From the first company to offer single-stream recycling in the mid-Atlantic region to becoming a leader in transitioning to alternative fuels, TFC Recycling is committed to improving its technologies as well as helping other organizations implement a natural gas program.
Started by the Benedetto family in 1973, TFC Recycling still operates as a family owned business today, now run by Michael Benedetto, President and CEO. Its primary location is in Chesapeake, VA where there are three different MRF operations onsite—the largest, Chesapeake Processing, is a single-stream, 40-ton-per-hour operation. The first company in the mid-Atlantic region to offer single-stream recycling in 1998, TFC Recycling has grown to be the largest one in the region and now has a single-stream, 20-ton-per-hour sister operation in Chester, VA. Between the two facilities, the company currently services about 600,000 households between Hampton Road and Richmond, as well as maintains about 4,000 commercial accounts. With 350 employees, the company runs approximately 135 trucks, with 21 of them on CNG.
TFC Recycling’s buildings #1, #2 and #3 in Chesapeake, VA, house the overall onsite operations. Building #1 has the largest residential stream operation, while Building #3 is the newest complex and has the single-stream commercial waste operation. This material tends to be “dry waste” (low quantity of organic-type material like food waste), plastics, fiber, etc. Between #1 and #3, TFC Recycling processes about a quarter million tons per year. Building #2 is a small transfer and baling operation largely for hydrating materials that are fairly clean when they come in—most of it is fiber (cardboard and paper).
TFC Recycling services the entire south side of the Hampton Roads marketplace, with the exception of the city of Portsmouth. Cities include Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Suffolk. They also service most of the north side peninsula, including Williamsburg and down through parts of the city of Hampton and Newport News.
A Stable Business Strategy
With a stable two-part business model (traditional collection company and recycling company), TFC Recycling is keeping its business at a steady growth.
Says Paul Stacharczyk, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, “The business that we have from a collections standpoint is highly stable. Even though a good portion of it is municipal contracts, they tend to be multiple years. Likewise, with our commercial business, even though you do get some general routine turnover in your customers that is fairly stable as well. Revenue is growing organically at several percent a year, and the business is fixed and stable.”
He goes on to explain that on the recycling side of the business, the economy tends to have more of an influence on the business since the major source of revenue is from the sale of commodity materials—fibers, aluminum, metal, etc.—and is largely dependent on the market at any given time making it a true world market. “If the economy happens to be doing very well, then we do very well; if the economy happens to be challenging, then recycling will be challenging as well,” says Stacharczyk. However, since the Benedettos have been involved in recycling for a very long time, they have maintained extremely good relationships with all end users both domestic and foreign. Even beyond that, TFC Recycling tends to go a little extra mile to maintain those relationships. For instance, last year, a member of the company’s senior management team was sent to China to meet with the end users, port authorities and other entities to find out what specifically they were looking for and what kind of problems they were facing. “We knew before we even shipped material to China what the expectation was and as a result of that we have had very few problems or material rejections,” points out Stacharczyk. “We do as much as we can to make sure that we are meeting the expectations of the end users.”
Developing a Sister Corporation
Five years ago the management at TFC Recycling took the time to sit down and revise their strategic plan to project a five to 10 year window and look at what needed to be done to improve operations and grow the business in a sustainable matter. The main goal was to create a rewards-based program to help promote recycling since it was the core business. “We had looked at some of the rewards-based programs that were in the marketplace and none of them encompassed our goal, so we decided to build our own. We developed a spinoff sister corporation called Recycling Perks, which is a geo-targeted based mechanism where technology is used at the truck level to identify recycling trends and participation,” describes Stacharczyk. “Once recycling data is captured, it’s used to develop marketing campaigns that are directed towards the areas where recycling is low. For instance, Recycling Perks executed a particular campaign in Chesapeake a few years ago where neighboring streets with low participation were identified. A contest was set up and participation was measured over a three-month period. At the end of it, Perks planned to hire an ice cream truck and send it down the street that had the most participation, to hand out free ice cream. However, both streets came within a fraction of a percent of each other, so they sent the ice cream truck down each of them.” Stacharczyk goes on to point out that Recycling Perks looks at the final data and implements custom strategies to help grow recycling. “Rather than doing a massive campaign, Recycling Perks is working on the areas that need it. The rewards that developed are localized, so rather than giving residents dollars off a national brand product, an excess of 95 percent of the discounts are provided by truly local, small businesses. It drives traffic to those specific stores as well.”