A Century-Long Tradition of Adaptation and Reinvention
Filco Carting is a full-service rubbish removal and recycling company serving the five boroughs of New York City. As a company heavily focused on sustainability, Filco looks for safe and modern waste solutions in all aspects of the business, from pick-up to disposal. Offering residential, commercial, and industrial collection services, Filco develops personal relationships with its customers and this results in significant repeat business.
The fourth generation family company is celebrating its 110th anniversary this year. “It started in 1910 with my great grandfather, one horse and a wagon, and we’re still here,” said Domenic Monopoli, President and CEO at Filco Carting. He attributes the company’s longstanding history of success to its capacity to adapt as the industry evolved for over a century. “Really, it’s being able to reinvent yourself every 10 to 12 years and being able to change with the environment: the business environment, the climate, the demands of the customers, and all the different types of technology,” he explained.
“That is why we formed a strategic partnership with Recycle Track Systems, Inc. (RTS),” said Monopoli. “We use their geo-tracking technology in all of our trucks. RTS’s system informs customers when our truck is near their location via SMS and email notifications. This allows the customer’s operations team to prepare their loading area and ensure security is alerted. The real-time notifications limit waiting times and eliminate the possibility of missed pick-ups, making collection much more efficient.”
Each generation of ownership at Filco had the good business sense to make new investments in modern equipment and technology that would allow the company to stay relevant and grow at a steady pace. “Generation to generation, it’s just about changing with the times, and being able to recognize what’s on the horizon to stay in front of it,” explained Monopoli.
Under the current leadership, Filco is focused on new technology and sustainability. The goal is to run the collection trucks as efficiently as possible using GPS guidance software and live cameras with audio for clear communication between employees. Several years ago, the company made the investment to replace its fleet with the safest, most modern equipment that can be found in New York City’s waste collection industry.
Safety is paramount
In the United States, solid waste collection workers have the fifth highest fatality rate of any occupation, with a higher workplace fatality rate than firefighters or police officers. Understandably, safety is a central concern for waste collection companies in any city, but operating a waste collection vehicle in a metropolitan center as populated as New York City can be extremely dangerous – particularly now, as smartphones seem to find new ways to distract us every day. Screens are designed to monopolize our attention and the number of things people use them for while driving is always growing. We use them to make phone calls, to play music, to tell us where we’re going, to order food, and so much more. The number of accidents related to distracted driving in New York has increased a staggering 86 percent since 2009 according to an article published in PR NewsWire. In order to operate safely, a thorough and well understood safety policy is absolutely required.
To alleviate some of the safety concerns and reduce the number of incidents, Filco provides extensive training to its employees in house and holds regular safety meetings throughout each month. The company uses the Smith System, a well-known set of defensive driving rules in the industry for commercial drivers. “We have our own safety school and no one goes out on a truck solo without finishing a two-week course. Then once a week, every Thursday, we do pop-up meetings or what we call tailgate meetings, and at least twice a month we have full-blown safety meetings where we bring in outside guests and speakers,” explained Monopoli. Once a year, the company also rents convention space to host a large-scale safety seminar with all of its employees, repeat customers, and a number of qualified guest speakers. “We go quite in-depth because safety, as far as I’m concerned, is extraordinarily important in our industry.”
Evolving through uncertain times
Filco has been consistently growing at a steady pace, between 10 to 15 percent a year – significant for a large company. It prioritizes smart, organic growth over rapid expansion, although the events of this year have halted many of the company’s growth plans for 2020.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, Filco employed approximately 145 employees and it hopes to be operating with that number again by early next year. Some of its office staff are working from home and the others work on odd or even days, allowing only half the staff in at one time to enable social distancing.
The pandemic has created new challenges for every business, and even essential operations such as waste collection companies have had to rearrange the way they move. Luckily for Filco, the company has already proved itself capable of quickly restructuring the business when times change.
To this end, Filco immediately provided its employees with personal protective equipment to keep them safe and to decrease the chance of viruses spreading through waste disposal. Employees wear masks, gloves and outer protective garments, and the trucks are sanitized professionally in between each shift. Filco has put forward a major effort to support its employees as they put themselves on the front lines to continue to collect waste in an unpredictable environment. It is easy to become accustomed to the routine of garbage pickup and forget that these services are a necessity and the waste collection workers are truly essential frontline workers.
Another area of the business that has required temporary reorganization is Filco’s commercial office customers. As people have been forced to work from home, the garbage collection for office towers has become very minimal. “We lost probably 40 percent of our business and we’re climbing back slowly,” said Monopoli. “The office towers that we service –well over 100 – are at maybe 20 percent capacity. Restaurants are not open yet, and some hotels are functioning normally but most are not. So once again, it was just about reinventing ourselves – going from a fleet of 40 trucks down to 10 or 12, and then starting to rebuild from there.”
The challenge for Filco today is the unknown. It is unclear when or if its customers will be able to return to full capacity. There are many questions in the air and Filco is prepared to find new solutions as the industry moves forward.
It’s all about relationships
Filco Carting has always been highly customer service-oriented. Prior to the pandemic, it was servicing over 5,000 customers per day, the majority of whom were repeat customers. The company has also established close relationships with the utility companies in New York. The utilities represent the largest customers in the city, and Filco has maintained these coveted contracts with over 300 locations since 2002 because of its exceptional customer service. “It’s all about customer service; it’s responding when the customer calls and having a pleasant person answering the phone. We never have an automated recorder answer the phone during regular business hours; it’s a live person, and that was a decision that was made on purpose,” said Monopoli. Supervisors can be reached at the Filco Carting office 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and many of the larger accounts have Monopoli’s personal cell phone number.
As Filco has grown and developed, it has always strived to maintain its family-owned, friendly environment. “I have an open door policy, and every single employee has my cell phone number,” said Monopoli. “We try to grow and grow but also keep the same culture that we were brought up with.”
As proud members of the Laborers Local Union 108, Filco pays its people the highest wage in the industry and the average employee has a tenure of over 20 years. Monopoli has been a trustee of the union for the past six years and strongly believes the union is essential to represent the value of waste collection workers. “A lot of companies don’t unionize and they don’t take care of their people the right way. We are proud of the fact that we pay our people the highest wage in the industry and in the end, it pays back.”
The unpredictability of the future based on how COVID-19 will continue to affect the United States has put many businesses on hold this year. Filco has pushed back some of its plans for growth but will continue to focus on the strengths that have led to its 110 years of success.
“We’re here to stay,” concluded Monopoli. “We’re going to maintain the customer base that we have the best we can, we’re going to continue to give the best possible service at the best possible price, we’re going to run the safest fleet in the industry, we’re hiring the most capable people, and we’re very proud to be unionized.”