Bay Area Recycling for Charities was in The TICKer! Read our story below!
Andy Gale can find a use for just about anything. Used fryer oil? Convert that into biodiesel fuel, and that’s just the beginning.
Gale is the founder of Bay Area Recycling for Charities (BARC), a nonprofit organization whose net profits are donated to local charities. The company, which operates in Grand Traverse, Kalkaska, Antrim, Leelanau, Benzie, and Manistee counties, was founded by Gale in 2008. Gale, who moved from Chicago to Traverse City in 2008, had little knowledge about recycling, but was passionate about environmental sustainability.
“I didn’t know anything about recycling but I wanted to learn more about it,” says Gale. “And I wanted to be a better recycling and so I started the organization to learn about how it works, and how it functions, and what markets are there, and how those systems all work together.”
What started as a small operation with Gale driving a pickup truck and collecting recycled material from businesses and residences has quickly grew into an operation employing ten people with a fast-growing line of new products and services.
As business grew, Gale had to hire more drivers to meet the demand for collecting recycled material. Once collected, the recycling is taken to a processing plant in Maple City; there, materials are sorted and then sold to brokers. According to Gale, BARC processes fifteen tons of cardboard, 3-6 tons of compost, 2-4 tons of recycling, and one ton of e-waste each week.
Soon BARC began offering a composting service.
“It involves carbon and nitrogen,” says Jordan Byron, who is manager of products and promotions at BARC. “The carbon comes from leaves, branches, and wood chips, so we started picking up yard waste from residents. The nitrogen comes from food, so we pick up food waste from Oryana, Great Wolf Lodge, the Little Fleet, and other places. You combine that and you keep turning it, and pretty soon within 200 days you’ve got some soil.”
Gale had more ideas for making sustainability a marketable enterprise, so he forayed into selling compostable plates and silverware, a venture that’s paying off already.
“For just the month of June this year we did a little over twenty five thousand dollars in compostable sales, and July is on its way to being somewhere between thirty and thirty five thousand,” says Byron.
Other new products involve converting used fryer oil into biodiesel fuel, and compostable product packaging made from mycelium, or mushroom “roots."
"Say your new Vizio TV comes and you open it up, and take off all the packaging. That packaging, you can just throw that right out in your front yard and three days later it's nothing. It's back into the soil," Byron says.
BARC has also expanded into doing zero-waste events.
“First was Film Fest. Andy probably started with that about three years ago. [Now we] handle the whole waste stream so that there’s virtually no trash and it will all be composted and recycled,’” says Byron.
BARC has done twelve zero-waste weddings this summer, and 2013 was the first year the company handled waste from the National Cherry Festival.
“In years past, that eight day event generated around 30 to 33 tons of pure landfill waste and so we came in and said, ‘well do it; we’re going to start changing the culture.’
Now Gale and BARC are looking into a social project to make Traverse City the “greenest” city in Michigan by 2020 -- something he believes is attainable.
“We’re trying to change the culture and it’s pretty easy in this town to do that. Traverse City is like a mini Portland or Burlington or Seattle; the culture that is now coming into town is much younger, much more vibrant.”