By PHYL NEWBECK
For Christopher Burnett, there is no place he’d rather be than working for the company his grandfather Edward Burnett Sr. started during World War II.
“This is the only thing I know,” the 33-year-old said of his ownership of Burnett Scrap Metals in Hinesburg. “I was born into the business.”
Burnett’s grandfather initially worked at Queen City Steel, but soon struck out on his own, beginning with a car parts yard in Williston which he eventually sold when he moved the business to Hinesburg.
Burnett started working in the shop when he was 11 or 12, cleaning transmissions and performing other tasks. “Taking everything apart was a great job for a kid,” he said.
In 1996, Burnett’s uncles Mark and Jim took over and upgraded the business. He joined them in ownership in 2015.
These days, Burnett Scrap Metals has two roll-off trucks, one tractor-trailer, and two one-ton pickup trucks. Although they do pick-ups as far as New Hampshire and New York, their core territory is Chittenden, Addison and Franklin counties.
Their facility on Route 116 has a wide variety of equipment including grapple excavators and skid steers. The company no longer deals with the car parts that Burnett loved to take apart as a child, since these parts are now far less interchangeable and that business has become internet-based. “Besides,” he said with a smile, “we’re not that mechanically inclined. We just like to take things apart.”
The business is now solely a recycling operation, referred to as a feeder yard since they take metal and ship it to bigger processors. Some of the metal comes from 10-, 20-, 30- or 40-yard roll-off boxes that are located on farms, construction and demolition sites or other pick-up spots. Some of it is dropped off by people who visit the facility.
Several years ago, there were problems with people bringing metal of dubious origin but that has changed thanks to better regulations and a legal document for those who bring in material to sign to prove ownership.
Burnett said he can’t remember the last time someone brought in something suspicious, and that pleases him. “We’re just junk guys,” he said. “We’re not detectives.”
Burnett Scrap Metals has nine employees including Burnett and his uncles. Their work is divided into ferrous (steel) and non-ferrous (copper, aluminum, brass, etc.) materials. The ferrous materials are shipped to Montreal and the non-ferrous generally goes to Massachusetts or Albany.
For the last five years, the company has sponsored a car at Thunder Road. “We love the sport and believe it has great ties to our industry,” Burnett said. This year, their driver Jason Corliss already has one victory in the ACT late model division. Burnett can be found in the support team along the track at Corliss’ races.
Burnett and his wife Lindsey just built a house in St. George. They have three small girls, so family and the race team occupy much of his spare time.
“Ninety percent of the time I love my job,” he said. “I can’t see myself doing anything else. It’s exciting for me to part of the third generation to be carrying on this business.” It’s a little early for his daughters to making career decisions but Burnett would be thrilled to have them take the reins. “I’m not going to push them,” he said. “I’ll let them choose their career, but I will definitely give them any opportunity they want here.”