JULY 2011

A Closer Look E-mail the author

Rumpke Consolidated Companies, Inc.
Bill Rumpke, Jr. • 800-582-3107

You could almost say that six pigs decided the fate of the Rumpke family business. Now in its third generation, the company’s tale began in 1932 when William Rumpke got into the business of delivering coal.

The depression was in full swing, and customers often didn’t have cash for payment, so it wasn’t unusual for those customers to offer items to trade for the coal. One trade was for six pigs.

Rumpke couldn’t afford to buy food for the pigs, but he was an enterprising man and he sent his nephews out to collect trash from restaurants. The food scraps were fed to the pigs, who flourished.

—The Rumpke family

In 1945, Rumpke’s brother, Bernard, joined the business and the two bought 85 acres of property and the pig business grew even more. At one time there were as many as 2,000 pigs on the farm.

With that many pigs to feed, there was a lot of trash being picked up, and with it came inedible items – even for pigs. The Rumpkes started pulling out metal, rags and glass for recycling. “We didn’t just start now with recycling,” Bill Rumpke, Jr, the company’s COO, said. “My grandfather started recycling in the 1940s. This is something we did from the beginning.”

The pig farm hit a setback in the mid-1950s when the FDA said the pigs couldn’t be fed restaurant scraps. Instead of continuing with the pig farm, the brothers decided to get rid of the animals and continue with the trash pickups and the recycling.

Coincidentally, the farm property happened to be perfect for a landfill since it had no water and a lot of clay that could be used for lining material. It wasn’t long before the pig farm was transformed into a working landfill.

Fast-forward to today and Rumpke is the third largest privately owned waste company in the United States. The company owns 9 landfills and 10 material recycling facilities. It employs approximately 2,300 people, and about 75 of them are family members who work in a multitude of jobs including driving trucks, working in customer service, or doing maintenance work.

None of the family members are allowed to come into the company in a management position – they’re all expected to start as general labor and work their way up. “There’s more expected out of them than any other employee,” said Amanda Pratt, who does public relations work for the company.

Rumpke said that he grew up in the company and that he worked there when he was in grade school and high school. “I remember being in a truck with my dad when I was five years old,” he said. His first real job with the company was in the residential waste department where he worked on a truck.

He said that what he’s most proud of is that “we’ve developed an organization with family – and employees that have become like family.” But it’s not without its challenges, and that includes the government regulations related to expanding the landfills.

Even so, the company has expansions and improvements on the horizon including new technologies like infrared lasers that improve sorting. “Now we’re looking for additional volume,” Rumpke said, “because processing is more efficient.”

Because of the improved sorting capabilities, Rumpke can sell glass that can be used to make new glass products. Not all of the glass qualifies, though, and the rest of it is used to make Fiberglas.

Since many of the family members live near the company facilities, they are also customers and know the company from that vantage point. At the same time, the company is very involved with the community. Pratt said, “We become part of them, partnering with local schools to offer educational programs, tours and scholarships. We get involved in community celebrations through participation and monetary service contributions.”

Located just north of Cincinnati, the pig-farm turned landfill has become something of a tourist attraction – nearly 10,000 people tour the facility every year, and there’s a yearly open house of the recycling facility as well.

The company is working on several green initiatives according to Pratt, “and we are working to build awareness of these programs through advertising, customer and neighbor newsletters, facility open houses, presentations and social media.”