Starting his waste industry journey with a solid foundation in engineering, Chris Covell used his skills in innovation and technology to take him to his current position as president and owner of redbox + Dumpsters of Orange County, California.
“I saw an opportunity that was missing in the waste removal industry to bring excellence to the fore when it comes to customer service and construction site waste disposal services,” he says.
Having worked in the waste business for three years, Covell has done a tremendous amount of work to overcome the obstacles that have been thrown at him and his company.
Of these obstacles, the 939 Assembly Bill and the 1374 Senate Bill stand out as regulatory acts that have shaken things up for many garbage companies in Orange County.
With these new challenges to create solutions for, Covell put his engineering experience to the test to create efficient models that comply with the new regulations.
In a recent interview with Waste360, Chris Covell explained his experience working with redbox + bins through the waste diversion required to comply with AB 939 and SB 1374 by creating an automated reporting system for commercial construction sites.
Read on to hear his insight.
Waste360 Staff: What was the biggest challenge the SB 1374 presented for your work with redbox + bins?
Covell: The main challenge with the SB 1374 was learning the requirements from what could be deconstructed from commercial and demolition projects so that my business conforms properly and how to report it correctly.
Many recycling facilities will not accept dirt, which surprisingly makes it one of the most difficult materials to divert.
Waste360 staff: what specific challenges arise due to these specific regulations?
Covell: There is a common problem in the waste industry when it comes to reporting diversion for C&D job sites. Our software is not set up to be able to provide easy reporting, which makes it time consuming to report waste diversion efforts. In addition to the challenge, municipalities use many different forms and methods for reporting.
On the customer side, people tend not to know exactly what can and cannot be recycled. This can be a great challenge for a garbage removal service like us, as we may have to redirect this material to alternative facilities than originally planned. As a result, we continue to educate our customers on sorting best practices in order to meet (and usually exceed) the 65% waste diversion rate.
What was the company’s overall response to the approval of the bill? How did all your peers feel during the transition? What was the general attitude?
Aspects of AB 939 were already in place, so it was more about how we would have to change our business practices to comply with sb1374 and AB 341 regulations.
CalRecycle and sb1374 and AB 341 are obviously not nationwide, so once we started our Orange County business, we had to adapt to meet the diversion and reporting requirements.
We had to develop our reporting system and documentation process, as well as make sure we adhere to the 65% minimum deviation rate for construction and demolition debris. We had to coordinate with customers on what was being disposed of and enforce compliance. We have had to devise ways to educate our customers about the different waste streams such as concrete and which material will not be accepted in the facilities.
Once we’re in the cargo location, we don’t want any surprises affecting our ability to recycle at the planned facility.
Waste360 staff: Can you share a memorable story from a time when you had to adapt your work to comply with SB 1374 / AB 939?
Covell: In order to comply with AB 939 and SB1374 regulations to adapt to our processes, we have improved our internal processes by creating an automated reporting system and implemented planning procedures to better manage mixed flows during delivery to specific facilities. The best known we have implemented precautions to plan longer round trips in the case of a more difficult mix to manage to reach specific waste disposal plants.
With our improved systems and processes in place, we have been able to exceed expectations for our job sites during waste diversion by achieving LEED certification, which is one step above the 65% waste diversion ratio. required by SB 1374.
For example, in September 2020 we were approached by a national construction company for a self-storage construction of approximately $ 12 million. The large local municipal hauler was not reliable for swapping bins on previous projects and would not provide the required detailed documentation and reports.
By coordinating with the client and educating them about the various recycling flow options, we were effectively able to achieve the building’s LEED certification and exceeded the recycling target for the project.
LEED certification is the most widely used green building assessment system in the world. It is a globally recognized symbol of achieving sustainability and leadership. Two LEED points are available for the management of construction and demolition waste. To maximize these points, a construction site must have four different “material streams” and show that 75% of the debris is recycled, which exceeds state requirements by 65%. LEED is very valuable to our customers because it offers economic, health and environmental benefits for their company.
Waste360 staff: what have you personally learned from the experience?
Covell: My journey into the waste industry and AB939 / sb1374 compliance in Orange County has been a huge learning curve for my company and our team.
We had to develop our waste streams by finding and collaborating with regional recycling facilities. Having options and flexibility for diversion types was key to ensuring compliance with CalRecycle (diverting at least 65% of the C&C material from landfill).
We are always looking for additional recycling facilities, particularly if they accept and recycle other types of materials or combinations of materials.
Waste360 staff: which has proved to be the most effective adaptation?
Covell: The most effective regulation is to coordinate with our customers to ensure that the appropriate material flows are disposed of correctly and in which bin. Examples include asphalt, concrete, gravel, brick, tile, earth, scrap metal, C&D debris in general (material recovery plant), etc. This is where having multiple recycling facilities opens up the options we can provide: as transporters, we need to be able to recycle or divert any material streams we offer and keep records to verify where, when and how much material has been diverted.
We offered a variety of waste stream options and (virtually) met with the project leader and their LEED consultant to determine the site’s recycling strategy. It is best to identify and plan in advance the different material flows so that the project manager knows which containers are needed and when and can designate them as such at the workplace.
We proposed providing monthly LEED reports for a small fee so that the project manager could assess where they were in their deviation rates and verify with their LEED advisor that the documentation met the requirements. We also highlighted our ability to make fast shifts (even within the day) and our reliability in making scheduled exchanges on scheduled days (with 24 hours notice).
It was very helpful to have done some LEED research prior to the discussion so that the team could demonstrate that both sides already understood the point-based system and the project goal.
Waste360 Staff: What is the most common or useful waste diversion tactic you use?
Covell: The most common waste diversion tactic we use is the use of transfer stations. Transfer stations facilitate the diversion of waste materials and further meet the correct requirements because they have to comply with our own regulations.
The most common of the materials we take to divert is concrete which can be reused and reused for many items that people are unfamiliar with.
Waste360 Staff: During the whole process, what are you most proud of? Can you tell me about this?
Covell: Our internal process of detecting and reporting deviations, coordinating with our customers and building relationships with waste disposal facilities in the region has been very satisfying for our business.
Not only are we able to achieve a 65% waste diversion rate for our customers, but we often exceed our mandate by recycling 75% or more of the materials. This goes way beyond corporate environmental responsibility and is something we are honored to achieve for our customers.
To provide some background and context on the LEED reporting system, I’ll explain.
The LEED waste management report must show the address of the job site, the date range of the material removal period, the breakdown of recycled / diverted tonnes against the total tonnage removed from the site, and a% diversion ratio total.
Each waste stream must be broken down to show the diverted altitude and destination of the material. For greater visibility, we also show the dates the containers were picked up and the tonnage, type and place of disposal of the individual containers. Then the data is entered into a Google Docs spreadsheet and we form a “pivot table” to summarize the tonnage by Type. I then format that data and copy it into a Word .doc file which I eventually convert to .pdf and sign before passing it on to the site’s project manager.
Overall, there is some extra work on the documentation side, but it was worth it given the size of the project! A bonus is to have 2-3 containers on the site at any given time for whatever material is generated at that given stage of construction. We look forward to our next opportunity to bid for another LEED job site and plan to use this experience in our targeted marketing to the largest commercial / industrial construction companies.
Waste360 staff: what do you foresee for the future?
Covell: The deviation rate will continue to gradually increase from 65% to 75% for commercial and demolition projects.
I would like to see better reporting systems to simplify reporting at the municipal level. Having an automated system would greatly improve data collection and create a leaner process.
Waste360 staff: Are there any new projects, adjustments or regulations to keep an eye on?
Covell: Senate Bill 1383, the new bio-waste requirement, is something we’re looking at but it’s not something that directly impacts our business and customer base because we typically don’t handle organic products.
We are aiming for more LEED construction sites because this is one of the most difficult areas for the success of waste haulers. Based on our feedback and results, this is an area where we are known to excel and are excited to continue to meet and exceed our customers’ expectations.