Above, Joan Meeks accepts the Green Source DFW Sustainable Leadership Award for Small Business from Green Source DFW project manager Phillip Shinoda in March. Photo by Libbie Simonton.
May 11, 2015
Recycling has been a part of Joan Meeks’ life since she was a youth growing up in Hawaii. The founder of Commodity Recycling Solutions of Fort Worth said her family would comb the back roads of Honolulu in their El Camino picking up littered bottles. The kids shared the return deposits they collected to buy candy.
Later as an adult, Meeks worked into the construction industry where she was appalled at the waste it produced.
“You see a container of brand new bricks going to the landfill because it’s cheaper to dump it than recycle it.”
When the building industry bottomed out, she took the opportunity to return to her recycling roots.
“I was hired by a recycling company. After that I was hooked,” said Meeks.
Meeks has come a long way since she leaped into the recycling business five years ago. In March, her hard work and dedication paid off when she was honored at the Green Source DFW Sustainable Leadership Awards in the Small Business category.
After working in the recycling industry and co-owning an electronic waste disposal company with a partner, she founded Commodity Recycling Solutions in 2012 on her own. Initially CRS focused on recycling only computers then it expanded to recycling all metals, plastics, paper, cardboard, clothing, shoes and more.
Commodity Recycling Solutions partnered with the Fort Worth Sierra Club to host an e-waste event at Paschal High School in Fort Worth. Courtesy of CRS.
Meeks said she strives to recycle not only traditional materials, but challenging ones as well. CRS's waste disposal numbers reflect that ambition. In 2014, the company grew by 64 percent while sending less than 5 percent of their one to two million pounds of materials to the landfill.
“I go through our garbage cans,” she said with a chuckle. “Every pound is lost revenue.”
A big believer in the zero waste philosophy, Meeks is the go-to person when clients want to know how to recycle an item. For example, one of her clients was switching out 350 light fixtures in a parking garage in downtown Dallas and consulted Meeks. She figured out that all of the parts – made up of plastics, metal and copper wiring – could be salvaged. However, she would have to haul the fixtures back to her warehouse and pay staff to dismantle them.
“People have to understand that recycling is not always a free situation. It’s like trash, there’s a cost to it.”
But Meeks said why not spend a little a more to keep items out of the landfill?
“If it cost $250 to put trash in a bin and $275 to recycle it instead, why wouldn’t you do that?” said Meeks. “[The difference] is less that what people spend on a business lunch.”
In addition to providing recycling consultation, CRS is on track to host more than 60 corporate and municipal recycling events this year, double from last year.
Julie Winchell, environmental coordinator for the city of Cleburne, said she’s partnered with Meeks on multiple e-waste recycling events and has been impressed by her tenacity. One event that stands out was scheduled just two days after a tornado hit the area.
“I called to cancel because all of our staff and volunteers were assisting neighborhoods digging out from the storm,” said Winchell. “Joan said ‘No problem, we will come anyway in case you can’t get the word out on a cancellation’.”
The CRS truck and crews worked that Saturday then came back the following week to help collect electronics from residents in the storm-ravaged neighborhoods. They also rescheduled the regular event at no additional cost to the community, she said.
Winchell went on to say that on the day of the rescheduled event it started sleeting. Not only did the CRS crew stay on until all the electronics were packed despite the weather, when the truck left, Joan filled her Prius to capacity as additional drop-offs were still coming in.
Left, Joan Meeks won the Rachel Green Sustainability Leadership award at the North Texas Recycling Awards held in August. Pictured, the Commodity Recycling Solutions team: Ken Meeks, Joan Meeks and Elliott Meeks. Photo by Stuart Birdseye.
“Meanwhile we got permission to send additional items to a covered city facility for a later pick up. Joan stayed in the parking lot in the sleet giving directions to folks still arriving so they could take the electronics to the new drop off location. After the roads had cleared the following week, CRS came back to pick up the remaining collected items. I am still amazed at their dedication to waste diversion – all of those materials could still have legally gone into landfills.”
Meeks’ dedication and success comes in part from her smart business sense.
“It’s a penny business," she said. "It’s all about volume.”
Her passion also drives her. She said while the recycling industry is growing, manufacturers and builders must be held responsible for their products by producing a plan on how materials can be recycled when the items are no longer in use.
“Everybody thinks about what’s going into a building,” she said. “Nobody thinks about what’s going out.”