Wichita, Kansas, has a new waste and recycling company in town, and it’s owned and operated by an industry vet.
Founded by Jim Spencer, Air Capital Waste provides residential trash and recycling services and commercial front loader service in the Wichita metropolitan area. The new company just began service on January 1, but it was a long time in the making.
Spencer, who has 35 years of industry experience, began his career by working on the back of a trash truck at a Wichita-based company that was later acquired by Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI) and then again by Waste Connections. In 2015, when Spencer left Waste Connections, where he was the division vice president overseeing operations in Kansas, that nagging idea in the back of his mind about starting his own company began to seem possible.
“As I began forming this company, I started thinking about people I could bring into the company who could help to grow the company,” says Spencer. “I have a lot of experience in the Wichita market, so I know a lot of people.”
Air Capital Waste's mission is to provide an affordable and customer-driven service. “We feel strongly that the large companies have lost sight of the individual customer,” says Spencer, who noted that waste management service prices in the Wichita market have risen significantly over the past few years. “I believe there’s room for a player to come in, such as ourselves, that is affordably priced and, more importantly, customer driven. That’s the niche we’re going to try to fill.”
A small but important way the company is taking care of customers is by providing a much-needed solution to a longtime local battle.
At his first job, Spencer worked with a local company whose owner had created the first polycarts for the residential market. “One of the advantages of that cart was that it had a wind strap on it. Chicago may be called the Windy City, but in Wichita, Kansas, the wind blows here like crazy all the time. It blows trash lids open all the time, and that’s a real problem,” states Spencer.
As trash service became automated, the industry moved to tall carts. When lids were secured with customer-attached bungee cords, this would require drivers to get out of the truck and unlatch each can. After a while, wind straps started being destroyed, causing a cycle of customer complaints.
At last year’s WasteExpo, Spencer was intrigued by SafeWaste, a vendor that sells a lid latch that automatically releases when tipped, even with as little as three pounds of weight inside the can. Spencer thought, “Wow, this is cool. I want to pursue this as I get started with my company.”
It turns out that SafeWaste’s product would affix perfectly to Air Capital Waste’s bins. Problem solved. Now, according to Spencer, Air Capital Waste is the only company that has wind latches on its carts.
Connecting with customers’ needs is critical since the Wichita metropolitan area is an individual residential subscription market. Having invested a great deal of time and energy in building its online presence, Spencer and his team have been able to engage with local customers directly, which also supports the company’s mission of acting local.
Being locally based is a source of company pride. “The four of us at Air Capital Waste were all born and raised here in Wichita. We’re interested in being a big part of the community,” comments Spencer, who hopes his company will contribute to boosting the local economy.