Contractor becomes ‘zero-landfill’ firm

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Employees at Walker’s Carpets & Interiors used to have a hard time getting around the back lot of its Glen Allen headquarters because it was jammed with 120 40-foot waste receptacles. Not anymore. Last year the flooring installation contractor became a “zero-landfill” company. Walker’s pays an extra 10 to 12 percent per year over its previous waste management costs to have reclamation companies pick up and recycle scrap carpet, padding, vinyl, wood and ceramic tile.

“Dumps receive up to 40 percent of their waste from construction companies,” says Jay Mashaw, the owner of Walker’s. “We think we’re making a huge statement by keeping all the material involved in our jobs from going to the local dump.”

Nonetheless, Mashaw also can make a business case for his move. He expects the higher cost of contracts with reclamation companies to diminish as carpet mills and other manufacturers use an increasing higher percentage of reclaimed material in their manufacturing.

The price per pound that manufacturers pay for recycled material is rising, Mashaw says. That allows reclamation companies to lower their price for pickup service. “I don’t know if breakeven is the right word, but I am estimating that within the next year or two, we’ll essentially be paying the same to recycle what we were paying to have the material thrown away,” Mashaw says.

Walker’s status as a zero-landfill company has given it an advantage in going after new business. Some school systems in Virginia, including Albemarle County, now mandate in their contracts that all construction waste be reclaimed and recycled.

“For our existing customers, it’s kind of a feather in the cap, but it’s also a selling tool when we go in and cold-call new accounts,” Mashaw says. “It does make an impression because most people don’t like the idea of just sending all this otherwise recyclable material to the dump.”

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