Land O’ Lakes Recycling celebrates two decades of operation
By B.C. Manion
Cindy Glenn and Greg Conaty were into “being green” long before “being green” became the cool thing to do.
The siblings were the first and only employees of Land O’ Lakes Recycling when it got its start two decades ago.
The pair had begun their business in 1988 as a transportation service for other recyclers but after three years of doing that decided to branch out as an independent recycling company.
They came into that line of work naturally.
“Our father (Norman Conaty), back in the 1970s, was the director of sanitation for the city of Tampa. He decided to stop throwing things away and to start recycling. So, he started a recycling corporation in Tampa,” Glenn said.
“Greg was a helper and as soon as Greg was old enough to drive, Greg started driving for him,” Glenn recalled.
She said her younger brother began developing his knowledge of recycling when he was just a teenager.
“I started when I was 15, working with my dad,” Greg Conaty said.
“I worked there until ’88, then my dad sold his business to a big international business company,” he said.
The siblings decided to go into business together and bought about 3 acres at 5710 Land O’ Lakes Blvd.
“We bought this property because we decided we didn’t want to work for a big company,” Conaty said.
When they began, Glenn said, Conaty drove the truck and she ran the office and the yard.
They built the business gradually.
“I would drive one truck until we would get enough of a route that we could hire a driver. And then, we got another truck. And then, we got another truck,” Conaty said. “We had to go out in areas where nobody else would go. We built from there.”
Over the years, they’ve grown from a company of two employees to one with 32 full-time workers. They also have one part-time employee and some additional temporary workers during the company’s busy seasons.
They handle all sorts of recyclables, with their market stretching across the entire state of Florida for large commercial accounts. They also handle smaller commercial accounts and have a fundraising program for churches, schools and civic groups.
Evidence of their handiwork abounds.
The company, which now occupies 5 acres, has mountains of newspapers, huge bales of cardboard, giant bins of metal parts and containers and humongous piles of plastic bottles at its site.
It also has industrial-sized scales, which trucks roll over to get weighed before their recyclables are removed and then roll over again to find out the weight of their haul.
The sounds of heavy machinery are everywhere on the site, as trucks roll in and out and workers are busy processing and sorting recyclables.
“About 80 percent of our business is paper — newspaper, office paper and cardboard,” Glenn said. “We work with quite a few of the large box stores and we have the contracts for their bales. We also handle all sorts of metal and plastic.”
They’re also scouting for new business, too.
While most people drive to the front of a store, she likes to cruise behind stores to see whether they can become potential customers.
“Not a whole lot of people go behind stores. I do, to check out what they’re doing,” Glenn said. “Who needs a container? Who needs their bales picked up?”
The company’s trucks are flatbeds with forklifts.
The drivers go to the stores to pick up big bales of cardboard and bring them back to their site, where they are combined into 2,000-pound bales before being sold.
The recycling company pays for the large cardboard bales, but the real value comes from the money that companies avoid in disposal charges, Glenn said.
The going rate for recyclable items varies, Glenn said.
“Recyclable material is a commodity and it goes up and down just like cattle goes up and down – probably more frequently than cattle goes up and down,” Glenn said.
Besides handling cardboard recycling, the company accepts all sorts of other paper recycling, Conaty said.
“We do a lot of commercial paper. We also do a lot for civic organizations, churches, schools and that sort of thing. If they want to do a fundraising program, we put a container out at their stop and then we come and pick it up once a week, however often they need to have it picked up and then we pay them for it,” he said.
Most of the community groups average about $100 or so a month from their collection sites, but some earn much more.
“We do have some that are like gangbusters that are close to $1,000 a month,” Glenn said.
There are also commercial customers, such as McDonald’s in Pasco County, CVS and Walgreens that recycle paper waste to avoid sending it to the landfill.
The company also handles commingled recyclables, which means the items all come in one container and must be sorted out, Conaty said.
The company also accepts seven different grades of plastic, Conaty said.
It also has a full-blown metals operation that handles aluminum cans, copper, aluminum, steel and other kinds of scrap metals that people lug to the site.
“We get 50 to 60 customers a day,” Glenn said.
The owners estimate that 5 percent of their business comes from people lugging or carting in recyclables to sell.
About 15 percent of the business comes from small commercial accounts and fundraising groups and about 80 percent comes from large accounts.
In addition to purchasing recyclables, the company also has a drop-off station where people can dispose of unwanted newspapers, magazines, aluminum cans, glass or plastics.
The bins, which are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, get good use, Glenn said. “It’s convenient for the community, and they use it.”
Like many operations, the recycling business also has slow and busy seasons.
The summer is typically the slowest time of year, but when school begins in the fall, the recycling business picks up, and it remains busy through the holidays until April or so, Conaty said.
The company also enjoys a boost during the winter months when the winter residents head south to escape the cold, Glenn said.
“We deal with a lot of the retirement parks over in Zephyrhills and over on the west side. So, we’ll have that season, also,” she said.
Glenn said the family owned business is firmly planted in Land O’ Lakes.
“We’re part of this community. We work here. We live here. Our children go to the schools here,” Glenn said.
The brother-sister team shares a passion for what recycling can do to preserve trees, conserve water and reduce transportation costs.
“We firmly believe in what we’re doing – that we’re doing the right thing in recycling and saving the environment. We really believe it’s the right thing to do,” Conaty said.
The effects that recycling can have are amazing, Glenn said.
“We work with the Land O’ Lakes-Lutz Woman’s Club. I spoke with them recently, and I got all of their numbers together and I showed them that in the past year, they had recycled enough paper to save 200 acres of trees.
“It really does make a difference,” Glenn said.
Land O’ Lakes Recycling, 5710 Land O’ Lakes Blvd., Land O’ Lakes (On US 41, 3.5 miles north of SR 54)
Materials accepted: Paper, all grades; aluminum cans; copper; brass; steel; and old appliances.
The company handles commercial accounts, offers a fundraising program for churches, civic clubs and schools and purchases recyclable items on site.
Hours of operation: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday; 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday.
For more information call (813) 996-5530, visit www.lolrecycling.com or email .