After 10 years of collecting waste from a handful of residential customers with a one-truck operation, Kenneth Burkett founded American Waste Control in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 1980 as a waste management company devoted to commercial and industrial clients. Nearly four decades later, the company has grown to include nearly 275 employees and establish what it says was the first material recovery facility (MRF) in Oklahoma, its Mr. Murph recycling center—a facility that has taken the company’s recovery rate from 15 percent to nearly 95 percent. American Waste Control also provides hauling services and owns a waste-to-energy landfill and a transfer station.
The company’s growth has earned it a spot on Waste Today's inaugural Top Hauler List, where it ranked No. 32 among North America’s largest haulers with $67.7 million in revenue in 2018. We spoke with Paul Ross, American Waste Control’s vice president, about what has led to the company’s success.
Waste Today (WT): What is your business philosophy?
Paul Ross (PR): Kenneth Burkett’s philosophy in the waste and recycling business is to take care of your people, and they’ll take care of your customers. People are number one. In addition, we’ve built our company on the philosophy of “just do the right thing.” If you do the right thing as it relates to your employees, customers, vendors, and the state and federal government, then you will be successful.
WT: What technology have you implemented over the past five years that you think has contributed to your success?
PR: We have invested in training and professional development of our people, safety training. We have also updated our fleet of trucks and added a new compactor at our waste-to-energy landfill and onboard camera systems in our fleet.
WT: How big of a focus is merger and acquisition (M&A) activity for your company and why?
PR: Oklahoma is unique because a hauler can still make money and survive owning one truck and hauling one route a few times per week. Kenneth Burkett loves to meet these haulers, shake their hand and bringtheir customers on as part of the American Waste Control family when the hauler is ready to retire. It’s not unusual to find a competing hauler come to our office to meet with Kenny, shake his hand, “talk trash” for an hour, and when they walk away, we’ve acquired their customers on a handshake deal, and they know Kenny’s word is as good as solid gold.
WT: Can you talk about any notable sustainability initiatives or investments you’re planning on making in the future?
PR: Our goal at American Waste Control is to continue to update the waste-to-energy technology at our landfill, invest in other types of recycling opportunities, and promote sustainability through our honey bee farm at our landfill, as well as upgrading our equipment at our Mr. Murph recycling center.
WT: What do you think sets you apart from your competition?
PR: There is no question: what sets our company apart from our competition is our people. It is the heart of who we are!
WT: What are your company’s major goals for the future? Are there any new innovations, upgrades or additions in the pipeline?
PR: Our goals for the future of our company are to focus on what has made us who we are today--focusing on our strengths, taking care of our people, taking care of our customers and auditing operations to make us more efficient. Our goal is to continue acquiring smaller haulers. Finally, Kenny is known for implementing new technology, so we are currently looking for new technologies to make us better.