SBC Waste Solutions: Woman-led Business Leading the Charge in Chicago

marsh pp

Dec. 5 2023, Published 4:58 a.m. ET

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Your local garbage collector isn’t simply taking away garbage to hide it in landfills anymore. Today’s waste management company is a responsible partner in a clean environment, and working with local governments and citizens to make the planet cleaner and healthier. SBC Waste Management is pioneering green and sustainable waste management practices in the Chicago region, emphasizing their innovative approaches and community impact.

SBC may be a relatively new face in the waste business, but CEO Karen Coley and her SBC team are experts, bringing 100 years of combined industry experience in a family and woman-owned waste disposal company. Coley has built a waste company that puts people first, using the latest ideas and technology to keep the community, where the people live and work, clean, beautiful, and sustainable.

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“The initials of SBC stand for sustainable, beneficial, and capable,” Coley says. “These values drive everything we do. We genuinely care about the environment and our clients, so we work hard to keep Chicagoland clean for future generations.”

Coley explains that SBC Waste Solutions is not merely deploying dumpsters and recycle bins. The company is also educating businesses and citizens about the way to an eco-conscious future. From simple yard cleanups to extensive waste removal projects, each task reveals a strong commitment to environmental safeguarding and community upliftment.

SBC sponsored the GreenTown Climate and Equity Event 2023 in June to unite Chicago communities in the search for sustainable practices in all areas of modern life. The point was to promote responsible waste disposal and inspire climate solutions. GreenTown addressed climate change and solutions in water conservation, technology innovations, energy, transportation, waste management, workforce development, and equitable solutions to climate change.

Coley’s team is collaborating with Katrina Thompson, mayor of the Village of Broadview, and other leaders in Chicagoland who are working hard to find equitable solutions to the climate crisis. Thompson is known for her dedication to promoting equity and fighting climate change.

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SBC plans to support future such events and to continue to collaborate on sustainability initiatives with community leaders, both in the private and public sectors. Coley and her team are using what they learned from the experience to improve services and help residents and businesses in the communities accomplish their environmental goals.

For example, SBC Waste Management offers regular blog posts on its website to guide customers through ways to partner in sustainability. One recent article reminded citizens how they can individually help by recycling aluminum, avoiding single-serve items and disposable packaging, and using a water filter rather than buying bottled water. In 2022, SBC helped the community recycle 10 million pounds.

Businesses also get information on how being green and sustainable can help them save money. Waste management is essential for all businesses, but the more frequently a business requires trash pickup, the more the business will spend on trash collection and recycling. That’s simple economics.

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Businesses that typically generate a lot of waste, such as warehouses, grocery stores, factories, and hotels, usually pay higher waste disposal fees. However, Coley points out ways that investing in a commercial waste compactor saves money. It cuts down on the frequency of trash pickups, and it improves workplace safety by reducing the possibility of accidents in cluttered environments.

Shawn Flood, vice president of operations and customer care and partner, has built up a strong reputation in the waste management and recycling business over the past 15 years. He says that his attitude is to create friendships and partnerships with clients to be a part of the community, like one big family.

“At SBC we have a love for the industry,” Flood says. “We have a love for garbage and trash. I always say to the people, ‘I love to talk trash, and that’s literally what I do.”

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Karen Coley agrees with Flood’s business philosophy.

Customer service is the core of what we do,” Coley explains. “We empower every single employee to deliver that bottom-line based level of service that nobody else is giving their employees the power to do. Our drivers are empowered to circle back on any account to make sure that customer was completely satisfied with that day’s service.”

Coley says that this autonomy for the employees, the power to make decisions on the spot, is the right business and community decision for SBC Waste Management . She says her drivers kept working in last winter’s treacherous heavy snowstorms, picking up their clients’ garbage.

“Other companies didn’t service their towns or didn’t service their accounts,” she says. “The SBC team was out there, during a blizzard, during a pandemic, because our drivers wanted to work, wanted to deliver that service.”

Karen Coley and Shawn Flood say they couldn’t be more proud of their team. And the community agrees if customer numbers are any indication. SBC has gone from zero to 40,000 customers in just five years.

SBC’s team continues to excel in waste management while upholding diversity and innovation. As Coley looks to the future, her goal is to build an automated/robotic recycling facility and become the first woman in that space, changing the way the local industry processes its recycling. It’s a good business decision, processing SBC’s recyclables rather than paying another company to do so, but it’s also an investment in local sustainability, bringing newer and greener ways to deal with these materials.


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