For Dan Christensen—a reputable figure in the waste and recycling space and founder of Springdale, Arkansas-based CARDS Recycling (CARDS)—efficient transfer station management can drastically improve how a company or municipality handles its solid waste.
Evidence of this can be seen firsthand with the evolution of CARDS, which has grown from exclusively specializing in the recycling and disposal of construction and demolition (C&D) waste to becoming a major provider of transfer station management and hauling services in the South Central region of the U.S.
“We founded the business in late 2017. When we first founded the company, we had a construction and demolition landfill and roll-off assets, and we specialized in the recycling and disposal of construction and demolition waste only,” says Christensen. “Since then, we’ve evolved and acquired a network of transfer stations to better manage our volumes of municipal solid waste.”
With close to 20 locations across Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri and Arkansas, some of which are managed for other waste entities, Christensen says CARDS has built a comprehensive service network for companies to outsource their transfer operation needs.
“I think there are certain focus areas for other firms that maybe consume the assets and capital available, and it makes a lot of sense sometimes to … operate them independently,” he says. “So, we feel we’re in the best position to manage this waste on a go-forward basis; we’ve gotten pretty good at understanding the driving factors of what makes these stations run efficiently, and [transfer station management is a] business we plan to continue to expand.
“We’ve constructed a number of transfer stations as well for our competitors, and we see this as something that could be a part of our business going forward. We built a couple of very nice facilities in the last few years, and some we constructed for other large waste haulers, so it’s a part of business that we’d like to continue to expand as we go forward.”
THE RIGHT APPROACH
With Christensen’s considerable experience in the waste management sector, which includes positions such as president of Cortland, Illinois-based DC Trash and general manager for Phoenix, Arizona-based Republic Services, there are several key factors he’s learned to look out for when designing a transfer station.
“Efficiency is obviously the most important factor since you have to be able to manage the volumes within the marketplace,” Christensen says. “When we design them, we’re considering factors like how much throughput the transfer station expects to have and how quickly can you load the amount of waste that’s coming in, and that usually leads to the best designed station that allows for the most efficient operations.”
Other elements that can come into play are variances between waste streams and the ability to obtain necessary equipment.
“The balance between waste streams sometimes creates inconsistencies in load weights, for instance, with solid waste versus construction and demolition waste. You also have the same challenges that everybody has right now with obtaining equipment to grow the businesses,” Christensen says. “It seems as though some of these manufacturers are a year out [with their expected delivery times] in some cases, so having the ability to react quickly is often hindered by your ability to get equipment.”
While a well-planned facility can provide a solid base for streamlined transfer station operations, Christensen says having the proper equipment is crucial to maintaining productivity.
“At any given transfer station, you’re going to have trailers, semi-trucks and heavy equipment that’s used to load the waste,” he says. “For trailers specifically, having your trailer capacity spec’d to be consistent with the maximum allowable weights in each given state is the most important part. You also need to ensure that you hit those targeted weights without exceeding them.”
In order to ensure consistency across CARDS’ multiple sites throughout different states, the company has put an emphasis on following proper transportation management practices.
“We collect our own waste in a number of markets and then put it through our own transfer stations. From there, our own trucks transport it from the transfer station to the destination, which is in most cases, a landfill,” Christensen says. “So, the businesses are paralleled with one another, and we can control the volume from its generation all the way to its end destination.
“You have to control the volume that comes in in accordance with each individual permit, and those are specific to the sites in a lot of cases.”
According to Christensen, CARDS’ methodology for effectively operating its transfer stations also includes the use of technology to better visualize the company’s transportation and logistics services.
“I think for our business, we’ve proven that growth is a big part of our strategy. But it’s been responsible growth and execution along the way that has been very important.” – Dan Christensen, president, CARDS Recycling
“We use some technology in our trucks to understand where our assets are and how they’re operating,” he says. “That also alerts us to any services that are needed or repairs and maintenance that needs to take place. It allows us to kind of ‘live dispatch’ the units in some cases and use them in the most efficient manner possible.”
Since CARDS first opened its doors four years ago, Christensen says the company has recognized an increasing value in offering comprehensive transfer station services.
“I think as landfill space becomes more limited across the county, the next best and most valuable asset that a waste company can have at its disposal is a transfer station,” he says. “It opens you up to be able to move the waste farther and have access to more landfills than you would have access to if you were having to direct haul the waste. We see that as a very important part of our waste collection business.”
Most recently, CARDS announced plans to develop a $5 million recycling transfer station in Springdale, Arkansas. The 40,000-square-foot facility will be used to offload household and construction waste, with most of the material being pulled for recycling.
Christensen says that the recyclable material will be stored until sold, and other waste will be removed for disposal at various landfills.
“We acquired the 12-acre site about a year ago, and our plans are to put a very large transfer station there with the ability to handle up to 1,250 tons a day of waste,” Christensen says. “Directly adjacent to the [transfer station] is a recycling center that will have the ability to manage up to 500 tons per day of recyclables from multiple streams, including industrial, residential, commercial and C&D waste that we hope to recycle and prevent from ending up in a landfill.”
Construction of the facility is anticipated to begin in mid-October, according to Christensen, and the facility will most likely be online around the same time in 2022.
“I think [the Springdale] facility will be transformational,” he says. “There’s only one landfill within the surrounding seven or eight counties. And so, that makes the transfer station a viable option. We [already] own and operate four transfer stations in this market; so, it’s going to give us the ability to transfer waste and even offer some zero-waste solutions to our customers by utilizing some incinerators that are in close proximity.
As CARDS has expanded its footprint through acquisitions and the development of new facilities, Christensen says steady growth has been the key to creating a successful company.
“I think for our business, we’ve proven that growth is a big part of our strategy. But it’s been responsible growth and execution along the way that has been very important,” he says. “We’re looking forward to the next six or eight months; we’ve got some scheduled acquisitions and some new contracts that will be starting in this space. The company has become much larger than it originally was, with 225 employees today, but we expect that number to be closer to 300 by the end of the year. So, we’re very excited about the opportunities we have before us.”