Every time you toss food scraps or old newspaper into the compost bin, you make a small dent in the world's waste problem. Multiply that amount by 100 and you get McGill Environmental Systems, a company that lessens everyone's eco-footprint by composting more than 300,000 tons of waste material every year.
McGill is able to process so much waste because, unlike most other large-scale facilities, its waste processing operation is entirely indoors, which allows it to operate 365 days a year, rain or shine. Since McGill is able to control every aspect of the operation, it can maintain the temperature inside the compost pile at an ideal 140 degrees Fahrenheit, increasing efficiency.
In addition, since McGill doesn’t limit itself to processing one type of waste, it ends up with a multiplicity of organisms working to break down the materials. Among other materials, the company processes yard waste, lumber, food, water treatment residuals, manure, paper, cardboard, restaurant grease, unpainted Sheetrock and even biodegradable plastics.
“For these reasons we’re able to produce compost relatively quickly and at a very high quality,” says Bob Broom, who heads business development at McGill.
So far, McGill’s industrial composting concept has been successful. For example, its second North Carolina facility, which opened in Chatham County in late 2002, is one of the largest composting manufacturers in the Carolinas, currently employing about 60 people in the U.S. In addition, a third McGill facility is currently under way in southeast Virginia.
But McGill’s operations aren’t limited to the states. In fact, the company has been involved in waste management projects around the world, including the Philippines, Thailand and Europe. McGill clients have included both large and small companies, municipalities, the North Carolina Department of Transportation, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. Department of Defense.
In addition, McGill counts wastewater treatments plants and a number of Fortune 500 companies among its clientele.
“We believe we have more Fortune 500 companies as our customers than probably any other composter,” says Broom.
With McGill’s highly efficient composting system, the company is able to turn the waste from these businesses into about 300,000 cubic yards of compost per year, much of which is then sold in bulk to gardening store outlets.
“We sell mainly to single entity stores or to someone who has three or four stores,” says Broom. But despite its success, McGill does not sell its compost to big box stores because “we just don’t feel we’re a good fit for them,” he explains.
The company also sells compost to developers and contractors to help bring recently ripped-up soil back to life around places like schools and hospitals. In addition, transportation departments also buy the compost to both prevent soil erosion from embankments and to help grow grass.
Currently, McGill is also looking to get into the sports field and golf course markets, where the company’s compost can be used to give more spring to turf and help fill in golf divets.
“We think that it’s a really big and upcoming market area,” says Broom.
And while many businesses have nosedived with the recent economic downturn, McGill continues to grow because of renewed interest from individuals and government to find better ways to dispose of waste.
“It’s become a little more competitive pricewise because there’s less material coming to landfills, so we have to be cognizant of what our customers are paying,” says Broom, “But there’s a big emphasis on green, despite the financial situation.”
In addition to the green boon, Broom also credits McGill’s success in part to the fact that the company has designed and built all of its own facilities.
“We’ve made all our own mistakes and each time we build a new one we try and get it a little better,” he says. “That makes a huge difference in knowing how to run a company.”