Rocky Mountain Recycling

UTAH’S RECYCLING FIRM OFFERS CUSTOMERS AN ALTERNATIVE TO DUMPING WASTE IN A LANDFILL

May 23, 2012

Sold on Komatsu excavators, KOMTRAX and Road Machinery support

In the late 1990s, John Sasine, Chuck Jongert and Marvin Acey were all working in Salt Lake City for one of the nation’s largest waste-handling companies. When that company sold out to another large solid-waste firm in 1999, the three friends saw an opportunity to start their own business, Rocky Mountain Recycling (RMR). As the name implies, RMR would focus solely on their primary interest within the waste-handling industry — recycling.

“The recycling business is different from the garbage business — we live in the same house but occupy different rooms,” said Sasine, who today serves as President of Salt Lake City-based RMR (Jongert is Vice President of Operations and Acey is Chief Financial Officer). “For Chuck, Marvin and me, recycling was what we wanted to do. We all really liked the idea of being able to conserve natural resources by turning waste into a usable and useful product rather than just picking it up and dumping it in a landfill, which is what the garbage business does. Our business model is about long-term sustainability.”

In the beginning, Rocky Mountain Recycling consisted of the three hands-on owners and a dozen or so hand-picked employees with industry ties, who they recruited. The company started by servicing a few Salt Lake City customers.

“We had contacts and expertise, but even more than that, we were committed to the recycling industry,” said Sasine. “We understood recycling, believed in it, and were confident we could make a go of it.”

And that’s certainly been the case. Rocky Mountain Recycling today employs about 175 people full time and has another 60 or so temporary workers. With two plants in Salt Lake City and two in St. George, the company covers the entire state and has become Utah’s leading recycler. RMR also has operations in Denver and Las Vegas.

Conserving resources

Rocky Mountain Recycling serves a combination of industrial, commercial, retail and residential customers. The company has its own containers (palletainers, compactors and roll-off bins) at various businesses and transfers the recyclable material — primarily paper, plastic and aluminum/tin products — back to its plants with its own fleet of trucks. At the plants, a series of conveyors and screens enables employees to separate, screen and repackage the material.

Compared to our top competitor, our equipment is state-of-the-art,” said Director of Plant Operations John Wilson. “On average, we run significantly more per hour than our competitors. That’s a tribute to our owners who are committed to recycling and willing to put profits back into the business.”

“We have a large customer base that, like us, believes conserving resources is important,” said Sasine. “We try to make it easy for them to do business with us, and give them added incentive by paying them a fair price for their recyclable material. We have good relations with many area printing companies, which tend to generate a lot of paper scrap and are good Rocky Mountain Recycling customers.”

The company does not offer residential pickup, but accepts residential recyclable material from other waste haulers who do go house-to-house. RMR’s yard in south Salt Lake City handles residential recycling exclusively and is the largest such facility in the area.

Rocky Mountain Recycling sells its recycled tin, aluminum and steel to regional steel plants. Paper products largely go to mills in the northwestern U.S., although they can be sold to buyers from as far away as Taiwan.

Employees key to success

The owners of Rocky Mountain Recycling are quick to credit employees for helping the company differentiate itself from other firms that offer recycling services.

“We truly believe that our people, from our management team, to equipment operators, to the people sorting on the conveyor lines, are the best in the business,” asserted Sasine. “We have many people who’ve been here since we started. Their knowledge and capabilities are things that we believe set us apart from the competition.”

In addition to the three owners, all of whom remain active in the day-to-day operation of Rocky Mountain Recycling, and Director of Plant Operations John Wilson, key personnel include: Facilities Manager Jack Erickson; Maintenance Manager Terry Hughes; Marketing Manager Larry Gibbons; and Transportation Director Cliff Garrett.

Komatsu and KOMTRAX

To get the plant production required for maximum profitability, Rocky Mountain Recycling has turned largely to Komatsu mobile equipment from Komatsu Equipment Company in Salt Lake City. The company, which uses wheel loaders to push material and feed the conveyors, owns six Komatsu WA250 wheel loaders, along with a WA380 and a WA100.

“About three or four years ago, we demo’d a number of brands and chose Komatsu,” said Facilities Manager Jack Erickson. “Our operators like them and we like them. They’re productive, reliable machines that last a long time. We’ve had very few issues with any of our Komatsu wheel loaders, and any issues we had were minor.”

Rocky Mountain Recycling runs two shifts per day, four days a week. Due to the constant work load, the company can’t tolerate equipment downtime.

“We need equipment that runs, and if it’s not running, it’s got to be fixed fast,” insisted Erickson. “Komatsu Equipment Company understands that and acts accordingly. We get outstanding support from our Komatsu Equipment Company Territory Manager Mike Judd, who takes excellent care of us, as well as Product Support Sales Rep Lynn Holt.

“One of the things we really like about Komatsu is the KOMTRAX machine-monitoring system,” he added. “Terry, in our maintenance department, likes it because it gives him advance notices of when services are coming due, and alerts him to error codes. One time, we were having an overheating issue with one of the wheel loaders, which, if it had gone undetected, could have cost us an engine. KOMTRAX gave us a heads up and we were able to repair it without any significant damage occurring.”

Beyond the warnings and notices, Erickson says he likes KOMTRAX for the information it delivers regarding productivity.

“We use it to monitor idle time, power settings, fuel usage and other things that directly impact productivity and profits. We’ve found KOMTRAX to be very beneficial to our operation by helping us get the most out of our equipment and personnel.”

Utah “Best of State” awards

Rocky Mountain Recycling has won the Utah Best of State award for environmental impact for 2010 and 2011 and fully expects to “three-peat” this year. “We take pride in that type of outside recognition,” said Sasine. “It confirms to us that we’re doing something right.”

But RMR is not interested in resting on its laurels. The company is always looking for ways to improve, and to that end, recently added solar power at its south Salt Lake City plant, the first phase of a move the company hopes will eventually supply up to 80 percent of the power needed to run the facility. RMR also recently began offering a document-shredding service.

“We believe both of those go hand-in-hand with recycling and with our overriding mission of being good stewards of the environment,” said Sasine. “They are examples that at RMR, we don’t just talk the talk, we also walk the walk.”

Recalling back about a decade to when the company started, Sasine says he is pleased but not surprised at what Rocky Mountain Recycling has become.

“We went into this intending to be successful and intending to grow into a fairly significant company. In 2001, we acquired another recycling firm and added many good people, most of whom are still here. Frankly, it wouldn’t have been fair to them if we weren’t committed to growth and to being the best.”

“Within the last year or two, some large companies have chosen to go green and have implemented recycling programs from the ground up,” said Plant Manager Wilson. “That’s a big plus for us and we see it as a very positive trend.”

“Today, we believe the industry is still growing and evolving, and our intention is to grow and evolve right along with it,” said Marketing Manager Larry Gibbons. “Our philosophy is to have our foot on the accelerator and always be looking for the next opportunity to do something new or do it better. We definitely believe there’s more to come.”