This interview with Tom Coffman, Former Senior Vice President of Strategic Partnerships with Deffenbaugh Industries, covers the topics of sustainability, recycling, green ideas, and the services that Deffenbaugh Industries and Deffenbaugh Recycling provide to the Midwest.
Total Reading time: 5:00 minutes.
1. What are 4 things that anyone can do, right now, to be better at recycling?
Tom: Eliminate plastic bags, eliminate plastic bags, eliminate plastic bags, and eliminate plastic bags from recycling containers. Plastic bags are a menace when they get to the recycling facility. They gum up our systems and they blow all over the place. Most grocery stores have containers for recyclable plastic bags.
2. What is exciting to you in the area of sustainability?
Tom: I think the growing awareness, support and public interest around sustainability issues has been very heartening. Whether it is the food people eat, the homes they build and maintain or the way they handle their yard waste, you can see behaviors continue to move toward greater sustainability.
3. What is your favorite innovation that you have been a part of at Deffenbaugh Indsutries?
Tom: There are three innovations I’ve seen in the past 20 years at Deffenbaugh Industries that I think are particularly cool. The move toward automated collection for residential trash and recycling has been a great step forward, as has the implementation of a single-stream recycling system. And the fact that we collect and process approximately 15 million cubic feet of landfill gas per day, which is used to serve the equivalent of 5,000 homes daily, always impresses me.
4. You have Tidy Town coming up, where residential customers can throw away large items. Do you have any suggestions for making that day more environmentally friendly?
Tom: Every year I get involved with a handful of incidents where our guys took something a resident left at the curb but didn’t mean for us to take during a large-item collection weekend. Those incidents never go well, and they make my environment very unfriendly. Please, don’t leave anything at the curb that you want to keep.
5. How big has recycling become for Deffenbaugh Industries?
Tom: Recycling has become one of the pillars of the solid waste industry, and Deffenbaugh Industries is no exception. Tonnages at the Johnson County Landfill are down, and the tons of recyclables we collect and process at our Materials Recovery Facility continue to grow. Meanwhile, our yard waste composting, our partnership with Ripple Glass and our food waste diversion activities are expanding.
6. How different is Deffenbaugh Industries today compared to just 2 or 3 years ago. How about compared to 20 or 30 years ago?
Tom: The technology associated with trash and recycling collection has become a pretty big deal, particularly the amount of information we can gather from our fleet. We are way more efficient in our collection, which is reflected in our fuel usage and our impact on streets. And the operation of landfills bears no similarity to practices of 20 or 30 years ago. We now spend up to $1 million per acre preparing a landfill cell that complies with current federal regulations.
7. What does Deffenbaugh Industries do, internally, to be a more sustainable company?
Tom: We recycle almost all the waste that is generated in our offices, we recycle the waste oil from our fleet, we use recycled water in our truck wash facility, and we take most of the common energy-saving steps that other businesses take.
8. What is something the Deffenbaugh Industries employees get behind when it comes to recycling?
Tom: Our employees are committed to public education on recycling issues everywhere they go. In their homes, at their kids’ schools and events, wherever they are they explain the benefits and best practices of recycling.
9. Personally, Tom, what do you do at your home to be more green?
Tom: In the past couple of years, I’ve picked up a new recycling duty at home. My wife is pretty good about letting me know when it is time for me to visit the Ripple Glass bin near our home. Seems like I’m there pretty often.
10. What is your favorite area of innovation outside of waste processing and recycling?
Tom: The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy recently completed studies of the potential for wind and solar projects at the Johnson County Landfill. I find that to be pretty exciting stuff.
11. What is the most common question asked by new business customers?
Tom: Whether the subject is trash or recycling, most business customers want to know up front what the service will cost and what they are allowed to throw in the containers.
12. What one service do you think your business customers are not taking advantage of, that they should be. And how about the same question for residential customers.
Tom: I am convinced that most of our commercial trash customers would be shocked to learn how easy it is to add a recycling program, and I’m also convinced that those individuals would be pleasantly surprised to see how much their trash bill could be reduced through recycling.
13. What are your favorite social media tools? How does someone connect with Deffenbaugh Industries?
Tom: I’m not sure I have a favorite social media tool, but Deffenbaugh Industries relies on Facebook, YouTube, Google+, Twitter, Pintrest and LinkedIn to communicate with our customers and bolster our public education efforts.
14. What cell phone do you use?
Tom: I use an iPhone 5 – two of them, actually.
15. What is your favorite flavor of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream?
Tom: My favorite Ben & Jerry’s flavor is whichever flavor is in front of me.