Photos © 2018 Anthony L. Iezzi | Iezzi Photography LLC
Joseph P. Mascaro Sr., manager of TotalRecycle

When J.P. Mascaro & Sons founder J.P. Mascaro Sr. set out to start a waste collection business in 1964, he had just one truck and one contract serving the General Electric Aerospace Center in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania. Now, more than 50 years later, the Audubon, Pennsylvania-based company has grown to become one of the largest privately owned solid waste services businesses in the country, with operations serving municipal, governmental, commercial, institutional and industrial sectors throughout the Mid-Atlantic.

The 850-person company is currently led by J.P. Mascaro Sr.’s five sons (Pat, Joe, Mike, Lou and Frank), who serve as owners, and has operations in five states dedicated to the collection, transportation, transfer, processing, disposal, recycling and composting of solid waste and recyclables. Currently, the company has over 100 municipal waste contracts for the collection, processing, transfer and disposal of municipal waste; the collection, processing and marketing of recyclables; and its municipal sewage sludge management services. In all, its municipal contracts range from rural communities of a couple hundred units to metropolitan municipalities of 24,000 units.

To process the vast quantities of waste garnered from these operations, Mascaro and its related companies own or operate four landfills, three compost facilities, five transfer stations, eight hauling divisions, three recycling centers, a yard waste facility and a recently opened 700-ton-per-day single-stream material recovery facility (MRF).

Growing up in the business

Members of J.P. Mascaro & Sons’ executive team outside company headquarters

While the company has come a long way since its inception, it’s the work ethic and dedication instilled by his father that has allowed the company to continue to grow, J.P. Mascaro & Sons President Pat Mascaro says. Growing up, Pat says the five Mascaro brothers held every job in the company, from driving and repairing trucks to learning the ropes on the management side of the business.

“My father and mother taught me and my four brothers about hard work through their daily actions. More importantly, however, they taught us about the importance of family and loyalty,” Pat Mascaro says. “Early on, my brothers and I, with our father’s guidance, were involved in every aspect of our business, from beginning to end, because there was no one else to do it—we were it.”

At every stage during the evolution of the company, Pat says his father insisted on staying committed to building a culture based on hard work and customer service.

“Our company is rooted in a very simple and straightforward culture. We know who we are, where we came from and who we are not,” Mascaro says of the company. “Also, we know how we arrived to where we are today and what we have to do to sustain our company going forward. At J.P.. Mascaro & Sons, we live by our founder’s motto, ‘If it’s service, it’s us.’ Regardless of our business achievements and excellent business reputation, we never forget that our customers, large and small, are the most important persons in our business.”

It’s this dedication to the communities in which Mascaro serves that is charting the course for the company’s continued expansion.

An emphasis on sustainability

According to Mascaro, the goal of the company is not just to be profitable today, but to build a model that can ensure sustainable growth for years to come.

“As with many businesses, sustainability is an important issue facing waste industry participants, including J.P. Mascaro & Sons,” Mascaro says. “As applied to the solid waste industry, sustainability means the implementation and management of a customer waste service system that for now and for future generations is economically viable, socially and environmentally progressive and that conserves natural resources without damaging the environment.”

To this end, J.P. Mascaro & Sons has invested more than $100 million in the development and implementation of a customer waste service system that is both sustainable and practical.

The three key environmental facilities in what Mascaro calls its “Sustainable Waste Service System” are: TotalRecycle, a 85,000-square-foot single-stream automated recycling facility in Berks County, Pennsylvania; A&M Composting, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, which is the largest indoor composting facility (445,000 square feet) in the state where sludge and food waste are processed into class A exceptional quality compost; and the Pioneer Crossing Landfill, a modern facility in Exeter Township, Pennsylvania, where waste that cannot be recycled or reused is disposed of, and where green energy is generated for off-site use by a landfill gas-to-electricity plant.

According to Mascaro, the combination of TotalRecycle, A&M Composting and the Pioneer Crossing Landfill enables Mascaro’s Sustainable Waste Service System to meet the three-pronged test of true sustainability—allowing for economic growth, social progress and environmental protection.

Creating new markets

J.P. Mascaro & Sons recently made news for its partnership with The Materials Recovery for the Future (MRFF) research program. Under the partnership, Mascaro’s will pilot a single-stream curbside recycling program collecting flexible plastic packaging (FPP), which will be processed at its TotalRecycle facility.

FPP, which includes plastic films, wraps, bags and pouches, is not commonly recycled today. However, thanks to its growing use in packaging and other applications, an estimated 12 billion pounds of the substance enters the market per year, making it the fastest-growing type of packaging material in use today.

The company has already received $1.2 million in grant money for the project, with additional grant money to follow. To make automated recycling of FPP possible, the company is investing in sophisticated optical sorting equipment from Van Dyk Recycling Solutions, Stamford, Connecticut, which will be installed in early 2019. The pilot project’s operations will officially commence shortly thereafter, but Mascaro plans to kick off community outreach efforts this fall to educate consumers on the initiative.

Through the program, TotalRecycle is expected to produce 3,100 tons per year of high-quality postconsumer FPP feedstock for various end market uses.

The pilot is expected to generate data to help inform municipalities and the recycling industry on the most efficient and economical ways to recycle FPP. This will help convert used FPP materials, typically destined for disposal, into a bale that can be sold to a variety of buyers.

“This pilot project is important because, if successful, it will demonstrate that FPP can be recycled from the residential waste stream and marketed as a new recyclable commodity—rFlex,” Mascaro says.

According to Mascaro, this program will be instrumental in the company’s push to be a greener and more environmentally conscious company while also helping reduce the amount of waste going to landfill.

“The obvious benefit of our FPP pilot project is the enhancement of our ongoing waste recycling and reuse efforts, and it will further improve the sustainability of integrated customer waste service systems such as those that are now in place at J.P. Mascaro & Sons,” Mascaro says. “We view our company as an industry leader and not an industry follower, as evidenced by our company’s selection for this project.”

All in the family

According to Mascaro, J.P. Mascaro & Sons has the equipment, facilities, infrastructure and experience to compete successfully with the large national companies, but it is the company’s dedication and commitment to being a local community-oriented family organization that has helped set it apart.

“The basis of J.P. Mascaro & Sons’ business success is its demonstrated commitment to its customers, its employees and the community,” Mascaro says. “Each is an important component of what our company is today and of what our company is committed to in the future.”

The third generation of Mascaro leadership is already in place helping to stoke the company’s continued progress, with a fourth generation poised to take the reins in the coming years. Although mergers and acquisitions are a way of the world in the waste management industry, Mascaro says that the company is committed to staying family-owned to protect the legacy of service that the company has built over the last half-century.

“Our company is not interested in going public because we are not looking for investors or to ‘cash in’ on our business success,” Mascaro says. “Our goal is to continue to pass on to the next generation of Mascaro family members what was started [with my father], and to stay true to our family-oriented and customer-first business philosophy. We believe these goals are best achieved by remaining a privately owned and operated company.”

Although Mascaro acknowledges that a lot has changed since his father’s first contract with General Electric Aerospace Center, the heart of the company and its leadership has endured through the decades.

“Our company legacy is that we started with one truck over 50 years ago, and today we are a recognized industry leader,” Mascaro says. “But more important than this is that my brothers and I are the same guys from Trooper, Pennsylvania, with the same friends and the same value system and business philosophy given to us by our parents. That is a legacy to be proud of.”

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