Kevin Daly’s recycling started at an early age. “I grew up poor,” he said, so he and his three brothers would go to the local parks to look for cans and bottles to they could sell.
Since Daly was the smallest, his brothers would hold him by his ankles while he hung upside down “fishing out cans and bottles” from the trash bins. “It gave me a fever for recycling,” he said.
When he was in college, he was looking for ways to make money. “I bought a VW bus,” he said, and saw that there were always notes on the college message boards looking for help with moving and hauling. Not only did he provide labor and transportation, but he also started recycling cardboard and other materials he picked up.
That’s when he realized there was a real need for bulk hauling. When he was a senior in college, he put together a business plan with a college friend, Dell Kelley, who is now his business partner. They started Turbo Haul with a computer that Daly bought with a credit card. “That’s all we had, really,” he said.
When there was material that needed to be picked up, Daly said, “We rented and returned U-Haul trucks until we could afford to buy a used truck.”
From that start, the business grew. Now there are 35 full time employees, and 10 part time.
“We pride ourselves on the fact that they’re all actual employees,” Daly said, and that those employees can earn their keep and support their families.
“I like developing my people,” he said, “teaching them skills, watching them learn.”
While many of the jobs at Turbo Haul are entry level positions, Daly said that he has many employees who started with the company when they were 18 years old and are still working there now that they’re in their 30s.
The company picks up all sorts of non-hazardous bulk material that “doesn’t fit nicely in the solid waste stream.” That includes old furniture, construction debris, tires, scrap metal, appliances, and wooden crates and pallets.
A small crew accompanies the driver to pick up less-than-truckload quantities from commercial properties like malls, condos and industrial complexes as well as from construction sites, government facilities and residential areas.
But sometimes there are odd items and even some surprises. One of the more unusual items the company was asked to pick up was two tons of blueberry syrup from a bakery that has closed. Another time, they picked up six tons of frozen crabmeat from a wreck on the highway.
The most unusual, though, was when they had “the unfortunate experience of unearthing a skeleton.” Just like on TV, police showed up, crime scene tape went up, and investigations ensued. “My guys were freaking out,” Daly said.
Most days are not that exciting, and some of the truckloads go directly to area recyclers, while others are brought back to Daly’s 3.5 acre facility for sorting and condensing for shipment to appropriate recycling facilities. In the 50 mile radius that Turbo Haul covers, Daly said there are at least 8 scrap yards were material can be delivered.
The material in all the loads that are picked up are documented, so that customers who are required to report their recycling have that information. Daly supplies those reports to his customers at no charge.
Daly said that one of his biggest challenges is the proliferation of unlicensed peddlers who drive around and pick up recyclables from the same places Turbo Haul does. He said that there are probably 10 times the number of peddlers there were 5 years ago.
Not only are businesses losing out of revenue that they’d be getting from legitimate haulers, they’re also unable to report that the material has been recycled. “You can’t report what you can’t track,” Daly said.
Turbo Haul displays its professionalism by having employees wear uniforms, and Daly said that it also helps those employees get respect on the job since they look neat, clean and businesslike.
But the company is also fun and quirky, as witnessed by the trademarked mascot, Turboman, who appears on the website and company equipment. The character sends the message that pickups are fast, and Daly said that pickups are often done on the day the call comes in and if not, by the end of the next business day.
Looking forward, Daly hopes to be able to franchise the company concept nationwide. “We already have a franchisee in North Carolina,” he said. Turbo Haul fills a unique niche, so he thinks it should fit well in many different marketplaces. “We want our franchisees to make real money and build a real business,” he said.
Despite Daly’s business plans, he still has the essence of that kid hanging upside down to grab the recyclables. He said, “I am seldom happier than in a pile of trash, sorting recyclables.”
Published in the April 2014 Edition of American Recycler News