Waste Solutions Offers Affordable Recycling Pickup to Lynchburg Area

Lynchburg-bred brothers Jason and Gordon Cudd are no strangers to entrepreneurship in the Hill City. As Gordon T. Construction Inc., they have been operating as contractors on area building projects for the past 20 years with great success. When the housing bubble popped and the housing market turned sour, however, their business took a hit and they began considering other, more sustainable forms of income.

“I’ve always been interested in the trash and recycling industry—providing a service to fill a need,” Jason said, “[We] wanted to give an option for great service at reasonable rates to my friends, neighbors, and the community.”

When operations officially began in February 2013 with just Gordon, Jason, one part-time office staffer, and one driver, they had zero recycling customers—only trash pickup. By the end of that year, they had about 100 people signed up for their recycling service.

Fewer than three years since the first solitary truck went out, they now have about 2,500 commercial and residential recycling customers. In addition to themselves, they now also have four office workers and seven other employees that work as drivers and/or helpers.

“I wish more people would do it, but it’s catching on. Lynchburg is certainly not behind the eight ball compared to other cities’ recycling programs, for sure,” Jason said.

Until companies like Waste Solutions began surfacing, the only options locals had was to go to the facilities and to separate everything themselves, or to go with a company with a cost prohibitive service fee. So, the Cudds decided to take on the task of providing a top-notch service for as cheap as they could without going broke.

Waste Solutions provides a free, large blue bin to residential customers that can be filled with paper, cardboard, Styrofoam, glass, tin, and aluminum (a full list of accepted materials can be found on their website) for $10 per month—no sorting required.

“We just believed in it, and really pushed it,” Jason explained. “We asked people to give [recycling] a shot, and more and more people have. … It’s as easy as putting your trash out there.”

In 2015 alone, the Cudds said they’ve recycled right around 2.5 million pounds of materials from Lynchburg and the surrounding counties. That’s 2.5 million pounds of recycling that Waste Solutions and its customers alone have kept from the landfill.

Considering they also picked up 15.5 million pounds of trash, 70 percent of which they said could have been just as easily recycled, Gordon and Jason believe their expansion is far from reaching a plateau.

“We’ve grown,” Jason said.

“A lot,” said Gordon, while sitting in their Wyndhurst office space, where they operate both the construction company and Waste Solutions.
“A lot,” Jason confirmed. “We’re probably hoping to keep growing, I guess.” He laughed. “It surprises me we have this many people. I haven’t even thought about it. We have four [trucks] that we use now. Have another that we’re waiting on.”

Since the very first day, the Cudds said their encouragement to the staff has been to offer an incredible service. Don’t leave the can on its side. Leave it standing upright. Don’t leave anything on the ground. Provide a level of trash and recycling service previously unseen in this region.
“Word-of-mouth, especially in a town this size, is going to be your biggest asset … I would say that’s been the key,” Jason said.

Waste Solutions also offers trash-only customers free recycling pickup for a few months, just to try it out. Fiven how much of what is typically thrown away can be recycled, the additional service ends up costing exactly nil. And when the customer is a larger commercial operation that requires multiple recycling dumpsters, the additional service winds up saving money.

Operating Waste Solutions, a company whose name is literal to their service, is not inexpensive. So much so that neither of the Cudds have written a paycheck to themselves. Everything goes into payroll and to expanding the business.

While residential recycling costs the customer a mere $10 per month, the sturdy blue container they provide, which they say will withstand years and years of use, would cost $150 if purchased directly from the distributor.

They pay for the trucks, the gas, and the labor to go around and make pickups. The materials get bundled up and sent to a facility in Richmond, where an assembly line of people separates everything. From there, different companies purchase the sorted materials from the facility to make any number of things. Waste Solutions makes nothing from the exchange.

“If you look at the amount of stuff that can stay out of the landfill and be reused in product that you and your kids and everybody is going to be buying and reusing again—[recycling] just makes more sense,” Jason said.

Within two to three years, the Cudds hope to see 50 percent of the local population recycling. They estimate that less than 25 percent are doing so today.

“I want everyone to recycle,” Gordon said. “I want every single person. But I don’t want it mandated. I think people should be educated to make the decision to do so. I think that once they’re educated and see the benefits of it, most will. It just takes time. And it’s growing, so obviously it’s working.”

As the population grows in Lynchburg, landfill space is a serious concern. These places are not limitless, not inexpensive to operate. That coupled with the Cudds’ assertion that recycling just makes sense.

“No matter what side of the political spectrum you’re on, that you can look at it and say, ‘You’re throwing away a commodity.’ If it can be recycled and somebody else can use it and profit from it, if you can help save the environment plus help somebody make some money plus create goods out of recycled products, it just doesn’t make sense not to make the choice to recycle,” Gordon said.

Gordon admits that recycling wasn’t all that important to him until he started doing it. Once he and his wife and their three children started filling their own blue container, he realized just how much of what they had been sending to the dump was actually reusable. Now, he said, he doesn’t know what he’d do without it.

“I reduced my trash by a little over half. I’m never going to stop,” he said. “Once you get into it, once you realize, ‘Hey, this is making a difference,’ I don’t think you’ll ever stop.”

By Marcelo Quarantotto