“I’m tired of it and I’m ready to go,” Reggie Montgomery says flatly of the trash removal business he has operated in St. George for nearly 28 years. By the end of June he expects Reggie’s Rubbish Removal to be completely shut down—which, if the business doesn’t sell by then (as of this writing there are two interested buyers), may leave his current customers scrambling for an alternative way to get their trash to the transfer station.
Montgomery first began thinking about stopping hauling rubbish after a painful accident last September. “I got burned real bad when a radiator cap came off and scalded me—my face, under my arm and along my side. Just before that I was offered another job. So after getting burned I decided that this might be it.”
Montgomery started his trash removal business on Labor Day of 1987. Before this he had been transporting goods all over the 48 states using his own trailer trucks. “Then my trash business was a small Saturday route with 68 customers. Over the next couple of years I built it up to over 100 customers and moved to hauling twice a week.” He also continued trucking, but to accommodate his fledgling trash removal enterprise he sold his rigs and confined his driving jobs to New England routes.
Some of his new customers were passed on to him by Vivian Leppanen. She and her husband Alfred had operated a trash removal business in St. George for nearly 30 years. When Alfred became ill Vivian started cutting back. Eventually she and Montgomery teamed up.
“I started working with Vivian about 1990,” Montgomery recalls. “I worked for her for two-and-half years. We merged. That was how I bought her business. She had the truck, so she drove. I bought the gas and did the work. When she got done I bought my own truck and continued on my own.”
Montgomery bought a hook-lift truck in 1998, enabling him to lift containers. “I used that truck for a couple of years, but it wasn’t heavy enough for what I was doing. I wanted to get more into dumpsters at businesses and stores so in 2001 I bought the Packard that I’m still using.”
Commercial customers then became a key element of Montgomery’s business. The twice-a-week pace of hauling became a five-day pace that in summer became a six-day pace. “In the summer my cottage route eventually expanded so that, in addition to customers in St. George, I was doing 35 cottages in Owls Head.”
As Montgomery’s trash removal business has evolved, so too, he says, has the town’s management of solid waste. “When I first started we had a dump and you dumped the garbage on the ground. Then they pushed it into a pile and burned it. A year later they started the ‘Mount Trashmore’ landfill. There was a clay liner at the bottom and you would dump within that boundary. Every night they would cover the garbage with a layer of dirt and it got higher and higher. Then the Department of Environmental Protection closed us down and we built the first transfer station. That was 25 years ago.”
When the new transfer station was built in 2003, the recycling program began. There was a proposal to make recycling mandatory that Montgomery says he opposed. “I said don’t make it mandatory because those who don’t want to do it will ruin it for the people who do. We ended up being one of the top recycling towns in the state.”
Montgomery then added a recycling service to his business, using an 18-foot walk-in van. “I’ve done it steady for four years. I’ve got only four households, but I also have the stores and the rope mill, which produces half a ton of cardboard a week.” The cardboard he brings to the transfer station alone, he notes, makes a big contribution to the town’s recycling revenues.
Although Montgomery says he’s tired of trash removal, he still takes satisfaction in the business he built. “I used to have more customers than I have now, but I have a better overall business now. It is smooth and steady. It has kept me going. It’s been a good one-man business.”
Montgomery started the new job he was offered last year—which involves light trucking—on a trial basis last October. He continued hauling trash, but began to realize that he was enjoying the “less structured” nature of the new work, enough so to want to give more time to it. “I’ll never retire, but I would like to travel more and see the good side of things. I’ve seen all the backsides of every town, every warehouse, every city in the country—that’s no fun. I’d like to see the front side now. The new job makes that possible.”—JW