Waste Away Services
Tom Wray • 419-865-3200
Tom Wray owns and runs two very different
businesses that work hand-in-hand – most of the time. Waste Away
Services deals with hazardous waste removal including identification,
labeling, packaging and arranging transportation. Professional
Environmental Trainers Association (PETA) trains employees at
businesses that deal with hazardous materials to comply with
OSHA, DOT and EPA regulations.
Wray said that most of Waste Away customers also need some training
done, and many of his PETA customers also have material to be
removed. There are some customers, however, that only deal with
one of the two entities.
Wray started the business in 1986, and he incorporated at the
end of the year, but it wasn’t something he’d planned. “I never
really intended to do it,” he said of starting his own business.
He had previously worked for cleanup companies and after an issue
with getting time off, he quit the job and went out on his own.
“I started the business in the basement of my home with a table,
a lamp and a chair,” Wray said. His first major upgrade was “an
Apple computer with a 20kb hard drive and an impact printer.”
Although many businesses had a rough time last year, Wray said
he had a good year due in part to several projects he networked
on with other companies, where he worked on things those companies
What his company does handle is a lot of solid hazardous waste,
most of which ends up at incineration plants – often by customer
request. Some materials are treated to reduce or eliminate the
hazards, and still others can be reused or recycled. In particular,
he sometimes handles exotic metals like platinum, nickel and
chromium. Mercury switches, batteries and computer components
are also recycled.
When it comes to solvents and chemicals, Wray tries to find a
home for them, but said, “If they’re contaminated, there aren’t
any companies that are interested.”
Right now, the company has three employees including Wray, but
he has several others who he networks with, and there are subcontractors
he calls on when he needs them. In particular, he will hire subcontractors
for some of his training work, so the participants don’t get
tired of hearing the same trainer all the time.
Wray said that the training business is constantly changing because
regulations are being updated more often. The DOT in particular
makes frequent changes, which means that people need more training
to stay current. Where companies used to hire trainers to come
in every few years, more are opting for annual training.
To keep himself current on regulations, Wray is constantly monitoring
DOT, EPA and OSHA websites looking for new information and upcoming
regulations, and he attends seminars and classes of interest.
As an OSHA-authorized trainer, he is required to take their classes
to remain authorized.
But it’s not just government regulations he has to worry about.
Shippers like FedEx also have their own regulations for shipping
that go beyond the government’s requirements, and there are even
more regulations for shipping materials overseas. “There’s an
enormous amount of paperwork involved,” he said.
Wray said that the disposal business is also changing, with more
companies interested in finding ways to reduce the amount of
waste produced and to find ways to reuse and recycle materials
rather than dispose of them. For final disposal, many customers
are requesting that the materials be incinerated, and Wray said
that he often recommends that option, as well.
Wray expects that the trend for reuse and recycling will continue
to evolve, but that there needs to be more innovative ways to
reuse some of the waste. The problem is that it’s risky for recyclers
to try to recover materials that might not be worthwhile.
He noted that in the rubber industry, the big problem is getting
fiber out of the rubber and “if there was an effective way to
separate, there would be a way to recycle the material.”
While more things – like computers and light bulbs – are now
being recycled, he said that cost is a factor. There will be
more recycling done when it’s more cost-effective to recycle
or reclaim materials than to dispose of them.
While Wray’s business used to be nationwide, he recently scaled
back to operate mostly in Ohio, Indiana and Michigan. He travels
outside that area for customers with multiple locations, but
he prefers to stay in a smaller geographic region.
Wray said he likes to travel and likes the variety of work he
does, but he also enjoys the detailed work on large, complex
disposal jobs. “I definitely go look at the projects,” he said.
“I want to see it, to know what the circumstances are.”
Although he will sometimes hire people to help, he likes to keep
an eye on everything to make sure every last bit of material
is properly labeled and packaged. “There’s no amount of money
you can pay me to go to jail,” he said.