-- Peddlers of scrap metal looking to buy and sell, take note: there's an app for that — thanks to the owner of a scrap yard aiming to promote his business.
The iScrap application for the iPhone, Android and other platforms is the creation of Tom Buechel, the 26-year-old owner of Rockaway Recycling in Rockaway, N.J. The idea was born much the way many successful ventures are started: out of necessity.
During an economic downturn in 2008, Buechel was looking for ways to get more customers in the door. He hired a Florida firm to build a company website and things started to improve, but he felt he needed to do more.
"The more and more I looked at it, I knew it could be more than Rockaway Recycling," he said.
Buechel said the iPhone craze was hitting the nation, and it occurred to him that an app specifically targeting his company's promotions and capabilities was only the beginning.
Buechel said there are 7,000 scrap yards in the United States, and many of the owners are the old-school variety who rely on the Yellow Pages to promote their businesses.
So Buechel again paid Peak 7, a Deerfield, Fla.-based company that designed his website, to create the application following his guidelines.
Simply touching the application's icon can help consumers find the nearest scrap yard, learn pricing, and allows them to send photographs of their goods to the yard to see if there's interest, and vice versa.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is considering the iScrap app for recognition as part of its "Apps for the Environment" contest. Buechel submitted the app for consideration, and the winner will be announced Nov. 8, when Buechel will travel to Washington, D.C., to present his app to EPA officials during a forum.
The agency initiated the contest to encourage development of environmental applications "that help make people make informed decisions about environmental issues that can affect their health," according to a statement provided by an EPA spokeswoman.
Buechel went to the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries trade show in Los Angeles to pitch his idea to attendees.
"To tell these people about a new type of advertising, on the go, it was something that was new to them," Buechel said. "It's still something that's becoming more accepted."
He said his free application has been downloaded 33,000 times since April.
"We now have scrap yards signed up in 38 of 50 states," Buechel said. "We're working with some of the largest yards in the United States, companies that have from 10 to 70 scrap yards."
Buechel said he gets revenue by having scrap yards sign up to be featured on the app.
"We're becoming a lead generator," he said. "We're with the scrap yard customers wherever they are."
He said the first customer who found Rockaway Recycling using iScrap brought in 5,000 pounds of copper.
"He came to me with just a huge, huge job," Buechel said. "He came back two more times. What we've done at iScrap is we're creating a market. We're trying to tell thousands if not millions of peddlers to download and use this thing."
Buechel said he had to lay off employees when the economy hit bottom in 2008, but has since been able to rehire. He declined to say how much of his own money he invested in the app, but said it exceeds $100,000.