Recycling Systems, Inc.: diverting waste material from landfills


Courtesy of Waste Advantage Magazine

By recovering materials at its own facility and reducing waste travel to landfills, RSI is competitive in a marketplace of giants while providing a platform for sustainability and environmental stewardship.

With the rollup of many independent waste haulers in the late 1990s, many construction companies found themselves with few service vendor choices. The family owners of Recycling Systems, Inc. (RSI) (Chicago, IL) had a great working relationship with many of the largest general contractors in the Chicago area (Walsh Construction, Orange Crush, Kiewit Western and others), several of whom suggested that Rich and Jerry Golf start a waste recycling and hauling company that would offer better service to contractors. With that in mind, RSI started carving out a niche for itself in February of 2000 with two trucks and 40 rolloff boxes. It took five years of constant effort to site, design, permit and finally build the Recycling Systems Material Recovery and Transfer Facility RSI now owns and operates in Chicago. The facility was actually built on a former brownfield site that was reclaimed and repurposed as the first and largest, state-of-the-art material recovery facility of its kind permitted in the city of Chicago. Jerry Golf and his family who own and operate RSI, decided from the beginning to deal primarily with recyclables from construction and demolition projects so the company would be independent from the “big waste” companies who controlled and owned the landfills in the area. RSI also had the foresight to see the trend toward Green Building and the need for this kind of operation in terms of diverting recyclables from jobsites, salvaging reusable materials, reducing waste travel to landfills and lowering the cost of landfill disposal. By recovering materials at its own facility, RSI is competitive in a marketplace of giants while providing a platform for sustainability and environmental stewardship. Covering the Chicagoland area—including the counties of Cook, Lake, Dupage, Will, McHenry and Kendall—RSI’s radius extends approximately 30 miles outside of downtown Chicago. The company currently has more than 60 trucks and 1,200 containers and trailers, employs approximately 200 people from the surrounding community and operates 24 hours per day, six days per week. In addition, since 2008, RSI has branched out to provide municipal solid waste hauling and disposal services to their customers.

Adapting to Change
In 2009, construction started plummeting 46 percent to $9.78 billion in the local area, marking the biggest decline in the Chicagoland area since McGraw- Hill began tracking the data in 1967. RSI has combated these stresses by first focusing on what the customer wants—service excellence and dollar value. Then, they evaluate their employees and processes to make sure they are giving each customer what he or she wants. In the current state of the economy, RSI has done what it does best—adapt to changing circumstances. “RSI has always been willing to take the lead on ventures and this has proven to be a success in combating the effects of a global economic downturn and a locally depressed construction industry,” says Cal King, General Manager. As a result of the economic downturn, RSI began to diversify its customer base by reaching out to homeowners and smaller contractors instead of focusing on only a few general contractors. It has also concentrated on building its brand and improving internal performance. RSI has created a cohesive brand strategy by making sweeping changes in the way it markets and advertises both the company and its services. Every initiative the company partakes in is in step with the company’s overall vision and philosophy to be the most trusted name in waste hauling. By focusing on a strategy that included re-designing the Web site to make it more user friendly, embracing the social media trend by claiming a presence on outlets such as twitter and facebook, and creating memorable ways to seek out RSI on the Internet with satellite Web sites such as, RSI has been able to stay ahead of the competition and managed to increase some of its revenue streams more than 100 percent despite the country’s economic challenge.

Recycling Systems, Inc.: diverting waste material from landfills

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