What was crown molding yesterday could be powering your lights today.
That’s the idea behind Newark-based Evergreen Recycling, which has created a system for turning construction debris into alternative fuel.
The company, which started in 2007 as a scrap-recycling center, has grown to be a full material recovery center. But one with a unique twist.
Through an extensive sorting and shredding process, Evergreen manufactures an alternative fuel that has a complex composition but looks like piles of wood chips.
The product is then shipped to energy companies and burned in conjunction with coal to not only create power, but do it in a way that burns cleaner, emits less carbon dioxide and creates less ash waste.
“Honestly, we were a bit ahead of our time,” said Erin Myers, who heads up the company’s marketing and sales. “When we first started, it was a lot of, ‘Hey, we have fuel! Who’s ready for it?’ We had to explain to energy companies how we do what we do and how they can benefit.
“We’ve worked very closely with our end markets to make sure our product is working for (the power companies) and that we are delivering enough of what they need.”
Evergreen CEO Anthony Novello said developing a viable, coal alternative has been an ongoing process.
“As the market changes, we have to adapt and change our equipment,” he said. “While now we have a consistency of product, as technology evolves, we have to keep changing and adapting our fuel with it.”
While not all of the waste can be used to make the fuel, Evergreen is able to recycle 90 percent of the debris that comes into its facility.
Evergreen targets mixed construction and demolition debris because the majority of that waste stream is made up of wood products — a major component of Evergreen’s fuel.
Myers said this capability is of great interest to green building developers who are going for LEED certification or who make recycling a priority.
“We have a proprietary software program that documents every dumpster load that comes to the facility,” she said. “We do our own recycling reporting and our system is accurate.
“Every load that comes in is broken down by percent of makeup — wood, metal or other materials — as well as the weight and documented in real time. Customers can check the report online 24 hours after a load is dropped off or months down the line. This is a huge help for companies that need LEED certification points.”
In addition to recycling the debris, Evergreen also sells the dumpsters to collect and haul that waste from the job site to its facility.
When company co-founder John DiMarco sold his disposal service company nearly 20 years ago, this type of technology was not available. After a few years of retirement, DiMarco was inspired to get back into the game by the now-executable idea of creating alternative fuel.
DiMarco approached his longtime friend, CPA and business consultant, John Mango, to start Evergreen in 2007. Today, the company has nearly 700 dumpsters on the road every day and employs some 100 people.
But don’t be confused: Evergreen is a family business.
In an office building in Springfield, a short drive up Route 22 from the Newark facility, three of Mango’s daughters — Jessica Mango, bookkeeper; Stephanie Mango, administrative manager; and Myers help keep the back office operations running. They work alongside DiMarco’s daughter, RoseAnn DiMarco, the sales coordinator.
“We all came to work here one by one, and I’ve been here for about four years,” Myers said. “It was a learning curve for all of us. I was working in advertising in Manhattan for 12 years before coming here.
“While I was ready for a change, I was nervous to start working with family. But it’s a great environment to come to everyday because everybody loves what (he or she) is doing. Our relationships are a lot closer because of this experience.”
Besides learning a new industry and getting acclimated to life in a family business, Myers says the greatest challenge from a business development perspective has been brand awareness.
“We are a scrappy startup,” she said. “We didn’t have a big marketing budget to open with a big splash. We had to get on the phone and call people to ask if they needed a dumpster. We would go visit job sites to talk about our services. That was our life for a long time. But, by going out, shaking hands and building relationships, we’re getting referral work.
“Now, when we cold call contractors, they recognize the name or have seen our dumpsters. We’re a very grassroots sales department.”
The team sells dumpster services to the northern and central New Jersey area exclusively. They keep the footprint pretty tight because, with all the construction happening in this area, it is beneficial to be able to make several trips from the sites to the facility each day, rather than waste time hauling long distances.
With all of that construction comes competition.
“The dumpster business in northern New Jersey is a very saturated market,” Myers said. “You can’t throw a stone without hitting someone who has a roll-off truck or who has a brother-in-law with a roll-off truck. But one thing that sets us apart is that we own the facility. Everybody else is bringing debris to us anyway, so we have a jump on savings for customers and are very cost competitive. We identify ourselves as different in our service area.”
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