Operations Manager
Independent Recycling Services (Chicago, IL)


How long have you been in the industry?: Five years full time. I started out working at Independent Recycling Services during the summer months while I was working my way through high school and college, so technically since I was a freshman in high school 12 years ago.

How did you get involved? What was your first job?: My grandfather, Frank Ward, Sr., founded Independent Recycling Services in 1976. Since then, the second and now the third generation has taken over. My first job here was fixing and painting containers and also riding with drivers as a summer helper.

Who/What was your biggest influence?: My biggest influence was definitely my grandfather, Frank Ward, Sr. He instilled the work ethic, determination and dedication to the business in all of us and we try our best to hold true to those values every day. Since his passing in 2014, my father, mother and uncles have been a big influence with regards to where I am today.

1st Responder #4What has been your most unique/interesting experience over the years?: I drove a rear-load truck in the city for about a year and a half when I started full time out of college to get the hands on experience. You definitely see some crazy things in downtown Chicago between the hours of midnight and 6am. The majority of the stories are not PG-rated, but I will share one about a lady that threw her keys into the trash can by accident. It was about 5am and I was in an alley emptying containers into the back of the truck. I see a lady out of the corner of my eye running down the alley towards me with a very concerned look on her face. Without saying a word, she jumps into the back of the truck and starts rifling through the garbage that was in the hopper. Mind you she is standing in about 4 inches of sloppy garbage water frantically throwing bags around. I ask her “ma’am, what on earth are you doing?” She looks at me and says, “My keys are in here and you ain’t leaving until I find them!” Realizing that it was not in my best interest to argue with her about it, I let her continue the search and a few minutes later she actually found the keys. Covered in only God knows what, she hops out, thanks me and walks back to her apartment as if nothing happened. Pretty crazy stuff. Must have been her only set.

What do you see as the biggest challenges to the industry today?: A big part of our business model is recycling, which has been a tough market for the past couple years. Some of the issues are:
• Commodity price is down on a global level
• Contamination issues and the increased costs of cleaning up the recyclable material to sell
• Low collection revenue tied to high processing costs
There have also definitely been a lot of challenges navigating through the COVID-19 craziness. Our business model has not changed much other than scaling back the operation due to lost/reduced business. Our main priority is keeping as many employees working as possible as they all have families they need to provide for. We have also provided all of our employees with the necessary personal protection equipment to stay as safe as possible throughout the day-to-day operation. We have a great team here and we are very thankful everyone has been safe and more than cooperative adjusting to the changes.

What do you like most about being in the industry/your job?: I really enjoy the family aspect of what we have at Independent Recycling Services. Although we sometimes have our differences, at the end of the day we are all one family/one team working together towards a common goal.

Hobbies: Anything outdoors: hunting, fishing, boating, sports, etc.

Last vacation: Barcelona, Spain for a wedding the weekend before the COVID-19 shut down.

Words to live by: “You have 3 things in life. Your pride, your name and your reputation. Don’t lose them.” –Frank Ward, Sr. | WA