Universal Environmental Consulting

Universal Environmental Consulting

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Auguste Rodin, the celebrated “Father of Modern Sculpture” once said, “Nothing is a waste of time if you use the experience wisely.” At New York-based Universal Environmental Consulting, a certain “Papa” prompts celebration for wisely using his experience with waste to now offer removal service solutions which not only help national retailers save time and money, but also provides work for haulers in hometowns throughout America.

So you’re a national retailer with stores throughout North America and over the course of daily operations, waste is generated at each location consisting of merchandise boxes, packaging material, paper, Styrofoam or possibly the pleasantly pop-able plethora of bubble-wrap, not to mention the discarded coffee-grounds from the employee break-room, various plastic wrappings and you-name-it in the routine refuse relegated as garbage. The generation of waste is a simple fact of life, yet coordinating and paying the costs for collecting and disposing of waste from each location is not always such a simple nor affordable process, that is, unless you’re working with the enterprise known as Universal Environmental Consulting.

Retailers, supermarket chains, shopping mall developers and construction contractors throughout America have discovered a convenient, cost-effective solution in waste removal services by relying on Universal, but in that process, they’ve also been able to maintain compliance with regulatory requirements involving waste (thereby avoiding financial perils for not), and what’s more, the relationship with Universal has helped many achieve environmental standards leading to greener shades of greatness while also allowing haulers throughout America to have greater work opportunities. Simply put, the Universal solution is not only good for the environment, but also the economy.

From Idea to Innovation

Universal emerged from a chance meeting between the company founders Thomas Papa and Lisa Giaquinto some 25 years ago. At that time, Papa had already logged literally thousands of miles as a hauler then salesman for a garbage removal service catering to businesses throughout New York City. One afternoon, he noted that a new supermarket was opening and he approached the management in an effort to secure the account. He was directed to the office of Lisa Giaquinto who was responsible for coordinating the store’s service. Papa went through his sales pitch and even though the two had a pleasant exchange, he didn’t earn the contract.  He actually earned something greater, Giaquinto’s trust and respect. She proceeded to share an idea about creating a company that could serve as a broker for waste removal services to national chains. Discussion of that idea prompted several follow-up meetings. The two continued working their regular jobs, but they also began assembling a team of people and ultimately created a workspace in a mutual friend’s apartment. It was 1991, and they had a phone, desktop computer, fax machine and a lot of determination. They eventually secured a first client in the form of New York’s Waldbaums Supermarkets. Others would follow, but long story short, today, Universal brokers the waste collection services for more than 25,000 locations throughout North America, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

With its network of more than 2,000 professional, independent waste haulers, Universal has amassed a regional and national client list that includes Marshall’s, T.J. Maxx, Firestone, McDonalds, Pathmark Food Stores, Lord & Taylor, and Hess, to name but a few.

As much as that achievement is a reflection of the convenience, cost savings and capabilities imparted by Universal, it is also a byproduct of this company’s particular passion for serving people. During a conversation with Thomas Papa, one will find him referring to the first names of customers as well as drivers, from one end of the country to the next, with as much as friendly familiarity as he would when referring to his wife, daughter or mother; in fact, they all actually work with him at Universal. More importantly, those clients as well as the independent haulers, they know “Tommy” Pappa and know how to access him, through his office, through his cell phone or even his home phone. Should a situation occur, say for example, a store has a roll-off container, new opening or situation that prompts something beyond the routinely scheduled pick-up that needs to be dealt with right away, maybe even before the business opens the next day, something that might even prompt the customer to phone Papa late at night, he’ll take the call and appoint the hauler to deal with it. Universal’s staff operates in the same manner. As Papa says, “We’re a mom and pop business on a different level.”

Papa also no problem explaining operational differences which distinguish his company from certain competitors’ practices in the management of waste service, saying, “Some companies, you call them, but you’re just a number in their system. When you call us, you’re treated like a person. You call some companies, you’re going to get a voice recording and the first menu option is whether you need to pay a bill, not customer service, but fee collection. When you call us, you get a human being, and that might be me, or you’ll get customer service, and that’s my daughter,” says Papa.

As for efficiency, Papa is prepared to compete against any national service provider which may be equipped with its own fleet of vehicles. “You can ask any of my customers, even some that were formerly clients of national companies, and they’ll tell you, ‘Tommy took care of us faster with no truck than the big company did with its huge fleet.’ That’s because we care about doing what we say we’re going to do and being there to help our customers. Our commitment to them keeps them committed to us,” he says.

An expression of that commitment exists in the fact that Universal has never lost a customer due to a deficiency in service. Some clients may have been lost due to closings arising from the peculiarities of the present economy, but never because of a problem with Universal. In fact, the very early clients Universal secured when it first opened its doors are still clients all these years later.

How It Works

For all of Papa’s popularity and personality (and he does have plenty), business remains about practicalities and were it not for its providing of advantages, Universal could not have achieved what it has today.

When considering partnering with Universal, the process begins with an audit of what the company is typically spending for waste removal. Papa explains that Universal will typically identify areas where locations are being over-served or under-served, but when the audit is completed, Universal returns with a solution that allows for a 15% to 30% reduction in waste removal costs. The auditing, for that matter, is absolutely free if Universal can’t save on costs. Savings, however, aren’t just in terms of the actual waste removal, but also with respect operational matters involving accounting and quality assurance. Universal manages the waste contractors, the payment of invoices and offers clients ability to make one call to effectively handle responsibilities at all of its locations. And it is a transparent process which enables their clients to rapidly assess what their wastes costs are each respective location, with each respective vendor.

What’s more, the haulers deployed by Universal actually live and shop in the same neighborhoods where a company has a store location. While some national companies may bring in an out-of-town crew to service a market in which it will now operate, Universal works with the haulers already living and working in the area it is serving. In some cases, a store location may even continue to be served by an existing provider, but through the mass service purchase with Universal, disposal rates decrease. That arrangement would seemingly not fare so well with the hauler, but again, through the relationship with Universal, the hauler will typically secure more accounts for service. The relationship helps the independent hauler more readily compete against the larger national companies.

Leaving Nothing to Waste

Through consolidating waste removal services, Universal has also been able to capitalize on single stream recycling strategies. It partners with recycling plants throughout the country, and whether it is paper & cardboard, textiles, or some other type of material, through its collection and distribution network, the waste is directed to a plant for recycling to not only reduce impact on landfills, but allow some store chains to dramatically reduce their carbon footprint. “We’ve helped many stores become green, to have zero-waste in single stream recycling through the consolidation of work we provide in a market area,” says Papa.

In desperate times, people sometimes do very desperate things, and that’s true for business too. Papa says at the height of the recession, he saw some companies close, cutting down on service and resorting to practices like illegal dumping, which left to hefty fines for those who were caught. Universal is more concerned about adhering to the lines of professionalism as opposed to the bottom line. Being at the forefront of its industry, Universal maintains full cognizance of all regulatory compliance issues for various types of waste which adds an essential measure of understanding to its expertise. Contracting with Universal not only indemnifies corporate clients, but provides greater assurance that their waste removal is being performed responsibly, safely and consistent with mandated standards.

Papa says doing the right thing may not always be cheap or easy, “but if it’s the right thing to do, it’s the only thing to do.”

As to what’s right with Universal, that has including making some operational changes. At the height of the recession with retailers closing stores throughout the country, Universal experienced a decline in their business. That forced the company to offer new services which now include handling construction debris and waste from job sites, where the company also provides temporary fencing, port-a-potty and storage container resources.

The company has also shifted from merely focusing on service to national retailers, but now is working with developers of shopping malls and condominium complex developers to consolidate their waste removal needs, services that Papa anticipates will increasingly expand over the coming soon. He says Universal is also exploring opportunities to provide residential waste removal too. Papa is generally enthusiastic, saying he is encouraged by opportunities for Universal to further grow with a confidence that he admits was not so keen a little over two years ago.

When economic decline was at its worst and so many stores closed, Universal’s loss of revenue prompted him and his partner to look within their own organization. They considered moving to smaller, less-costly office accommodations. They considered laying-off or terminating staff, which was tough because most had worked there for more than 15 years, or were second-generation family of former staff. In the end, those relationships were more important than his, or his partner’s, own salary. “We took the hit out of our own pockets, but were able to keep everyone working and keep our clients happy too. I may not have saved any money for myself, but the company kept fighting. We added new services and took on new accounts and successfully got through it to where we are today.”

Papa says the waste removal industry relies on the same thing that drives so many businesses – relationships. Through its commitment to serving customer relationships, maintaining relationships within its corporate staff and network of haulers throughout America, and adhering to standards of environmental quality and professional accountability, Universal Environmental Consulting may work with the things that people throw away, but will continue to represent a relation well worth the keeping.

For more information, please visit their website at: Universal Environmental Services

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