Kellan Pearson, nearly 3 years old, stands in awe of the huge red, white and blue truck owned by Choice Waste Services. “He loves garbage trucks,” says his mother, Kristina, as Kellan’s father, John, holds on to him tightly. “He watches them whenever they come around our house and is fascinated by the big arms that lift the containers,” she says.
The event, “Touch a Truck Safety Day,” sponsored by Chick-fil-A’s Chesterfield Plaza location near Chesterfield Towne Center, is a coming out party of sorts for Choice Waste Services, a Chester company that recently expanded its business to serve the county’s residential community.
Co-founder Jim Talpas helps as young Kellan is lifted into the driver’s seat of the $350,000 truck, where he’s surrounded by gizmos.
Building strong links to the local community is an important theme for Choice Waste, which was founded 18 months ago by waste disposal experts Talpas and his father-in-law, Shawn Anderson. “We put it together when we saw the need,” Talpas says.
Chesterfield County is a hot market for residential waste, which Talpas describes as a service that requires intense concentration and monitoring and is best done by locally owned companies.
For years, the market was dominated by a few large companies, such as Waste Management, and a number of small, local firms. About four years ago, County Waste, a large out-of-state company with headquarters in New York, started buying up smaller ones such as SDI and Duck’s Disposal.
Anderson, a 38-year waste industry veteran, grew up in the disposal business and recalls licking stamps as a 4-year-old for his grandparents’ family garbage business.
Anderson and Talpas started Choice Waste at 11924 Old Stage Road in Chester to haul industrial waste in roll-on/roll-off containers placed next to business sites. Then they thought: Why not serve the residential community, as well?
They knew companies purchased by County Waste had previously been charging residential customers $12 to $16.50 a month. After the consolidation, County Waste started raising its prices. “There’s a great market in residential,” Anderson says.
In July, Choice Waste launched a drive into the residential market, starting a mailbox leaflet campaign to drum up interest. It so happened that the campaign coincided with a rise in residential rates by County Waste. Also, a local television station broadcast a report about County Waste’s hikes. In an interview with the television station, a County Waste official said the hikes were necessary to pay its workers more and keep good ones with the company.
The result was that homeowners started looking at Choice Waste’s rates, which are around $14 a month this year and will be $16 a month in 2018, says Talpas. Rates from other firms are in the mid-$20 a month range, he says.
“Our phones start[ed] ringing off the hook,” Talpas says.
Gearing up to the residential launch, Choice has invested in 11 new garbage trucks and many new containers. None are previously used.The company has 15 employees. The waste they collect is disposed of at approved landfills throughout the region.
Anderson and Talpas decided to focus exclusively on Chesterfield County. Doing so lets them provide better, more attentive service, Anderson says.
Underlining their commitment, they are local residents. Anderson lives in Midlothian and Talpas has a home in Moseley. Both still regularly drive trucks because they feel that service is the most important part of the business.
The community commitment is evident as dozens of youngsters ogle the Choice Waste dump truck, along with the law enforcement and fire equipment parked nearby. Laura Wykert, marketing manager for the sponsoring Chick-fil-A restaurant, says the event is simply to put children in touch with trucks.
For Kellan Pearson, it’s an exciting day.
At “Touch a Truck Safety Day” last week, children jumped at the opportunity to climb aboard Choice Waste Services’ red, white and blue garbage disposal truck.
Kristina and Kellan Pearson, right, check out the shiny disposal truck parked near Chick-fil-A at Chesterfield Plaza.