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Interstate of Mind

From Waste Today Magazine
By Adam Redling

Michael DiBella’s longstanding relationships have helped to build Interstate Waste into the largest privately held solid waste hauler in the New York City, northern New Jersey market.

You don’t become the largest privately held, vertically integrated provider of solid waste services in the New York City and northern New Jersey markets by accident.

For Michael DiBella, the founding of Interstate Waste in 1999 was three generations in the making.

DiBella’s grandfather, Frank, formed Frank DiBella Sanitation Inc. in 1947 to serve northern New Jersey and New York state. Michael DiBella’s father, Philip, and uncle, Steve, took over the one-truck operation in the 1960s and developed it into a 100-truck company doing $50 million a year in business when it was sold to Waste Management in 1998.

By the time the family business was sold, Michael had already leveraged years of experience growing up in the industry to establish his own footprint in the space.

Michael started driving trucks for DiBella Sanitation after graduating high school in 1985. After working as a driver for several years, he advanced in various positions from sales to operations. At the time the business was sold, DiBella was working as the company’s general manager.

Along the way, Michael ventured out to Albany, New York, to start his own commercial and industrial waste business, Environmental Waste Industries Inc., in 1991. Michael kept his roles at both companies until both entities were sold to Waste Management in 1998.

After both businesses were sold, Michael founded Interstate Waste and started operating in Rockland County, New York. At the time, he says it was approximately a $2 to $3 million business.

According to DiBella, the decision to form Interstate was born out of the realization that there might be an opening for a private waste company with familiarity with the community in the region.

“By the time my dad sold the business in ‘98 to Waste Management, new entrants, mainly publicly traded waste companies were busy buying up the industry in New Jersey in particular,” he says. “And I felt there was going to be an opportunity to start back up in the business and be competitive with the public companies in our marketplace. They took a big chunk of the private sector out and now it was dominated by public companies, and I thought I would have a good opportunity to build a business there.”

He says that the company’s boots on the ground, organic approach to building business and servicing customers helped propel Interstate’s rapid growth in those early years.

“We just organically grew from going out, chasing the business, working on sales, going and seeing customers— residential commercial and industrial businesses—we were going after it all,” he says.

Within two years, DiBella’s aggressive approach helped develop the company into a $25 million player in the region.

With its footprint established, DiBella wanted to begin pursuing smaller acquisitions as a way to accelerate Interstate’s growth. However, without the capital to make the moves he wanted to make, DiBella made the strategic decision to partner with Summer Street Capital and Ironwood Capital.

Interstate’s first private equity deal involved buying a small divestiture from Waste Management in its marketplace after the company was forced to sell off assets from an Allied Waste deal. The result was approximately $9 million in collection business and two transfer stations coming into the Interstate fold.

“We had the opportunity to take on Waste Management’s assets, and we were successful in integrating the operations,” he says. “It really catapulted Interstate Waste and made the company a real player in the market. Up to that point, we were a collection-only business, which is extremely challenging, especially in our marketplace where there are no landfills. Having transfer station capacity is essential in the northern New Jersey market. After acquiring the Waste Management transfer assets, we went on a real run, acquiring mom-and-pop-type businesses that were really very similar in operations to the business my father built.”

DiBella says armed with the capital backing of Summer Street and other private equity investors, his familiarity and established relationships with the people working in the industry helped grease the skids in terms of pursuing acquisitions of local companies.

“Being around my father’s business growing up, I got to know the industry players pretty well through those day-to-day business dealings. So, when walking in the door of a competitor to pitch the idea of buying their family business, it wasn’t coming from a stranger. And I think that contributed to our success of acquiring a bunch of companies,” he says.

After completing a string of deals and building Interstate into a $150 million company, DiBella sold the company to Highstar Waste Holdings in 2006, which later became part of Advanced Disposal.

A NEW CHAPTER

DiBella says instead of continuing to work for Interstate after selling to Highstar, he purchased a controlling interest in Action Carting’s New York City operations in partnership with Ironwood in 2006, and shortly thereafter, acquired the New York City collection assets from Waste Management, who was looking to exit collection operations in NYC.

“Action was a $25 million a year business at that point, and we bought about $40 million of collection business from Waste Management,” DiBella explains. “So, it really grew the company quickly. We ended up doing the same thing we did in New Jersey prior, which is work to acquire mom-and-pop businesses throughout the city.”

In 2010, in collaboration with Summer Street, Action Carting and DiBella purchased the New York City transfer and collection assets of Republic Services, further building the Action footprint in the five boroughs. As DiBella was busy growing Action Carting, he got word that Highstar Waste Holdings may be interested in divesting Interstate Waste after struggling to gain footing in the region. In 2013, he bought back the company he started a decade and a half earlier.

“Summer Street Capital and its Managing Partner Brian D’Amico have been supporting the growth of Interstate Waste since their original investment in 2003,” DiBella says. “They financed our growth through acquisition strategy [including with] Action Carting and the subsequent acquisitions of the New York City collection assets of Waste Management, the New York City transfer and collection assets of Republic Services, the buy-back of Interstate Waste in 2013 and many other tuck-in acquisitions over the last 17 years. Summer Street’s industry knowledge and financial support aided our growth … and they have been great partners for many years now.”

DiBella says after doing “a lot of rehab” to strengthen the company over the last several years, the opportunity to vertically integrate its services became a reality when it purchased Apex Environmental in 2020. The company partnered with Littlejohn & Co. to finance the acquisition. This deal yielded two rail-served transfer stations, one rail transloading yard and a rail-served landfill in Amsterdam, Ohio. Subsequently, DiBella integrated Action Environmental and Apex Environmental under the Interstate Waste Services brand.

“The Apex deal is just a game-changer for us because we are a sizeable collector in the five boroughs and northern New Jersey, but up until the Apex deal, we didn’t control our own destiny in terms of disposal,” he says. “We all viewed it as a key element to continuing to grow the business, and it was a necessity, quite frankly. We worked hard at getting the deal done, and now we’re in the middle of integrating services, so it’s been an exciting run over the last 20 years.”

A CLOSER LOOK

Today, Interstate Waste has approximately 1,200 employees. The company boasts around 375 collection trucks and counts 20 transfer stations (including two with direct rail service), one rail transload facility, three material recycling facilities (MRFs) and one rail-served landfill as assets.

The company’s collection customers weigh heavily towards commercial accounts (approximately 90 percent of its business), with the balance comprising residential and specialty industrial customers.

As Interstate’s history suggests, the company’s composition doesn’t remain stagnant for long.

In January, Interstate acquired a 57-year-old family business, Bernardsville, New Jersey-based Rubinetti Disposal, which will help establish the company in the central New Jersey collection market, DiBella says.

Despite some of the obstacles of operating in the competitive New York City/New Jersey markets, DiBella says Interstate has embraced these difficulties as it plans for future development.

“New York City is a unique market for collection companies,” he says. “Most of the activity takes place between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. and consists primarily of loose bags on the street served by rear load collection trucks. Only the larger facilities are served through traditional containers such as roll-off compactors. Operating in a densely populated urban city at night with constant and heavy traffic presents unique challenges for service and safety. It’s a constant focus for our team. We enjoy that challenge, and serving one of the greatest cities in the world is a real source of pride.

“Northern and central New Jersey are highly populated and growing markets where Interstate Waste is excited to continue to expand its market share—both commercial and residential. By having strong collection coverage, a network of transfer stations and MRFs, and the ability to move waste by rail, we feel Interstate is uniquely positioned to serve the growing New Jersey market.”

While DiBella says the vision for the business is to focus on providing a full range of customer service solutions for commercial, residential and industrial customers, the company’s high concentration of commercial accounts makes New York City’s pending Commercial Waste Zone guidelines a central concern for the company.

The New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) originally released its Commercial Waste Zone plan in November 2018, citing safety, environmental and nuisance concerns as the impetus for reducing the number of waste service providers in the city. Under the plan, DSNY will divide the city into 20 zones, each served by only a few carters selected through a competitive process.

According to DiBella, though the plan is noble in its aim, the current plans for implementation could put undue stress on haulers and their customers, especially during the COVID pandemic and its aftermath.

“Interstate Waste is engaging with all stakeholders in an attempt to have a positive impact on the continued development of the rules. Given the impact of COVID on New York City, in particular, the timing of implementing such a disruptive change for commercial establishments is concerning. It may take 12 to 24 months for the region to recover, and adding new regulation and substantive change during this crisis and pending recovery is not ideal. We would certainly support an extended timeline for rulemaking, RFP and implementation. We remain hopeful that Commercial Waste Zones will ultimately have a positive impact on the collection industry in New York City, but much work needs to be done on improving the rules, the implementation timeline and overall transition plan.”

DiBella says that ensuring greener waste collection in the region through reduced truck traffic is something that is a core focus of Interstate. Thanks to the company’s new rail access, DiBella says they’ll be able to significantly cut emissions for collection and disposal.

“Similar to the objectives of the Commercial Waste Zones initiative, moving waste by rail significantly reduces truck traffic and vehicle miles traveled. For example, a single train can handle the freight of approximately 280 long-haul trucks. We move a train each day of the week, saving approximately 2,000 truck movements, or 390,000 truck miles in a single week,” he says. “With our rail infrastructure, Interstate is now able to provide curb collection to final disposal in an efficient, environmentally friendly manner. We have made significant investments in our rail infrastructure and we are excited for the impact it will have in the coming years.”

In addition to being a conduit for integrating its operations and limiting its environmental output, DiBella says the company’s rail infrastructure is anticipated to play a major role as the company looks to grow throughout the region via M&A.

“Without question, we plan to continue to grow the Interstate footprint throughout the Northeast and leverage our rail infrastructure,” he says. “We have an active pipeline of target businesses with many providing a great strategic and cultural fit, especially in our core markets of New York and New Jersey.”

While the company looks to grow beyond its New York City and northern New Jersey roots, it’s the relationships and lessons learned through these partnerships that will guide the company as it builds on its past successes.

“Many managers and employees at our company have 20 to 30 years of experience working together in this business. Very few companies have that level of continuity from management to driver to mechanic,” DiBella says. “Our employees have grown up together servicing customers in their own back yard. Maintaining that continuity long term, as we grow, is one of our key objectives.”

The author is the editor of Waste Today and can be reached at aredling@gie.net. 


Action Environmental Group becomes Interstate Waste Services following landfill acquisition

Teaneck, NJ – January 21, 2020 – Interstate Waste Services, Inc. (“IWS”) and Littlejohn & Co., LLC (“Littlejohn”), a private investment firm based in Greenwich, CT, today announced the merger of The Action Environmental Group, Inc. and Apex Environmental Resources Holdings II LLC (“Apex”). The combined company will operate under the Interstate Waste Services brand. Littlejohn led the equity financing to facilitate the transaction.

IWS is the largest privately-held, vertically-integrated provider of solid waste collection, transfer, recycling and disposal services serving the greater New York City and Northern New Jersey markets. IWS operates nearly 400 collection vehicles throughout the five boroughs of New York City, Northern and Central New Jersey, and Orange and Rockland County, New York; a network of 22 transfer and transload facilities; and a rail-served solid waste landfill in Amsterdam, Ohio.

“This transaction creates a tremendous platform for continued growth and will enable us to offer greater scale and services for our customers,” said Michael DiBella, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of IWS. “IWS’s expansion and development over the past 20 years has been driven by our hard-working employees and the support of our key financial partners and business stakeholders. We welcome Apex management into the IWS family and are grateful for the support and partnership of Littlejohn, who share our vision and recognize the significant opportunities ahead as we continue to execute on our growth plans.”

Summer Street Capital Partners LLC, an original investor in IWS, and Prophet Equity, the majority investor in Apex, and management are maintaining significant equity interests in the business. O-Corp Investments, LLC participated in the equity financing alongside Littlejohn.

Brian Michaud, a Managing Director at Littlejohn, said, “The combination of IWS and Apex is highly strategic, creating a vertically-integrated platform with significant growth potential. We are pleased to partner with the IWS management team and existing shareholders to support the merger and the Company’s growth initiatives.”

GSO Capital Partners, the credit investment arm of Blackstone, led the debt financing. Longtime IWS lending partners, Comerica Bank and Brightwood Capital, also participated in the debt financing.

Stifel acted as sole placement agent in connection with the equity and debt financing to support the transaction. Houlihan Lokey, Inc. acted as Littlejohn’s financial advisor.

About Interstate Waste Services, Inc. Interstate Waste Services, Inc. (“IWS”) is a vertically-integrated provider of solid waste and recycling services in the greater New York City and Northern New Jersey markets. IWS operates nearly 400 collection vehicles throughout the five boroughs of NYC, Northern and Central NJ, and Orange and Rockland County New York serviced by a network of 22 transfer, transload facilities and a rail-served solid waste landfill. IWS is one of the most progressive and innovative providers of non-hazardous waste management services with a diverse range of residential, industrial and commercial customers. For more information, please visit www.interstatewaste.com.

About Littlejohn & Co., LLC Littlejohn & Co. is a Greenwich, Connecticut-based investment firm focused on private equity and debt investments primarily in middle market companies. With over $12.0 billion in regulatory assets under management, the firm seeks to build sustainable success for its portfolio companies through a disciplined approach to engineering change. For more information about Littlejohn, visit www.littlejohnllc.com.

About O-Corp Investments, LLC Headquartered in New York City, O-Corp Investments is the investment arm of the Olshan Family and directs capital on their behalf. O-Corp takes long-term positions in both public securities and privately held companies, primarily in the real estate, infrastructure, natural resources and industrial sectors. The firm invests in high quality platform businesses, assets and management teams that compound at attractive rates of return over long periods of time.


IWS Partners with American Dream

Teaneck, NJ October 28, 2019 – Interstate Waste Services (IWS), a Teaneck, NJ based waste management company, announced today its partnership with the long-awaited American Dream complex in East Rutherford, N.J.

Interstate Waste Services will be the exclusive waste and recycling hauler for the mega-mall complex expected to draw 40 million visitors annually. IWS, who began working on the American Dream site since the construction project began in 2016, will provide service to the three million square foot property. Service will include waste and recycling removal for the 350 shops, attractions, dining destinations, and other facilities.

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Ron Bergamini CEO Testimony to DSNY on CWZ

ORAL TESTIMONY OF

ACTION ENVIRONMENTAL GROUP

RONALD S. BERGAMINI, CEO

NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF SANITATION (DSNY)

PUBLIC HEARING ON THE CWZ DGEIS

MARCH 14, 2019

My name is Ron Bergamini. I am the CEO of Action Environmental Group, the parent company of Action Carting, NYC’s largest hauler of solid waste & recycling materials. We will be submitting further substantive written comments on the draft environmental impact statement.

Today I would like to comment on a single topic – the choice between single hauler (“single”) and multiple hauler zones (“multiple”).

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NJ.com: Action’s 2018 Safest Driver of the Year

2nd annual Safest Driver of the Year award to Alfred “Mike” Sandoval

We had the pleasure of presenting our 2nd annual Safest Driver of the Year award to Alfred “Mike” Sandoval. Mike’s family was on hand to present him with this honor. Mike and his family won an all-expense paid trip to Disney World for being our safest driver in 2018. NJ.com was also there to capture the whole thing.

Read the full article here!


LaborPress: A Labor-Management Response To Intro.157

By Mike Hellstrom and Ronald Bergamini

Editor’s Note: This is an op-ed from Mike Hellstom, secretary treasurer, Laborers Local 108 and Ron Bergamini, CEO, Action Carting Environmental Services.

Unions have been in the news lately.  The US Supreme Court’s recent decision in Janus v. AFSCME holding that public sector employees can benefit from union representation without paying dues has garnered much commentary.  That, as well as growing concerns about income inequality, has thrust the social and political role of unions into the forefront of public debate in a way we have not seen in years.

Also in the news—and rightly so—is the issue of civility (or lack thereof) in public discourse.  Some folks in high places are acting without much civility; leading to debates about what civility entails or whether it still matters.  There seems to even be a movement to fight incivility with more of it, an irony too rich to start exploring here.

Some activists, another union, and too many elected officials prefer to play on stereotypes and some particularly bad actors to portray the whole waste industry as out control and impervious to the needs of workers, the community, and the environment…

Read the full article here!


Waste360: Is Widespread Side Guard Implementation on the Horizon?

Side guards can be retrofitted onto existing trucks or designed for new trucks as well. In 2016, Action Carting, one of the New York City’s largest haulers, took advantage of the incentive program offered by the city and applied side guards on 23 trucks, explains Sal Mastriani, director of risk management at Action Carting. In 2017, the company fitted about 125 trucks with side guards.

“We decided, why wait for the deadline, which is 2024,” says Mastriani. “We felt it was necessary to implement the side guards onto all of our packers immediately. As of March 2018, 100 percent of our packer trucks were fitted with side guards.”

“We are actually hoping they move the date [2024] up a little bit,” adds Mastriani. “We are ready, and we feel that it’s very important to the industry for everyone to comply with this.”

Across the industry, the use of side guards has not become a universally accepted benefit. For some companies working in less densely populated areas, the need may not feel as urgent. For companies considering the use of side guards, some of the pushback is that the specifications are not clear or standardized. Using the wrong materials can impact the weight of a collection truck, and making the modifications to an entire fleet can prove costly.

Read the full article here!


The Action Environmental Group, Inc. Announces Acquisition of Miele Sanitation

Teaneck, NJ June 12, 2018 – The Action Environmental Group, provider of non-hazardous waste management and recycling services for New York City, Northern New Jersey, Rockland and Orange County, New York; today announced the completion of its acquisition of Miele Sanitation, a Bergen County, New Jersey-based waste management company.

With this transaction, The Action Environmental Group, through its subsidiary Interstate Waste Services (IWS), has acquired operations and assets of the Closter, NJ based company. The acquired business assets include commercial waste and recycling collection, equipment, and vehicles.

“We look for companies with a strong work ethic and commitment to its employees and customers. Miele Sanitation has been an institution in Bergen County, we are proud to continue its legacy, said IWS Chairman, Mike DiBella.

For more information on The Action Environmental Group and Interstate Waste Services visit http://interstatewaste.com. Follow us on Twitter for up-to-date information @actioncarting.


2018 NWRA Professional Development Series – New Jersey

Action is proud to host the 2018 NWRA Professional Development Series for New Jersey. Director of Risk Management, Sal Mastrian, will host the free half-day event. The goal of this event is to improve safety standards and compliance across the waste industry. The event will take place on Wednesday, July 11, 2018.

Safety PDS are educational and capability building sessions, which were scheduled in regional locations to bring local industry companies together to build their capabilities in the areas of regulatory compliance, Safety Culture, use of technology, and Distracted Driving. The event topics and materials were developed in direct response to the Safety Committee, Small Hauler’s Roundtable discussions and reviews held throughout the year. These events, also, give our Supplier Members a chance to present in the area of their subject matter expertise.

In addition to our speakers, the event will also feature a roundtable identifying how NWRA can support your safety needs. NWRA will use this information to achieve its Strategic Safety Initiatives. These include removing the collection industry from the top 10 most dangerous occupations, reducing distracted driving incidents and finding collaboration opportunities to leverage safety efforts.

Tentative Educational Sessions include:

  • Safety Culture
  • Round Table Discussion
  • ANSI Z245 and You
  • Best Practices
  • Safety and Compliance Topics Employers Need to Know
  • OSHA Compliance Topics
  • DOT Compliance Topics
  • Distracted Driving
  • Safety Culture
  • Fleet Management
  • Employee Engagement

The presentations provided safety personnel, operations managers, and front line supervisors with a basic understanding of their safety, compliance, and, most importantly, their individual responsibility to the employees’ personal health and wellbeing. The topics included: OSHA and DOT compliance, Eliminating Distractions, Fleet Management Technology, and Operational Excellence Process Improvement, with a connecting theme of Safety Culture and Employee Engagement. Scalable solutions were provided to the attendees that will empower them to improve their safety management systems and strongly engage employees for solution-based results.

For more information or to sign up for this event visit the NWRA website.


We Honor Two of Our Own at the Center for Employment Opportunities Gala

Luis Lopez CEO

Luis Lopez CEO with Award
Marc Lopez CEO
Marc Lopez CEO with Award

Action has worked closely with the Center for Employment Opportunities (CEO) for many years. CEO is dedicated to providing immediate, effective and comprehensive employment services to men and women with recent criminal convictions. Their highly structured and tightly supervised programs help participants regain the skills and confidence needed for successful transitions into the working environment.

Through our partnership with CEO, we are happy to say that we have helped employees from CEO build a foundation for a stable and productive life for themselves and their families. 
I am pleased to announce that last Thursday two of our employees were honored at the annual Center for Employment Opportunities Award Gala, with their families and friends in attendance.

Luis Lopez, who is a Route Supervisor from our Bronx Casanova Depot, was awarded the “Outstanding Achievement Award.” Luis was recognized for his outstanding performance, superior dedication and positive attitude on the job throughout the past year. Luis who began working with Action through the CEO program grew from a Helper to a Route Supervisor in just two short years.

Also being honored at the gala was Marc Lopez, a Driver from our Jersey City Depot. Marc was recognized for his dedication and achievements with the “Leadership Achievement Award” in recognition of his ongoing dedication and growth. Marc has been a key member of the Action team starting out as a helper in 2011 and growing into a world-class Driver.

Thank you to both men for their dedication and for living our companies core values!