CPRC Group is a privately owned business that has five locations across Maine where people can drop off a variety of commercial and residential waste. Using innovative technologies, this waste is then converted into usable products at the company’s two main processing facilities. In addition, CPRC Group works with about eighty municipalities within Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts, assisting them in increasing the amount of waste that is recycled.
CPRC Group started out as a small paving company in the early sixties. In the early nineties, the original owner got into the recycling of contaminated soil. “Back in those days, when a road was ripped up, that material was put in a hole. New material was brought in, and the road was redone. The original owner was one of the first to grab all that old road, bring it back to his facility, and crush it up so that it could be reused for other projects,” says John Adelman, president and chief executive officer of CPRC Group. “Now, of course, the largest single item recycled in the United States of America is old pavement and aggregate.”
When the business was bought by John Adelman and Jim Hiltner in 2004, they decided to sell the paving side of it but kept up the recycling. “We have built up that recycling side of the business,” says Adelman. “Now, it’s about five times the size it was when we bought it.”
He explains that, “When I found out about this company, there was a real interest for me in understanding how you can literally make a reusable product out of things that had historically been sent out to the landfill to be thrown out,” says Adelman. “Reuse/recycle was incredibly intriguing to me.”
CPRC Group handles a variety of waste stream materials. “We have licenses and permits that allow us to take those materials in, process them, and turn them into beneficially reusable products,” says Adelman. “For instance, anywhere from Bangor to Boston, if you have a home with a roof that needs to be re-roofed, a roofer rips the old roofing shingles off of your roof and puts new ones on. We, in turn, take all of those old shingles, and we process them so that they end up back in roads as asphalt,” he explains.
“Anything from a light bulb to a computer to contaminated soil to construction demolition debris – glass, wood, concrete, inert material – we handle those things as waste on the way in, and then we, in a variety of low-tech methodologies, make them into other products that we then resell to various third-party markets,” explains Adelman.
Whether you have an old desk, an old lawnmower, or television, unwanted items can be dropped off at a transfer station. “Sometimes, with our municipal partners, we put containers at their respective transfer stations, and once one of the containers is full, we go pick it up,” says Adelman. “We replace the full container with an empty one, and many times we bring the municipality one of our products back for their own use so we exchange the waste material for a usable product. This exchange program has been very popular with many municipalities and allows us to be very efficient with our transportation costs.”
One of the things that set CPRC Group apart from its competitors is its permits and licenses. “Nobody has as many permits or licenses as we do and no one sells as many recycled products as we do,” says Adelman.
Other factors contributing to its success are a good relationship with the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) and easily accessible locations but, most importantly, its valued employees. “We have built a culture here where people are valued. They know they’re valued, and they get a high level of remuneration based on how well they perform. They’re probably paid the highest in the industry – in this part of the world,” says Adelman. “We take care of our employees.
“I know everybody’s name in the company,” says Adelman. “We tend to have a lot of company events. We have lunches, barbecues, Christmas and Labor Day parties. There is a lot of camaraderie.
“We give them the best equipment we can give them,” he continues. “New boots, new jackets, new sweatshirts, new hats, gloves, eye glasses, loaders. Some of these things are a lot more expensive than others, but the fact of the matter is, when we give a new piece of equipment, it tells them that we think they’re doing a good job. And in turn, the employees know we care, and that’s fantastic,” he says.
“It’s sort of a give and take,” adds Adelman. “Our equipment doesn’t get mistreated; we don’t have people who aren’t ready and willing to stay late, sweep the garage, or do whatever else needs doing.”
CPRC Group’s employees do a myriad of jobs. “One day, it might be working in a loader, another day, it might be picking through trash,” explains Adelman. “The mindset here is that it’s one for all and all for one. It has been drilled into this group. It’s not ‘my’ loader or ‘my’ truck or ‘my’ tool – it’s all of ours.”
The company also takes safety very seriously and has not had a lost-time accident in over three years. “It’s a balancing act between wanting to be efficient, wanting to get a lot done in a day, and wanting it to be done in a very safe manner,” says Adelman. “You can overdrive anything when you’re determined to get it all done today. But, if it’s unsafe, you risk breaking a machine and falling really behind.
“It’s important to understand that there is a balance, that it’s okay to do a little less today if it means that everybody’s safe, the machinery is in good shape, everyone’s doing what they need to be doing, and we’ve all taken time at the end of the day to clean up.”
CPRC Group wants to be the company that does what it says it’s going to do, and it delivers a very high level of service. “We are very accommodating,” says Adelman. “If someone has a big job and has a lot of material and needs us to stay open late or open early, we’re always willing to do that. And that builds trust and really good relationships with our customers.
“On the internal side, we are very open; we tell the entire staff a lot about how the company is doing. Everyone gets reviewed every year. They get updates; they get the ability to take further education, to take courses,” says Adelman. “Whether it’s mandatory or something they’re interested in or working towards.”
As the group continues to grow, it also has started another line of business; it has gotten into the food waste world where it picks up food waste from commercial generators such as hospitals, schools, restaurants, and hotels. Food scraps are brought into one of its facilities and with added amendment, the company is making compost for the garden supply market. “In addition to making compost, we manufacture mulch, loam, and biomass fuel which is a big area where there’s some opportunity to expand,” explains Adelman.
CPRC Group’s biggest challenge is making people understand that these products work just as well or better than anything made from virgin materials and that it’s imperative to recognize the importance of saving our natural resources. “To stretch the life cycle of those kinds of items, whether rock or stone, is really important,” says Adelman.
“And to utilize as much recycled aggregate as possible is what we should all be doing. The real secret sauce, however, is bringing the material in and getting the same material out. We don’t have a landfill. We don’t have a place where we can just throw stuff out and/or let it just sit there. Everything we bring in has to go find a home.”
CPRC Group only sends what it cannot recycle to the landfill, and it boasts a companywide recycle rate of approximate seventy percent.
The building of a great team is another part of what makes CPRC Group so special to its owners. “Everybody participating and being valued; everybody having a voice in how we can best, most efficiently and safely do what we do, and the fact that we handle what we do, is what makes our company special,” says Adelman.
“To get fifty people all seeing the same picture, all understanding what we’re trying to accomplish, all understanding what their part is and accomplishing it while feeling good about what they do. That’s pretty cool. To me, that is not only the big win, but it continues to be the most important goal.”
As CPRC Group continues to turn waste materials into reusable products, the safety and welfare of its employees and the fact that they feel good about what they do continues to be one of CPRC Group’s greatest accomplishment.