Construction debris hauler positions itself as ‘green’ |

Construction debris hauler positions itself as ‘green’

John Seelmeyer

After battling in court for its very right to do business, Empire Waste Systems faces a new battle positioning its service as something other than a commodity.

The company headquartered at Incline Village is working hard to create a niche for itself as an environmentally savvy hauler of construction debris, a company that can find ways to reuse and recycle as much as 80 percent of the stream of trash from a construction site.

But it’s not the environmental message that gets the company in the doors of potential customers, says Bud Haley, a consultant who’s helping owners Matt and Janna Rager move the company forward.

Instead, the Ragers and Haley contend that Empire Waste System can provide the service less expensively than competitors.

Some of those competitors, however, have argued that Empire Waste System doesn’t have the right to be in business, no matter what rates it might charge.

Independent Sanitation Co., a Waste Management Inc. operation in Incline Village, filed suit against Empire Waste in 2003, arguing that Independent Sanitation’s franchise agreement in Incline Village didn’t allow Empire to operate trash bins at construction sites. Empire won that lawsuit, and the case drew national attention in the legal press.

In 2006, Fernley officials told Matt Rager that their franchise with Waste Management barred him from working in the Lyon County town, and Jager has said he faced down similar challenges in Sparks and Carson City.

That opposition, Haley says, has provided an opening for privately held Empire Waste to position itself as a plucky hometown independent going to battle with the giant, publicly held Waste Management.

The message resonates with some builders.

“I believe that money spent locally, stays local,” says Bill Miles, owner of Miles Construction in Mound House and a customer of the northern Nevada debris hauler.

Empire Waste, which runs an operations center at Carson City along with smaller facilities at Reno and Incline Village, looks to widen its presence with some high-profile removal jobs.

After it won a contract to handle disposal for debris left from the demolition of the Carson City sheriff station, Empire figured out how to recycle about 80 percent of the structure. By reducing the weight of materials headed to a landfill by some 2,500 tons, the work saved the city’s taxpayers $25,000 in disposal costs.

It’s performing similar work as subcontractor to Advance Installations Inc. on the demolition of three structures in the Oliver/Montello neighborhood in northeast Reno. That’s a project of the city government to clean up the neighborhood.

Salvage and recycling will save somewhere between 350 and 500 tons of material that otherwise would be hauled to a landfill.

Empire Waste got its start in 1999 in Incline Village as one of the many tiny companies that combined snow-removal in the winter with rubbish-removal service in the summer. Unlike the owners of other small outfits, however, the Ragers were able to build a larger company that could serve bigger markets.

Today, the company’s staff ranges from 14 to 20 employees, depending on the season, and Haley says the company hasn’t felt much impact from the slowdown in residential construction.

“There’s always going to be demolition,” he says. “There’s always going to be construction. This is not a glamorous business. But it can be a profitable one.”