Local recycler wins National Recycler of the Year award

After injuring himself twenty years ago in construction, Terrell Garrett was forced by his doctor to find another line of work. A series of steps led him to construction and demolition waste recycling instead. Fortunately, the field has allowed Garrett to use his mechanical know-how and creativity to customize an automated system that has shown huge gains in recycling efficiency.

Terrell Garrett with national CDRA award for Recycler of the Year
Terrell Garrett with CDRA award, National Recycler of the Year

Although his operation is small in comparison to the giants of corporate waste management, GreenWay Recycling recently won a national award for its outstanding recycling rate. Garrett says GreenWay’s percentage of recyclables can range from 60-80% of debris in an industry where rates usually range from 4-20%. And it’s getting noticed. He recently traveled to Florida to receive the award for National Recycler of the Year from the Construction and Demolition Recycling Association (CDRA).

GreenWay Recycling is located on NW St. Helens Road nestled against Forest Park just south of Linnton. Inside the gate there is a whirl of constant activity with dump trucks coming and going, an excavator constantly feeding more debris into a large vat where a system of conveyor belts moves the material in various directions at once. It almost gives the impression of Willie Wonka’s Chocolate Factory but the conveyors contain recycling instead of chocolate.

Garrett describes the process of separation of recyclables via conveyor belts
Garrett describes the process of separation of recyclables
via conveyor belts
GreenWay's Terrell Garrett observing Ballistor
Garrett observes as Ballistor machine separates recyclables
by a shaking motion

Garrett has carefully built up the enterprise with major investment in both mechanical equipment and personnel. Both have been essential to the efficiency of the small but feisty enterprise. Instead of temporary workers common in the industry, Garrett offers his staff full-time positions with good pay hard to find in most blue-collar jobs. His staff of 15 support each other as a team to keep the system running and the recycling percentage high. Garrett and many employees are Hispanic in origin, making it a minority-owned and-operated business. About half of GreenWay’s staff live nearby in St. Johns.

Besides his hard-working staff, GreenWay’s secret is a specially customized machine with a complex series of conveyor belts that separate construction waste through a series of magnets and other ingenious means into reusable metals, concrete fill, roadway material, and wood that is shredded onsite and can later be burned for power. It also separates items that need to be discarded. Some human sorting is still needed and a team works quickly to retrieve recyclables off a speeding conveyor belt. They pull out metals and other reusable items in one fluid movement, and drop them into nearby barrels as they whisk by.

GreenWay Recycling conveyor belt
Worker pulling recyclables from a fast-moving conveyor belt

The large amount of debris going through the facility would normally create a high amount of dust, but the facility’s mechanical system actually controls dust by misting water over the moving belts and into the air to eliminate almost all of it.

Congratulations to Garrett and his team at GreenWay Recycling for their achievement and much deserved national recognition for their creativity and hard work!