By Ron Wilson, director of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development at Kansas State University.
“Reduce, reuse, recycle.” That’s a familiar phrase which reminds us to recycle and be environmentally wise. Today we’ll learn about a business which has made recycling a fundamental part of its enterprise.
Greg Wilson is co-owner of Howie’s Trash Service in Manhattan, Kan. The business was founded by his father, Howard Wilson. The Wilsons (no relation to me) have rural roots. Howard grew up near the rural community of Alta Vista, population 434 people. Now, that’s rural.
Howard Wilson met his wife Joann at Alta Vista and went on to K-State where he studied dairy management. When children were born, he started running a trash route as a way to pay his way through college. He called it Howie’s Trash Service.
“Thanks to that trash route, my dad got through college in five years while being married with two kids, debt-free,” Greg said. After graduation, Howie sold the trash route and worked for the Safeway milk plant for 17 years.
In 1984, Howard and Joann and son, Greg, went back into the trash business in Manhattan. The business had one rear load trash truck and four Golden Goat machines.
What is a Golden Goat? They were yellow-colored machines that sat in parking lots around Manhattan. A person could put aluminum cans in the front and quarters came out the back. “It was pretty meager,” Greg said.
In 1985, they decided to focus their efforts on the recycling business. Today, the business is known as Howie’s Recycling and Trash Service.
Howie’s opened its first recycling center in May of 1986. At that time, Howie’s Recycling, Inc. bought aluminum cans, scrap aluminum and other non-ferrous metals from individuals and businesses. It soon expanded into other household products, such as cardboard, glass, and newspapers. The papers were shredded with a tree shredder, baled with a John Deere hay baler, and sold as animal bedding. Now, that’s rural ingenuity.
Trying to recycle plastics proved to be a challenge in the beginning.
“The companies we shipped plastics to went out of business or found some fault with the shipment,” Greg said. “We never received payment for the first three loads of plastic that we shipped out.”
In 1993, Howie’s Recycling purchased land in south Manhattan where its building is currently located. The main building is 150 feet x 200 feet in size. All of the materials received at the recycling center are baled with a horizontal baler housed within that building.
In 1998 Howie’s Recycling added a roll-off trash service to its business. Since then, it has expanded to operate four roll-off semi-trucks and more than 200 open top containers in order to keep up with the demands of new construction in Manhattan and the surrounding area. The company also provides services to small or large companies needing demolition, handling all sizes and types of debris. The roll-off service services trash compactors for businesses like the K-State Union and Home Depot.
In 2008 Howie’s added a residential and commercial trash service to its business. It currently runs two frontload and one rear-load trash trucks and services Manhattan, Ogden, and Keats.
In 2010, Howie's Recycling, Inc. added optional curbside recycling services for its residential and commercial customers. Recycling containers are picked up from customers twice a month.
The company currently has 12 employees. However, Howard, Joann, and Greg Wilson still do a lot of the work themselves.
Today, Howie’s is a self-serve center for the recycler. Howie’s accepts aluminum cans, food and beverage glass, plastic (#1 and #2), newspaper, magazines, office paper, cardboard, and tin cans, as well as all non-ferrous metals. Saturday mornings are an especially busy time, when families bring their recyclables to Howie’s.
When Howie’s Recycling started, it took about six months to generate a semi load of aluminum cans. Today, it ships an average of 15 semi loads of materials to be recycled per month.
“Reduce, reuse, recycle.” We salute Howard, Joann, and Greg Wilson and all those involved with Howie’s Recycling and Trash Service for making a difference with this environmentally positive business. So reduce, reuse, recycle – and revive rural Kansas.
The mission of the Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development is to enhance rural development by helping rural people help themselves. The Kansas Profile radio series and columns are produced with assistance from the K-State Research and Extension Department of Communications News Unit. A photo of Ron Wilson is available. Audio and text files of Kansas Profiles are also available. For more information about the Huck Boyd Institute, interested persons can visit Huck Boyd National Institute for Rural Development.