Garbage In, Garbage Out

Why Dallas' recycling program is a $17 million joke


In early 2000, about the time the Dallas City Council was considering whether to hire Greg Roemer's 18-year-old company to take over the city's recycling effort, Roemer was involved in a legal battle with newly estranged and longtime business partner Doug Hall.

Court documents say that Roemer fired Hall. Hall alleged that Roemer executed an improper company stock transfer, which Roemer denied. Hall was a popular owner at Community Waste Disposal. After he left the company, Nelson put yellow tape across Hall's door to make it look like a crime scene. Some employees, Nelson says, felt as though losing him was a crime.

By the time they split, Hall and Roemer had come a long way from the small waste-hauling company they started in a barn in Frisco in 1984. They had made a good living after finding a niche in collecting garbage in smaller cities around Dallas, and the company grew quickly. By 1992 they were offering door-to-door recycling in cities within a six-county area, a company brochure says.

Joanne Hill stands at the Dry Gulch Recycling Center, where she has spent 15 years offering voluntary recycling services without spending taxpayer money.
Mark Graham
Joanne Hill stands at the Dry Gulch Recycling Center, where she has spent 15 years offering voluntary recycling services without spending taxpayer money.
Unlike most other materials picked up at the curb, aluminum is one of the commodities that actually has a consistently strong market, recycling experts say.
Mark Graham
Unlike most other materials picked up at the curb, aluminum is one of the commodities that actually has a consistently strong market, recycling experts say.

According to those who knew both men, Hall was the one who got things done on the street; Roemer was the salesman and businessman who could convince public officials to go with Community Waste Disposal.

Roemer and Hall's legal falling-out ended up in a settlement, with Hall agreeing not to talk about the company or the breakup. Hall did not respond to multiple requests for interviews, but Hall did talk about Roemer and the company in court.

In court documents, Hall is quoted as saying that Roemer used company money to pay his own bills, country club fees and bar tab and nearly $100,000 worth of other items in addition to his salary. Hall said he was concerned about Roemer's "self-dealing" and that other things at Community Waste Disposal weren't all they should be.

In a deposition, Hall is asked by Roemer's attorney, "...Has anyone else, other than a lawyer that was representing you, told you that any conduct of anyone that is controlling Community Waste Disposal is illegal or wrongful?"

Hall: "I've heard things to that effect."

Attorney: "...From whom?"

Hall: "From people working at CWD or contracted by CWD."

The attorney asks Hall about time frames and then asks him to discuss what he was talking about.

Attorney: "Why don't you want to discuss them right now?"

Hall: "I don't know. I may be incriminating myself."

Attorney: "So is it your testimony, sir, that the conduct about which you--you or someone else has expressed concern is conduct that you engaged in as well?"

Hall: "Well, yeah, there's--there's things that Greg and I both have done, and there's things that the company has done that probably could be questionable...I became aware of it, you know, and I didn't step up and say, 'Stop.' You know, 'We got to stop.' So, therefore, I guess I probably became a part of it."

Hall did not go into any further detail, and Roemer declined to address the issue. In testimony later, Hall claimed Roemer routinely altered contracts in an attempt to deceive customers.

By the time Roemer came to the Dallas City Council in an effort to land the recycling contract, Community Waste Disposal claimed to be collecting 252,800 tons of refuse and 25,000 tons of recyclable material annually from cities around Dallas.

The company had $11.5 million in revenue in 1998, according to a report in Waste Age, a garbage industry magazine. Since then and since taking on the Dallas contract, the company reports revenues of $16.3 million with a net worth of $4.1 million.Currently, the company has contracts for garbage pickup or recycling with cities including Little Elm, Allen, Kaufman, Euless, Frisco, Pantego and Carrollton.Before he stopped responding to questions, Roemer agreed to sit down for an interview. Roemer's nicely appointed corner office in the well-secured building is upstairs and away from the garbage sorting bays. On a wall behind his desk, an abstract oil painting shows Muhammad Ali with his gloved fists raised. The smell of garbage permeates the building, Roemer's office included.

Roemer smiles frequently and talks about the Dallas contract in positive and enthusiastic terms. He comes across as a bit high-strung but charismatic. He talks about the successes his company had with recycling in Dallas and says tonnage is up substantially.

"We're collecting...somewhere between 7 1/2 and 8 pounds per home per month from Dallas now, and when we got the contract it was at about 4 1/2 to 5 pounds per month," he says, referring to the total number of households covered under the contract, not those actually recycling. "We got more tonnage from existing recyclers, and we got new people undoubtedly to join on."

But, he says, Community Waste Disposal is bound to make even more improvements in collections.

"We are always trying to think of ways to do better, and we want to do better," he says. "We're not stuck at 7 1/2 to 8 pounds. We can get more out of this city."


Recycling seemed like such a good idea a decade ago. Why toss out a perfectly good bottle? Think of all the trees that trashed newspaper wastes. Think of all the landfill space that could be saved if we just started reusing much of what we throw away.
« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
6
 
7
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
 
Dallas Concert Tickets
Loading...