspectives offered by sector leaders who have known him over the years as a colleague, mentor, friend and, in at least one case, “the Timpaniac.”

Help and humor

Michael Timpane is a dedicated mentor. His commitment to helping others learn, grow, and connect is rare and something to be celebrated. A decade ago, when I was working hard to get The Recycling Partnership off the ground, his guidance was critical. If you don’t know Michael, the good news is that he hasn’t retired … yet. So you still have time to reach out and get to know him. You won’t regret it. He’s funny, has great stories, is well connected, and if you’re an eager learner, he’s a willing tutor. 

 –Keefe Harrison, CEO, The Recycling Partnership

Impact across the country

Michael will leave behind a void that likely will not be filled. His understanding of material management encompassed the logistics of transport, the mechanics of sortation and processing, the volatility of markets, and the nuances of politics. His fingerprints are on programs in nearly every corner of the country. And he was at the table when recycling was invented.

–Will Sagar, executive director, Southeast Recycling Development Council

Serving the ‘recycling mission’

I feel very fortunate and lucky to have worked so closely with Michael here at Resource Recycling Systems these last eight-plus years. He is an icon in our industry and so much more: a great person, a thoughtful and wise counselor, fun to hang out with and there when you really need him. Michael said when he joined RRS that he wanted that last legacy push in his long and illustrious career, and I hope we helped make that happen. The recycling mission has been served well!

–Jim Frey, co-founder and CEO, RRS

Professionally profane

For me, Michael Timpane was a journalist’s dream. When we chatted, he was always deeply informed, thoughtful, witty and usually profane. Of prime importance, he was an information trader. He would provide nuggets of analysis, then he’d seek input on current trends and issues. At the end of an interview, we would both know more.

–Jerry Powell, founder, Resource Recycling

Great connector of dots

Timpane on a recent outing with the Glass Recycling Coalition.

Michael has not just been a recycling professional but recycling philosopher, bringing his 40,000-foot view to any recycling issue or problem. He’s been able connect all the dots, linking the granular aspects of recycling to its broader purpose, and intuiting how disparate interests of stakeholders affect action and outcomes. What truly stands out about Michael and his career is his faith that recycling matters in a powerful way and his undimmed optimism that, through all the ups and downs, we can make it work better. We will need that spirit when Michael exits the stage into a well-deserved life beyond recycling.

–Scott Mouw, senior advisor of strategy and research, The Recycling Partnership

Processing guru

For six years, I worked and partnered with Michael Timpane on projects at RRS. During that time, I was honored to learn from his vast industry experience and business acumen. Along with RRS’ clients, I benefited from his unique skill set of MRF flow efficiency, systems analysis, and overall business/policy strategy. His colleagues would consider him among the founding fathers of modern recycling processing. This was not just a job to Michael, his work impacted the future for his children, grandchildren and generations to follow.

–Marissa Segundo, principal and chief strategist, Transformations PR

He basically invented it

What should the world know about Michael “the Timpaniac”? His accomplishments in life are too numerous to list completely, but they include: invention of recycling on the Earth and the Moon; construction of the first single-stream recycling facilities; most white papers authored, reviewed, and published by one person; and a triple black belt in Microsoft Word. In a more serious tone, I would like to thank Michael for all his contributions to the recycling industry across many companies throughout the years.

–Ryan Nordt, senior director of innovation and business optimization, WM

The industry’s professor

Michael and I worked at WM together and then over the last number of years he helped support me in my work at Carton Council of North America. Michael is both a great listener and learner while also being a professor of all things recycling. His knowledge and insight have been invaluable to many of us in this dynamic industry. More than just a work colleague, Michael has been a good friend, and as a fellow Bruin, there was always a little time mix in some UCLA sports talk. Michael, I wish you all the best as you retire, you have more than earned it.

–Jason Pelz, vice president of sustainability for the U.S., Canada, Central America and the Caribbean, TetraPak; and vice president of recycling projects, Carton Council North America

Preparing next generation

We are fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Michael at the close of his career. He is always generous with his time and knowledge to help prepare the next generation of recycling leaders to take the mantle. Michael’s deep understanding of the recycling industry, his willingness to be an advocate for sustainability even when it may not be popular, and his never-ending energy, set a high bar for those of us that wish to follow in his footsteps. We will miss his wit, his wisdom and his mentorship.

–Juri Freeman and Resa Dimino, managing principals, RRS

Bringing clarity to complexities

“What are we doing here?” is a question that Michael often would ask when diving into a particularly thorny or complicated recycling issue before identifying a clear path forward. Michael has a singular mind yet still is able to cut to the core of an issue, whether that was a clear-eyed assessment of recycling markets in times of roiling tumult, or the best way to ensure a MRF is safely run. Michael has always stared ceaselessly into the future of recycling and was always generous with sharing his knowledge with wit, vigor, kindness, and fine humor (and great taste in music).

–Dylan de Thomas, vice president of public policy and government affairs, The Recycling Partnership

‘‘Impact from the beginning’

My first memory of Michael was as a colleague at WM, although our paths had crossed previously when we both worked for BFI in the mid-1990s. We were young and thought we knew everything. The world of recycling felt like a new industry, and Michael made an impact from the beginning. His brilliance benefited programs and projects in cities and at companies across North America, touching recycling education and outreach, MRF design and market studies. No one has a broader and deeper knowledge of the recycling industry than Michael. And his generosity in taking time to share his knowledge and to mentor the next generation of recyclers is unparalleled.

–Susan Robinson, retired WM recycling executive

Grandpa is an independent thinker

The Philosopher King of Recycling joined Resource Recycling Systems eight years ago with the intention of growing our consulting business. In that time, RRS grew three times over. He immediately demonstrated his natural ease with the role. Of course, he was always an industry expert, but now he could wax philosophical about all of the issues he cared about. He challenges conventional thinking and often his counter-intuitive thoughts prove correct. Personally, he has been kind and thoughtful as a friend. He dotes on his grandchildren and apparently, they on him as well. I wish him many more years of spoiling his progeny. Thanks for all of your hard work and good cheer!

–JD Lindeberg, President, RRS

More stories about MRFs