Trevor Mance, owner of TAM Waste Management in Vermont, kicked off his career in the waste industry when he was in high school. His passion for the waste and recycling industry led him to start his own business, which he built up from one transfer station to one composting facility and two transfer stations, one of which has a MRF.
In addition to running his company, Mance serves on the Vermont Infrastructure Committee, where he helps implement the Universal Recycling & Composting Law Act 148. This law provides Vermont residents with a new set of systems and tools for keeping as much material as possible out of the landfill.
Mance was recently named one of Waste360’s 40 Under 40 award recipients for his positive contribution to the waste and recycling industry.
“Trevor has built his business on a strong business and environmental ethic, resulting in an extremely successful, growing business,” says TAM Waste Management Sales Representative Kathleen Danis. “He doesn't make business decisions lightly, and he continues to succeed by forming lasting relationships with both customers and businesses across three states. He treats his employees with both dignity and respect, and he is never afraid to give a handshake and a ‘good job’ on a daily basis. Trevor strives for excellence in all he does, from the environment, the community, his employees and his family. All young professionals should take a page from Trevor’s business.”
Waste360 recently spoke with Mance about his high school job at a recycling facility, the challenges he faced while starting his own company and his proudest career moment.
Waste360: What was it like working at a recycling facility while you were in high school?
Trevor Mance: At first, I started working at the town transfer station’s recycling facility, where I told people where to properly put their recyclables. While working at the recycling facility, I got to know the residents and haulers that we worked with. Eventually, I had an opportunity to purchase a small route with 60 stops, and I grew my company from there.
It was challenging because once I graduated high school, I attended a community college in New York and graduated from Seneca College in Toronto with degrees in both marketing management and business administration. There were a lot of nights where I barely slept at all, and a lot of days where I worked up to 20 hours. I would do my route early in the mornings and then travel an hour and a half to school to take night classes.
During my time at Seneca, I used to turn a lot of heads because I would do my route at 3 a.m., fill the packer truck up, drive to the burn plant in Hudson Falls, N.Y., stop to eat at either Taco Bell or Burger King and arrive at the college in my garbage truck.
I have come a long way since those days. There aren’t a lot of job opportunities here in Vermont, but I am thankful that I am able to raise a family here and have a good job in a field that I love. I can honestly say I love getting up and going to work each day.
Waste360: What challenges did you face while starting your company?
Trevor Mance: Typical to all solid waste businesses, I have faced a lot of challenges throughout my 20-year career. Whether it be parking a garbage truck on my parents’ piece of property and having local residents being upset with me or it taking over five years to set up a transfer station and receive a permit, I have been through a lot of challenges. In every one of my challenges, I have learned that you need to be patient and you need to try and understand the other side of things.
At times, it was very hard to get my point across and people’s fear of the unknown was an overriding factor to a lot of problems that I faced. I have to say that the more of these facilities that we have and the more history we have, the easier it is for us to get approval. For example, I originally asked for 15,000 tons of capacity per year for my first transfer station and five years later, they granted me 8,000 tons of capacity per year. The last transfer station that I built received a permit for 70,000 tons of capacity per year in just six months. It really does help when you can prove that you have always done what you said you were going to do. History is also a great sales tool and when you can show that you have good history, it’s easier for people to trust you.
I also learned the hard way about picking the right towns for your facilities. I tried to get a composting facility approved, but it proved too difficult for us. The next town over, however, reached out to us and said that it would love to be home to our facility. Recognizing that it’s not always possible to get facilities permitted in certain areas is something that I have learned.
Waste360: How many facilities do you own and how do you manage them?
Trevor Mance: We currently have one composting facility and two transfer stations, one of which has a MRF.
I am very lucky to have a fantastic crew of 47 people to help me manage these facilities. Most of my employees are long-term employees, which makes me even luckier. The man who oversees all of the drivers and dispatch has been with me for about 16 years. He even stayed with me while he went to college, which is just one of the ways he has shown his dedication. His mom also works for me as a general manager, and she has been with me for more than 15 years. I have a very experienced crew, and
Waste360: Highlight one moment in your career that you are the most proud of.
Trevor Mance: I would have to say the day that I opened my first transfer station. It was a mixed-emotion day, and I was pretty beat up from its five-year process. But it did feel really good to persevere and come out on top.
Besides that, I love a lot of the victories that my company has had. I am a salesman at heart, and I love selling our services. I love talking to new customers and hearing the ideas that we come up with. I also love seeing all of our systems come together, whether it is integrating a new compaction piece of equipment to help with logistics or trying out a new idea to help the plant grow better.
Even though we have had missteps along the way, there is always something good that comes out of every situation. We learn from every situation, and we grow in different ways each and every time we combat a problem.
By and large, I wouldn’t change a thing with my career. I am very happy and I am very content with where the company is.
Waste360: Are you exploring any new and innovative ideas to roll out this year?
Trevor Mance: My goal is to build out the infrastructure that we have. I feel like we are in a really good spot right now because we have transfer stations with capacity, we have an organics facility that’s close to capacity and we have our MRF to help grow our hauling division.
Waste360: What advice would you give to someone who is interested in working for you?
Trevor Mance: The only constant thing in the waste and recycling industry is change. I think in order to be successful, you have to constantly reinvent yourself.
Over the past 20 years, we have relooked at the way we do things because of technology, economy of sale and regulatory changes. And I think that to be in this industry, you have to be willing to adapt to changes and you have to have the ability to figure out what the next up-and-coming technology is. We have implemented front-load and side-load trucks, and we always have to think about the things we are doing and if they make sense. I look for people who are open minded and willing to adjust to the changes in the industry, big or small.