Waste Not. Give a Lot.
An Interview with Andy Gale of Bay Area Recycling for Charities
By Kae Beth Rosenberg
Andy Gale, President and Founder of Bay Area Recycling for Charities (BARC), moved with his wife Cindy and their children to northern Michigan from the Chicago suburbs so they could better connect with people and nature. When living in Chicago, any time the Gales wanted to do something outside, they had to load up the car and drive. For people who are concerned about the environment, that didn't make much sense.
Andy took care of the kids and pursued a family business, while Cindy worked as a Physical Therapist at Munson. Andy says, "I had no idea what I wanted to do, but after some soul searching and time Googling ideas, in 2008 we decided to start a small recycling business. I envisioned a one-man job with just me and a pickup truck. After researching it for a while, I realized that it was going to take a whole lot more. We quickly went from a two man job to a small company employing 10 within our first two years." He adds, "We could not have made it work without my wife's support." Thus began Bay Area Recycling for Charities.
The mission of BARC has always been to reduce what is put into the landfill. In the process, they discovered how the recycling markets worked. It is also a lesson in convenience. They make it easy for customers to recycle, and can reduce the waste stream by more than 90%. Andy decided to make BARC a non-profit so that the people and businesses recycling with them can donate the value of their recycling to a local charity of their choice. "We did this to inspire our customers to recycle as much as they could," says Andy.
They separate themselves from the competition of local garbage companies by taking in materials that are more difficult to recycle, for example, plastics #3-7, Styrofoam, electronic waste, batteries, etc. Andy states, "By reducing these materials from our landfill, we assure a longer period that our landfill will be open before we make another one." Also extremely important: "Materials such as electronic waste are very harmful to the environment if they ever leached out of our landfill." This would pollute our water table.
All of the material BARC collects is hauled up to their Material Recovery Facility (MRF) in Maple City where it is sorted, baled, processed, and shipped out to the markets. It is BARC's goal to create a MRF that is efficient and profitable and then duplicate that concept out beyond the Grand Traverse Bay Area.