By Josh Overstreet
The old adage says “One man’s junk is another man’s treasure,” and Joseph McMillin, founder of Junk Matters, has taken it to heart. A Spartanburg native, McMillin recently graduated from Wofford College, where he became involved in the Success Initiative Program— now called the Space to Launch. The program allows students to initiate entrepreneurial projects, in hopes of them gaining momentum and becoming full-fledged startups. After a family friend inspired him with an idea of cutting down overhead spending by taking a second look at his waste, McMillin was inspired. “The next semester I proposed a business project centered around a recycling company.” Thus, Junk Matters was born. Initially, it started as a recycling service that offered consultation on waste and what can actually be recycled, versus what was actual trash. Using contacts in the local Spartanburg school districts, McMillin started recycling collection programs in several schools, before expanding outward to other areas. But recycling collection was only the beginning. After reading an article on zero waste
initiatives, McMillin decided to expand the initial vision of Junk Matters. “Basically, we did recycling for two years, then I went to the Carolina Recycling Association’s Southeastern Food Waste Conference in Asheville last year,” McMillin says. “That kind of put the last piece in the zero waste program.” Hearing more and more about zero waste and composting, McMillin decided Junk Matters needed to be as comprehensive as possible, being able to not only pick up recycling but also see to most of their client’s waste needs. So Junk Matters designed a zero waste program, meant to divert 90 percent of a business’ waste through single stream recycling, such as plastics, metals, and papers, and also by composting the organic materials. They also offer to find buyers for any waste that another business can find useful in its processes. “We go in and pitch our Zero Waste programs to business in three ways: [you can] reduce solid waste build up by 20 percent; you can market it; and, it’s environmentally friendly, so you can apply for green hospitality.” Junk Matters’ first major success with the zero waste
program was with Little River Roasting, where they now offer commercial services to all three of Little River’s locations: the downtown location, the roasting warehouse and their drive-up window. “That was big for us to have three locations that do three different kinds of work.” Today, Junk Matters now offers services on three fronts: commercial, residential, and also through M.E.S.S, a recycled product line. “With our commercial services, we do an initial consultation—a waste audit— we take the business’ trash and dump it out then we separate what is recyclable, what is organic, and what is actually trash,” McMillin notes, adding that they also provide staff training and are present for the first few days of implementation, to make sure things go smoothly. They also offer the same services to residential clients, with single stream recycling cans and compost bins that they will collect. The residential service serves as a “next step” for McMillin and for Junk Matters. “We really want to break into the residential realm, perhaps starting with apartment complexes,” he says.
Finally, through M.E.S.S, Junk Matters offers a product line that offers wallets, totes and duffels made from extremely durable recycled materials. As with most startups there are still challenges ahead— ones that McMillin is looking forward to taking on. One such challenges is the local one of processing compost. “In the Upstate we don’t have any permitted composters,” he says. “We haul our compost into North Carolina.” McMillin sees this as an opportunity for Junk Matters in that they can become the first in the Upstate to offer compost processing services, and he sees it as one more opportunity to close the loop for his business. “It goes back to closing the loop—from the front end of distributing a product to our customer all the way to composting it.” Despite the challenges, McMillin is confident moving forward with Junk Matters and also looking forward to a day in which he himself will come full circle. “I want to get to a point where I am successful enough to help young entrepreneurs, whether that would be through Wofford in the Space or help develop more programs.”
Q3 2013 // Business Black Box
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What started as a college project soon took on new life for Joseph McMillan. Now, as founder of Junk Matters, and proponent of a “zero waste” lifestyle for businesses and restaurants everywhere, he’s poised to turn trash into cash.