A haul new industry

Startup franchisees try to take the hassels out of junk removal

Published: Sunday, Jan. 18 2004 12:00 a.m. MST

Spencer Bytheway and Travis Lyon, who work for TurboHaul, unload scraps of metal at Western Metals, a recycling company in Salt Lake City.

Scott G. Winterton, Deseret Morning News

Alex Siegel had both plenty of stuff and plenty of reasons to get rid of it.

"I had a lot of furniture to be thrown away," said the Sandy resident. "I had people living with me over the years, and they left it. You know how you collect stuff."

Ditto for his business, Alex's Auto House, a car repair and service shop.

That's where 1-800-Got-Junk? took over. The local franchise of a Canadian operation came in and took it all away without Siegel lifting a finger, except to dial up the company, of course.

1-800-Got-Junk? and another franchise operation, TurboHaul, are relative newcomers to the Utah market, trying to fill a business niche as quickly as they fill landfills. They can haul away residential or commercial refuse on a spot or ongoing basis, without the need for roll-off containers or confusing contracts, often with same-day service and without forcing the owners to bring the stuff to the curb first.

"We have to break the ice with the local people because it's an up-and-coming trend," said Travis Lyon, general manager of TurboHaul of Salt Lake City, the first TurboHaul franchise west of the Mississippi.

"A lot of people aren't aware there is an option out there. What we're doing is educating people that they have other options for getting rid of their stuff and not have a special truck costing them an arm and leg or having somebody show up drunk, if he shows up at all."

"We're not trying to take the place of city garbage programs, because we realize that's not where our strength is," said Brian Gibson, franchise partner with 1-800-Got-Junk? "We have a service for someone who has junk to get rid of, but doesn't have time to do it or wants it gone right away or doesn't have a truck to do it."

Until the mid-1960s, there was no organized way to dispose of waste from people's homes, according to H. Lanier Hickman Jr., author of "American Alchemy: The History of Solid Waste Management in the United States." Prior to that time, local governments primarily picked up residents' refuse, while thousands of small companies drove to people's homes to collect waste.

Then, in 1965, the federal Solid Waste Disposal Act was established to assist state and local governments develop plans for solid-waste disposal programs. Today, the nation's estimated $39 billion-plus solid waste management industry is highly structured and dominated by a handful of giants that own landfills and remove trash from residential and commercial settings.

Experts within the waste management industry say that services removing the bulky waste from homes are one of the last segments of the industry that remains unstructured — and one with the greatest unmet demand.

Jeremy O'Brien, director of applied research at Solid Waste Association of North America, which represents about 7,000 private and public waste management organizations, said not a lot of companies are willing to go inside a house and clean it out.

"There may be a true market niche for emptying out a whole basement," O'Brien said.

Both Gibson and Lyon have small operations now but expect them to grow quickly. Lyon oversees two trucks and two employees but soon will have four workers. TurboHaul now takes away trash in Davis, Salt Lake and Utah counties. Gibson's six employees (three full-time) and two trucks will be augmented by a third truck in a month or so. They work in Salt Lake County and Park City, but Utah County likely will be added in the fall.

Lyon's typical customer is a commercial property owner or contractor. "Usually it's someone who has a piece of furniture or old appliances or construction debris from renovating the house," he said. "We provide the labor. We haul it away."

The company also can do demolition; for example, tearing out some areas in preparation for rebuilding.

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