At the 2014 WasteExpo in Atlanta, Georgia, Jerry eyed the potential of the Volvo MC70C skid steer loader, donated by Volvo Construction Equipment to benefit the Environmental Research and Education Fund (EREF) auction.
At the green age of six, Gerald “Jerry” Matejka saw potential in the recycling business. Scuttling across his Winona, Minnesota neighborhood, with his coaster wagon, he collected burnt nails, the byproduct of boards used to fuel wood stoves, sold the iron and pocketed the cents.
Now 79, Jerry is still actively at the helm of Matejka Recycling, the family-owned and operated business he grew over four decades to today include transfer stations for construction and demolition recycling (C&DR) and municipal solid waste (MSW) and a roll-off container segment.
At the 2014 WasteExpo in Atlanta, Georgia, Jerry eyed the potential of the Volvo MC70C skid steer loader, donated by Volvo Construction Equipment to benefit the Environmental Research and Education Fund (EREF) auction. WasteExpo is the industry's largest conference and trade show, and in its 20th year, the EREF auction has raised more than $14 million to fund scientific research and educational initiatives for waste management practices.
“We attend WasteExpo every year to see new ideas for the industry. This year when I saw the Volvo skid steer with side entry, single arm loader design and scrap guard package, I fell in love with it,” Jerry said. “It was becoming more difficult for me to use our (competitor brand) loaders due to the cumbersome front entry that had me crawling over the attachments to reach the cab.”
But it was Jerry’s wife, Carole, who nudged him to bid. “I knew it would keep him rolling,” she said, “he can continue doing what he loves.”
Matejka Recycling scored the loader with the winning bid of $42,500.
It is the first piece of Volvo equipment the company has owned and the only skid steer in their fleet with a dedicated scrap guard kit. The radial lift loader’s robust protection package includes FOPS and front screen guard, 60” grapple and solid cushion tires. The machine also has joystick controls, another first for Jerry and his operators. The intuitive controls nix the need to use both feet and hands to operate the machine and attachments. Add in the spacious Volvo Care Cab with climate control, and it’s hard to get Jerry out of the seat. With a rated operating capacity of 1,550 lbs, it has the muscle to easily handle the variety of recyclables that pass across Jerry’s yard.
Matejka Recycling started out of a pickup truck in 1970. Jerry would drive around Winona, a town of 27,000 in the southeast tip of Minnesota, picking up cardboard bales from grocery stores and overruns from local music publishing houses and ferry the material to paper mills lining the Fox River Valley.
In ten years he built a new, fully licensed C&D transfer facility at 818 West 3rd Street, which remains the company headquarters. The five-acre site opened up additional revenue streams through ferrous and non-ferrous metal collection and a roll-off container business. Today, more than 75% of business comes from contractors within a 45-mile radius of Winona. A dozen employees process over one million pounds of waste each week.
“We’re a small town so we are limited with how much we can grow the municipal side of the business,” says Jerry’s son, Jeff, Vice President. The farms outside of Winona are a bright spot of new growth. “We see the scrap iron segment escalating so we now take collection boxes to local farmers to deposit old implements and parts, which then go to iron mill foundries to be melted down.”
Matejka’s take on recycling trends mirror US statistics; we are finding more “stuff” to reuse and compost, and in the process actually reduce the amount of true waste generated. In 2012, Americans re-routed 86.6 million tons of material from landfills, including food and yard wastes, paper, metals, and electronics, according to the EPA.
That’s good reason for Jerry to say he is never going to retire. The recycling work will continue – and with his new Volvo MC70C skid steer, he can continue to be a hands-on part of it.