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UI Grad Bases Waste-Reduction Company Here

Brian Morelli

Iowa City Press-Citizen

March 22, 2006

[Note: This material is copyright by the Press-Citizen, and is reproduced here as a matter of "fair use" for non-commercial, educational purposes only. Any other use may require the prior approval of the Iowa City Press-Citizen.]

Recycling and reducing waste is not only environmentally friendly, it can also save money -- and that is what keeps Heartland Waste Solutions in business.

Founded by a University of Iowa graduate, the Iowa City-based company serves as a consultant for about 100 business locations in Iowa and across the country, observing a company's waste disposal practices then recommending and monitoring plans to reduce costs.

"My objective is to find the most efficient and least costly way for my clients to dispose of waste that they produce," Eric Aitchison, company founder and president, said. "A desired byproduct of that is to increase recycling and to try to get that waste material out of the landfill. But it does have to make financial sense for my clients."

Heartland's clients range from one-location operations to Fortune 500s with hundreds of stores. If a company is spending more than $1,500 a month on waste, Aitchison said, Heartland can likely help, with typical savings of 20 to 30 percent.

There are several areas where a company might be overspending. Eighty percent of his clients overpay for their waste removal service, Aitchison said, so he helps negotiate fair contracts. Heartland analyzes the types of equipment used, recycling opportunities and finds those with a use for the waste.

"The person who can use your waste material may be three states away," Aitchison said. "I have this network of options because I am in the industry. Someone who is busy in their business doesn't have a way to connect to these people. They don't always have the time or expertise to find savings."

Aitchison, originally from Davenport, could have left Iowa City as many UI graduates do, after receiving his master's degree in environmental engineering in 1998. He said he could have based his business, which he started in 2004, anywhere and had job offers upon graduating. However, he decided to remain in Iowa.

"I just flat out love Iowa City. I enjoy traveling for work, but I can't think of anywhere I'd rather live than Iowa City," Aitchison said.

Joe Raso, president of the Iowa City Area Development Group, works to encourage businesses and employees, particularly in science and engineering, to remain in or relocate to the North Corridor.

His efforts are to communicate opportunities, such as entrepreneurial programs, business incubators and networking, that are available in the North Corridor.

"What we hear more often than not is that (graduates) want to come back to the area, but they need the right job or entrepreneurial opportunities to help them get back here," Raso said.

Aitchison's business serves a variety of business models nationwide, such as retail, hotels, manufacturing and restaurants. Among its clients are locations of Goodwill Industries and Panera Bread.

Bill Block, a communications director for Bandag Inc., a tire management company based in Muscatine with more than a dozen locations globally, said Heartland has been analyzing his company and recently presented a proposal, which it is still reviewing.

"Managing the cost of dealing with waste at Bandag is a never-ending task and one we work at diligently," Block said. "It would be in Bandag's best interest to consider any and all ideas for reducing waste impact on the environment, as well as minimizing costs associated with that waste. That is why Bandag has taken the time and given (Heartland) access to our operations."