When Tony Puggi opened for business approximately 60 years ago, recycling wasn’t part of the mainstream culture. He didn’t plan on opening a recycling business, but little did he know, he had picked out the perfect spot for one five decades in advance.
“I had no thoughts of owning a recycling business,” admitted Puggi, who along with wife Betty Joan, owns Puggi Class B Recycling. “It was virtually unheard of. At the time I went into business I just wanted to be out on my own. I guess in some way I was already recycling. My family farmed and we’d drive into Atlantic City to pick up garbage to feed the pigs. I decided I didn’t want to do that anymore, so I went into business for myself.”
Today, Puggi Class B Recycling produces a wide variety of materials from its location at 6150 Mill Road in Egg Harbor Township, NJ. Puggi has used the same location for varying purposes since 1947 when he opened a gravel pit on the site. The business is a family endeavor with the couple’s son Chuck, daughter Betty Ann and grandson Anthony all part of the business.
“We have quite a number of products,” Betty Joan commented. “Our primary product is mulch, including double- and triple-grind, dyed mulch and playground mulch. We also carry refined soil, screened topsoil, crushed concrete, recycled asphalt, used red brick and several types of sand and stone.”
“We’ve expanded our product list based on our customers’ wants,” Tony explained. “Many of them asked about stone products when they came in to buy other materials, so we started doing that. It’s become kind of a one-stop shop.”
Quality Service, People
That kind of commitment to quality service is what the Puggis have always strived for. Puggi started his business in 1946 when he sold his car and bought a used dump truck to haul material. A year later, he leased the gravel pit on the site where the recycling operation is now located.
In 1952, he went into the excavation business, opening A.J. Puggi Excavating with a small tractor and a front-end loader. He eventually bought two dozers and business began to increase. At that time, he and his two sons Fred and Gene Puggi were clearing lots, digging basements and building roads.
During the early days in the excavation business Puggi used the gravel pit for construction materials as well as a place to bury brush. In 1988, the pit was classified as a landfill, with a 10-year permit. When the permit expired, the Puggis turned the pit into a recycling center and opened Puggi Class B Recycling. At about the same time, they closed the doors on the excavation business.
“It was too much to do both the recycling and the excavation business,” Betty Joan said. “But because we had plenty of equipment the transition was quite smooth. We were able to use most of it as the recycling business began to grow, and it has grown quite a bit since we started in 1998.”
So much so that the Puggis have increased its staff size at the recycling facility to eight employees. Their son Chuck is a supervisor and handles sales for the company, while Betty Ann is a secretary. Anthony is an operator and does general work for the business. Other key employees include truck drivers/operators Bill Hofer and Raymond Heggan.
“When we first started the recycling there wasn’t much need for a big staff because we were just feeling our way around it,” Betty Joan explained. “But the business really took off and we had to increase our numbers. I really believe a big part of the success of our business is the people who work here. We’re all committed to making sure we put out a high-quality product we can be proud of.”
“We take the necessary steps to make sure our product is the best, and that’s what sets us apart from the other people who do what we do,” Chuck emphasized. “For example, others might run their topsoil through a three-quarter-in. screen, where we run it through a three-eighths-in. screen. It makes a better product. The same holds true for mulch. We go the extra mile to make sure that it’s the best blend of material possible.”
The staff at Puggi Class B Recycling are diligent about what materials come into the facility as well. The company never accepts materials that would go to a standard landfill and constantly works to keep the site clean.
“We can’t take materials that the state won’t allow in here,” Puggi said. “we’ve had people try to dump materials we can’t accept, but they don’t get very far. We have an obligation to make sure the facility is run aboveboard, so we continually look for ways to improve the site and our products. A state inspector came in recently with his boss, not to inspect the site, but to show his boss what a recycling facility is supposed to look like. That was a really good feeling for us because it showed we were doing things the right way.”
In order to maintain the facility and handle materials, the Puggis turn to quality machinery, including several pieces of Komatsu equipment. Puggi Class B Recycling recently purchased a new WA450-5 wheel loader and a PC400LC-6 excavator. The company also owns two other Komatsu wheel loaders, a WA95 and WA65, a PC220 excavator and a D65 dozer, purchased in 1986.
“We just replaced the tracks on the D65 not too long ago,” Puggi commented. “That’s normal maintenance for the hours we have on it. Other than that, we haven’t had to do much to it. Komatsu equipment stands up over the long haul. To be able to keep it this long says a lot about the quality of the machine. That’s a big reason why we’ve bought Komatsu equipment.”
Puggi Class B Recycling uses the wheel loaders for a variety of purposes, including loading materials. Equipped with a high-reach boom, the WA450-5, with 261 hp, is the right size for the company’s needs.
“It’s a very smooth machine,” Chuck said. “It’s got a lot of power, so we’re able to load quickly with it. When he first looked at it, dad said it was too big. But after he tried it out and saw how much power it had, he said, “This is the one we want.’ We’ve been very happy with Komatsu. It’s been very reliable.”
The company equips its Komatsu wheel loaders with quick-change couplers to make a smooth transition from one attachment to the next. “It just takes a few seconds to go from one to the other, which is a big benefit for us,” Chuck said. “We have to keep productivity up. We have to be able to adapt quickly to the different materials we’re bringing in, handling and sending back out. The quick couplers are a really big plus for our Komatsu equipment.”
The company turned to Komatsu financing when purchasing its equipment.
“The application process was easy,” Betty Joan said. “We were very pleased with how smoothly it went and how helpful the people at Binder were during the process.
“But we expect that from Binder,” she continued. “The people at Binder have been very good to us over the years. Whenever we’ve needed something, they’ve responded very quickly. They are very good about taking care of our needs.”
The Puggis work closely with Patrick Warren, Binder Machinery’s sales representative and Ed Hoffman, southern region product support manager, to meet their needs.
“Patrick and Ed have been super to work with,” Puggi acknowledged. “We can call them up any time and they will do whatever it takes to make sure we’re taken care of. That’s a nice feeling.”
Secure Future in Growing Industry
With recycling playing an increasingly important role in the construction industry, the Puggis believe Puggi Class B Recycling will continue to thrive. The couple has seen their business grow many times over in its seven-year history and they think more of the same is ahead.
“This industry is going to continue to grow,” Betty Joan predicted. “There’s tremendous push to recycle as much material as possible so that landfills don’t fill too quickly and space isn’t taken up by materials that can be reused elsewhere. So, we don’t see business slowing down. However, there is more competition, so we have to make sure we continue to put out the best product available. That’s what we’ve always tried to do and will continue to work toward.”
(This article appears courtesy of “Building With Binder” magazine.)