It’s all about keeping it local for Paul Smith.
The owner of Provincial Waste Systems in Elmira welcomed the opportunity to open his own waste collection company this year with the support of Plein Disposal’s Adolph Plein, who retired and wound down the business.
He’s even in the same location, though the scope of the business changed when the Region of Waterloo went with two new contractors in its latest curbside collection contract.
Smith has worked in the industry since 1983, previously in Waterloo. He says Plein contacted him in 2012 because he was looking for someone to take over the business, keep it in Elmira and continue to support the local community, rather than sell out to the large corporations.
After much discussion, Smith decided to come to Plein Disposal in 2013, which allowed him to learn about rural residential collection.
He says he enjoyed the small-town atmosphere so much that he sold his house of 28 years in Kitchener and moved to Conestogo, where he now resides.
They knew the region’s residential contract was coming up for rebid last year, and when the region chose a different bidder over Plein, he asked Smith what he was going to do. Smith said he had a year to figure it out.
“That year went by pretty quickly and I had some conversations with some people that are obviously in the background supporting me. And I’m happy to say they’re all local people here in Elmira. But I could have gone back to the corporate world. Both companies that took over for Waste Management and Plein both spoke to me on recommendations of the Region of Waterloo to take over, and possibly come and work for them, run their residential programs,” Smith said.
But he says that wasn’t the reason he left to just go back into the corporate world. So he looked into what it would take for him to open his own waste management company.
He says he asked Plein if in his experience there was an appetite in Woolwich Township from the small business owners to support local, because if there wasn’t it would be hard to compete with the large, national waste management companies.
Plein indicated there was, and by Jan. 2 of this year Smith had a salesman on the road. He says since then he’s been overwhelmed by the support.
“I had enough work by the middle of February for two drivers. And come the first of March when we were getting ready to shut down in the last week of operation for the region contract we had a bunch of work come in because the region opened up a door with an opportunity because they decided on this next residential contract to, as you know, go to biweekly garbage collection, which is fine. They also decided to eliminate a lot of businesses within the region that were used to getting curbside pickup on the residential contract that they’re no longer getting, and they also decided to eliminate several multi-unit complexes of more than six units. They told those people they’ll have to go and get their own service.”
Because of that he was able to hire a third driver to keep up with the demand.
They cover Woolwich, Wellesley, and Wilmot townships, as well as the cities.
“I never plan on being the biggest, but I do plan on being the best,” Smith said.
The bins he rents out aren’t just for corporate and residential garbage though. They can also be rented for cleanup projects, for example, if you’re cleaning out your garage. Or they can be rented for garbage collection on farms, which he says he’s seen steady interest in.
Even some of his bins are made locally by a Mennonite man. A friend of Smith’s asked for his card which he passed on to a man who makes large garbage containers, but he had never made a front-end container, like the ones Smith uses.
They discussed what Smith would like the containers to look like and he drew it up. Within a week the first one was created. He’s since made 62 of them for Smith.
“When we all help each other, everything works out twofold,” Smith said.
He was also particular about what his trucks would look like, wanting his front end truck to stand out in a crowd. He noticed empty space on the side and back of the truck.
So what he’s done is on the very back of the truck for those businesses who are interested, at no cost, to show his support to people who are doing business with them, he’s been adding those company logos to the truck. All they have to do is send a PDF version of their logo to him.
He notes Adolph Plein, Plein Disposal’s owner, still frequents the office – still in the same location – which Smith encourages. Smith refused to take Plein’s office, instead telling him he was always welcome to come in and use his office as he wished because of all the responsibility Plein gave him when he was working for him and because Smith understands the importance of keeping a routine, even in retirement.
Smith notes Plein typically comes in for a few hours most days during the week and he was even there when Smith popped into the office after the Elmira Maple Syrup Festival on Saturday.