One would be excused from struggling to see how a C&D transfer station could be ‘disrupted’ in the traditional sense of remaking the way an industry works. After all, the model behind the business is fairly routine. But Joseph Kazutas, President and CEO of Enviro Blue Transfer and Recycling near Toronto, would beg to differ. He had already remade the process for how customers rent disposal bins through ZipBinz, which was founded in 2012. Overhauling the transfer station experience was the next logical step. And through extreme customer service, Lean-type cost controls, and a luxury-brand perspective, Enviro Blue was founded in 2014 and has been succeeding on all fronts.
“I started in construction with my father when I was 17,” Joseph shares. “And I studied the waste industry quite a bit. A big part of construction is waste, and it was something we always had to deal with. I couldn’t help but think there had to be a better way.” In 2011, after conducting some extensive research, Joseph made the decision to get into the construction waste business full time and launched ZipBinz. “We focused on the customer experience, making it easy to price, easy to choose, easy to schedule and take delivery and arrange pick up,” he continues. “Our goal was to take away all the confusion and replace it with ease and clarity and I think we have done that well.”
It didn’t take long for Joseph to recognize that he was now collecting an enormous amount of construction waste, and the opportunity to get into the transfer segment of the industry was too tempting to resist. He applied for, and received, a permit to open a new transfer station in the Toronto market: “It was like hitting the lottery!” he laughs. He, along with his brother Paul, was determined to dramatically change the customer experience in this business too, a commitment they demonstrated by hiring Barry Weinberg to serve as the general manager. With a background in luxury retail and customer service, Barry is not your typical construction industry GM, and that is precisely what Joey was looking for.
“To be different, we really needed to change the paradigm,” explains Barry. “This industry is like any other in that there are customers, and they want to be treated as best as they can. We needed to accommodate and recognize who our customers are, and treat them with a level of service and support that far exceeds what they would expect. Every truck that comes through here is treated respectfully from the time they hit the scale to the time they leave. We even installed two scales to be mindful of their time and make their experience great.”
Another important component of their business model is running an efficient operation, and investment in the right equipment was key to realizing that goal. Not that they won’t admit to having some trial-and-error experiences to learn some lessons along the way. “We were getting roll off bins dumping goods here, a majority of which was C&D, and what was coming out was furniture, large lumber, trees and stumps, and other big bulky items,” Joseph details. “The problem was that we were trying to pick through it and we didn’t have much time to load our outgoing trucks heading to the landfill, and our transfer weights were just not as good as they could be. The whole process was pinched at that point.”
Joseph and Barry connected with Ecoverse and worked with Paul Mullan to explore the equipment solutions that would help streamline the sorting, processing, and loading of material in their exit stream. Paul quickly recognized that a primary shredder would offer them numerous benefits, and helped them build a business case for the investment.
“We’re smart enough to know what we don’t know,” Joseph admits. “And working with Paul was enormously helpful. He really held our hands through the process and explained the details of why a shredder would be right for us.” Paul recommended at Doppstadt SW 2060K BioPower model, which is uniquely optimized to handle extra bulky, C&D type material. “We immediately recognized the advantage in volume reduction,” continues Joseph. “We pay one fee for a truck to make a trip from our site to the landfill, and the more we can get into that truck for each trip lowers our costs. It’s that simple.”
With an average volume reduction of 20-25 percent, it does not take complicated math to calculate the benefits of volume reduction. But additional advantages started to be realized as well. “Because we weren’t trying to manual fit as much into each truck as we could, we cut our load times by 75%, which means we were burning less fuel in the loader and using less labor, less wear on the equipment. Those savings can be calculated for sure.”
And when Paul recommended the addition of a magnet on the discharge belt, the opportunity to capture additional revenue contributed even more to the cost benefits of the investment. “The price of metals isn’t anything to get excited about right now,” adds Joseph. “But it’s still capturing something that we were previously getting nothing for. It was pretty amazing to see how much we were losing to the landfill.”
Enviro Blue is still a very new business. But their new way of doing business is garnering quite a bit of attention. It is the outcome of a vision and plan that both Joseph, Barry, and Paul have successfully communicated and implemented. “We have a lot of respect for this industry, and the vision we want is to be the Four Seasons Hotel of transfer stations,” Barry describes. “That can’t happen unless all our team here understands what that means and translates that back into the way we treat everyone who makes contact with this business.” Joseph concurs. “From the people we hire to the design of our facility, we are unique and different and are creating this business to be retail competitive. So far, we’re very encouraged with the feedback we’ve received from the market.”
Competition is always beneficial to an industry, and a disruptive concept forces the competition to adjust. They may be one transfer station in one city, but the concept at Enviro Blue is solid, and will likely have an impact far beyond their own geographic territory.