James Contreras Jr

Contreras' RJ Waste & Recovery Gives Back to the Charlotte, N.C., Region

Waste360 talks to the Waste360 40 Under 40 award winner about why he loves the industry, how his company gives back to the community and what’s next for RJ Waste & Recovery.

With a focus on superior customer service and giving back to the community, RJ Waste & Recovery serves in the Charlotte, N.C., region. Founded in 2015, the company offers curbside pickup, residential recycling, portable storage, yard and landscape waste, portable toilets, electronic recycling, dumpsters and front loader rentals and removal of construction rubbish.

RJ Waste & Recovery is Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design-certified and environmentally conscious. The company’s leadership has more than 20 years of trash and recycling experience. In addition, the company has partnered with Rubicon Global as a pro hauler.

James Contreras Jr., who co-founded RJ Waste & Recovery with his wife, has been working in the waste management industry since 1996. He was recently named as a Waste360 40 Under 40 award recipient.

“Jimmy is a visionary. From the age of 16, he was determined to make something of himself in the waste industry," says RJ Waste & Recovery’s Laila Macs. "A hard-working, self-made man, he has built a good name and reputation for himself and RJ in the greater Charlotte area. He has made his success by being a hands-on, lead-by-example and service-first vendor and provider to the greater Charlotte region. Young professionals, students and anyone desiring to make it in this industry, or any related industry, can look up to Jimmy because he is a living example of what desire, hard work and determination can accomplish."

With its ‘Think Pink and Mean Green’ philosophy, the company has a focus on cancer awareness, specifically breast cancer, and donates 10 percent of profits to organizations related to this cause. “We think Pink. This is a personal and important part of our corporate philosophy and business model,” the company’s website states.

Waste360 recently talked to Contreras about why he loves the industry, how his company gives back to the community and what’s next for RJ Waste & Recovery.

Waste360: Where does RJ Waste & Recovery serve?

James Contreras: We serve in Charlotte, and about 100 square miles around Charlotte. We are getting ready to open a facility in Columbia, S.C.

Waste360: About how big is your company?

James Contreras: We have 25 trucks.

Waste360: How did you get into the waste management industry?

James Contreras: My father was in the industry, and he ran a couple of companies in Long Island, N.Y. I’ve also always had a love of trash. 

Waste360: You felt you were ready to start your own company. Why did you want to have your own business?

James Contreras: I felt there was a need to recycle, to help the environment and to make the world a cleaner place. We run a recycling center, and we recycle trash both onsite and offsite. It’s a business that everybody needs.

This is my third go-around with this industry. I just love garbage. I started those companies just after high school. I moved down to Charlotte from New York and built them up. When I got married, my wife and I started this company.

Waste360: Tell me about the cancer charity work that your company does.

James Contreras: Our dumpsters are pink, and our trucks are covered in camouflage pink. We donate to a couple of breast cancer organizations. We also donate portable toilets to charity walks and events. There is a big event coming up in October that we are affiliated with, and we are going to have a team there.

Waste360: You entered the industry deliberately. What do you love about the industry?

James Contreras: From when I was young, I was on the back of the truck picking up trash. I’ve always loved it.

Waste360: What would you say to other young people who haven’t given the industry any consideration?

James Contreras: It’s a wonderful industry, and it's changing every day. There’s never a dull moment, and there's money in it. Plus, you are making a change. We are picking up trash that people don’t want to see, and then we recycle it and it turns into something else.

Waste360: It’s good work. It's needed, and you feel like you are doing something positive.

James Contreras: You’re making a change every day, and no two days are the same.  It doesn’t get boring.

Waste360: From your perspective, what do wish that you could see change either in the waste management industry or in customer behavior?

James Contreras: The change that I would like to see in the industry is a shift to zero landfills, with everything being recycled. It’s possible. If you go to other countries, they throw out very little. In the U.S., some states like California have a 25 percent trash rate, while others have more.

Waste360: What do you think waste generators could do differently?

James Contreras: There could be better education for people about what needs to be done.

Waste360: What are some of your plans for expanding your business in the next couple of years?

James Contreras: In next couple of years, we plan to add more equipment and vehicles and also move into different states. We want to expand from a 100-mile radius to a 200-mile radius.

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