These two are shaking things up on the construction waste front
Construction waste may soon disappear from Alberta landfills thanks to Mark Jette and John Spoletini of MJS Recycling Inc. This innovative duo currently recycles around 22 products at the MJS facility east of Calgary, resulting in an average recycling rate of 75 to 80 per cent for most of its clients. Some, like the University of Calgary, are achieving rates in the high 90s.
Spoletini saw recycling as the wave of the future back in 1996 when he founded MJS. In its first year of recycling, the company kept over six million pounds of product, as well as 2,000 metric tonnes of wood, out of Calgary's landfills, confirming his belief that he was doing the right thing.
Getting industry to agree has been a different matter.
"The perception has been that recycling waste costs more than taking it to the landfill," Spoletini says. A decade ago, that perception was correct. But Spoletini and Jette, who joined the company as president in 2004, have been steadily decreasing the cost.
For starters, MJS custom builds trucks and trailers to carry two bins at a time, reducing transportation costs. Bins are also larger than industry standard so less fuel is used, benefiting the environment.
Two of the biggest sources of waste are processed on site - wood into bedding for agricultural feedlots and drywall into compost and soil amendment. These saleable products further reduce the cost of recycling for the contractor. MJS can recycle most waste for just slightly more than it would cost to dump it in the landfill. Some products, like drywall, are less expensive to recycle than dump.
Jette and Spoletini met when Spoletini was looking for a piece of land to set up the operation and hired Jette as a realtor.
"I thought what he was doing was great and John asked me to invest," Jette says. "Years later the phone rang and John said, â€˜You always liked this business idea. Come help me run it.'"
Attracted by the chance to contribute to the environment in an industry ripe with opportunity, Jette jumped on board and the two have worked side by side ever since. "John has a little more to do with the manufacturing side," Jette says. "But we both do everything and there really isn't much difference in our roles."
Both are inventors at heart, constantly working to come up with new ways of lowering the cost of recycling as well as developing recycling opportunities for more products. They power the site with a natural gas generator that's shut down at night, design and build their own equipment and trucks, and are now working on a recycling method for vinyl siding, which will allow them to keep up to 85 per cent of waste from residential projects out of landfills.
They also accept commingled as well as source-separated waste, something Jette says makes sense for MJS and for contractors. "Source separating on site is costly. You're paying tradespeople $50 per hour for their expertise and you've got them sorting garbage," he says, adding that bins are easily contaminated. "Even a small piece of metal, for example, could cause tens of thousands of dollars of damage to our equipment, so we can't recycle potentially contaminated bins and contractors don't get their LEED points."
Over the past year, Jette and Spoletini have invested over $1 million in equipment. Future plans include automating as much of the operation as possible to reduce labour costs.
Both men expect business to get even busier as new provincial regulations take effect and consumers become aware of the ability to recycle construction material. Says Spoletini: "Over the years it's been very challenging to get people to choose to recycle. That's changing and it's consumers that are really driving the change."