A junk removal company's job is to get rid of junk, right? You might be picturing a scene from the TV show Hoarders — stuff being thrown into a big dumpster as quickly as possible, headed for the landfill. For Wisconsin veteran Andrew Weins, his goal — and that of his junk removal and hauling business — is to take absolutely nothing to the dump.
His philosophy is reduce, reuse, repurpose, recycle (in that order), and if all that fails, dispose responsibly.
Weins and his brother Isaac set up shop for their JDog Junk Removal & Hauling franchise in a garage just shy of three years ago. The business is independently owned and operated by Green Up Solutions, Weins' parent company.
It wasn’t long before they moved into a sprawling, former oil refinery in Bulter, Wis. that required a massive cleanup.
"We spent almost three times as much as we paid for the building between the environmental efforts to clean the building up, and repair and buildout the building. But now instead of being a DNR disaster ... it’s a beacon of responsibility," Weins explains.
When crew leader Alex Ludin recently showed two new employees the ropes at a job site in Mequon. They just finished loading several massive sofas onto the company’s box truck.
"We‘re just here to pick up any unwanted items that our customers doesn’t want us to take with the move, and then the move will be happening tomorrow," Ludin explains.
Next comes a long folding table and an entertainment cart on wheels. As the crew moves through the process, they tuck miscellaneous items in special bins. "One is for scrap metal, one for recycling, and another for recycling and another one is for garbage. And we also sort items that can be donated or resused, resold or repurposed, so those things we keep separate,” Ludin says.
While that crew was busy in Mequon, five others were on jobs across the region — from Pewaukee, to South Milwaukee, to Cedarburg. Together, they ferried 35-truckloads of materials to headquarters in just that one day.
As owner Andrew Weins walks from the from the loading dock to a vast area where scrap metal is meticulously sorted, he explains the process: "We sort high grade to low grade ... We’ll recycle over a half a million pounds of metal a year."
The scrap fetches a good price.
Nearby stand towers of neatly-stacked mattresses. "What happens is the fabric gets mulched up, and turned inside dog beds and that sort of things, and then the steel and wood gets recovered,” he says.
The mattresses are heading to Waukegan. Weins says that's because Illinois, unlike Wisconsin, offers a subsidy to offset the cost of recycling mattresses. "We have to sort them by type, store them and load them on the trailer. We aren’t paid for it," Weins explains.
It would be far easier for him to toss the mattresses in a landfill, but Weins prefers to recycle them.
In fact by the end of next year, Weins hopes to stop disposing of anything that passes through JDog’s door in a landfill.
He’s experimenting with gasification to reach that goal. The process involves high concentrated heat.
Weins shows me a gleaming contraption behind his building — the size of a 20-foot shipping container — with an exhaust stack sticking from its roof.
"We put about 400 pounds of hard plastic and foam into the machine and we have about six to eight pounds of ash that take up less than a gallon in the end." He adds, "In theory that ash can be used as fertilizer."
Weins is constantly trying to puzzle out the next challenge, but he takes a minute to revel in how far his JDog team has come in its first three years: "We historically have the largest warehouse, the largest fleet, most employees, and the most customers for an individual location."
He attributes that success simply to his family.
"We’ve done this our whole lives. My great grandfather ran scrapyard. My grandfathers and fathers owned businesses. My brother and I are business partners. Our mom is here everyday overseeing the site. We bring in a lot of people who want to serve that community. When you make good ethical decisions you continue to grow by being good stewards," Weins says.
Weins might just have a sustainable formula — JDog employs 24 people and he needs to hire ten more.
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