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Saving Money by Going Green

Author: Jennifer Taylor
Published: November 5th, 2012

Oftentimes being green can be a cost-saving venture. When Jim Dodson, owner of Mid-State Industrial Service in Oregon, started sifting the debris from his sweeper trucks, he did it to save landfill costs. “We’ve been able to reduce our volume by 90 percent,” says Dodson. “Before I started this about 10 or 12 years ago, we were having the local garbage company haul a container to the landfill every week at $200 plus a trip and even more than that in the fall. Now, I have two 40-yard containers hauled to the landfill in the spring, which accounts for a year’s worth of debris. It’s definitely a significant savings.”

The rest, approximately 1000 yards, gets taken to the sand and gravel pit. It’s used to refill their pit, so it’s reused. “We could probably sell it, but the sand and gravel pit hauls it away for us.”

In the fall, they try to schedule their properties with a lot of leaves separately from the ones that have more trash. “We have a landscape company in town that comes at their convenience to pick up the leaves for composting,” says Dodson. “I do have to mess with storing it, but it’s probably 200 yards worth of leaves that I don’t have to pay to dump.”

Mid-State, a NAPSA certified sweeper, can have a lot of debris. “We do any and every kind of sweeping from parking lots to construction,” says Dodson. “We do cities, shopping centers, HOAs, industrial plants, mills (like lumber mills), and the University of Oregon. We sweep the university’s streets, before and after football games and track meets. They hosted the Olympic trials and the NCAA track meet and we swept the track for that. We developed special runners to sweep the rubberized track, because they want it clean, but there can’t be any nicks or scratches in it. We used strips of ultra high density polyurethane and built clips to clip them to the runners. It’s just a 5-10 minute deal. Then you don’t turn your wheels on the track.”

They also have agreements with local paving companies to sweep their jobs. In return, the paving companies do sealcoating and striping for them. “We work for every paving company in our area from the big guys to the little guys,” says Dodson.

To do all of that sweeping, Dodson relies on his fleet of sweepers: four Elgin Road Wizards; one Green Machine; one NiteHawk Raptor; one Schwarze A8000; one Stewart Amos; five Tymco 210s, and two Tymco 435s. All of the Tymcos are the quieter SRE model as are the backpack blowers that are used.

For brooms, Dodson uses United Rotary. “I have five machines with brooms, three have strips and two have tubes,” says Dodson. “I like the strip brooms as far as being able to change them easily and the storage and shipping, but I don’t feel that I’m getting very good life out of them. They seem to wear out and we have had troubles with the channels in the mandrels breaking. I get better life out of the tube brooms by 15-20 hours per broom.”

“At one time we had about 90-95 percent of the sweeping in our area and were looking to expand,” says Dodson. “We ended up cleaning catch basins, drain lines, and pits using the same customer base we already had. That has become a significant profit center. Just about every parking lot we sweep has a catch basin and the cities and EPA are pushing harder on regulations to keep them clean.”

Dodson uses one of his three Camel 200 vacuum trucks to clean the basins. He is also excited about getting his Vactor Hydro Excavator next week. “Most of the hydro-excavation is for utility and construction companies where they are building a new building or laying new utilities that cross old utilities, and any foundation type work,” says Dodson. “They come up with new uses for it all of the time. One of the larger local projects we just finished up is the expansion of Interstate 5. They were building a bridge over the river and had to drill holes for the columns. We had to pump all of that out because they can’t have any leakage. It goes into tanks and then is run through a filtration system before it can be released.”

Dodson also has a street flusher that he has had for a long time that is now used as a nurse for the Camels. “We can keep the hose and nozzle in the pipe and keep jetting instead of going back to get more water.”

Just like fixing the problem with landfill costs, Dodson and his family like to fix other problems that arise. “We’ve been using Tymco since it came with the company when my dad bought it in 1970,” says Dodson. “We had an early Tymco. The fan only lasted about 90 days and cost roughly $600 on a $14,000 truck. Dad went looking for ways to extend the life and had one rubber covered. Now, all of Tymco’s fans come with rubber.”

Dodson says that they were also having trouble with the broom bouncing on their Mobil. “I doubled up the shocks on the rear to fix it after we were told no one else had that problem. The factory rep came out and took pictures. When we bought our next Mobil about six months later, it had double shocks.”

Dodson also uses biodiesel. The Oregon Legislature passed a bill requiring B5 or better. “We use either the B5 or B20, whichever is cheaper,” says Dodson. “We haven’t had to do anything special. Before bio was available, I did research and was expecting to have to change fuel filters more often, but that hasn’t been the case.”

We have always run very tight routes. We only cover about a 20-25 mile radius from our shop on parking lot sweeping, after that there is not much out there for another 40-60 miles depending on which way you go. We seldom have more than about 3-5 minutes between stops.

Dodson is a great example of someone who looks for solutions. Many times lowering your costs means finding greater efficiencies which can also be environmentally friendly. “We are an environmental company no matter how you look at it,” says Dodson. “If you look at what we are picking up with our sweeper, a huge percentage (especially with air sweepers) is the fine material that the EPA is looking at getting out of the wastewater stream that goes through catch basins and storm drains. And, of course, how we deal with the material once we have it is environmentally friendly.”