A family owned company, Big’s Sanitation is growing in leaps and bounds, continuing to take advantage of opportunities to expand and is proud to keep America rolling.

Joe Jr. and Joe Sr. meeting with Curt Coccodrilli, Director of the USDA Rural Development Office and Michelle Christian, a Regional Administrator for the Small Business Association.

Located 20 miles from Pittsburgh, in Rostraver, one of Pennsylvania’s most scenic and fastest growing townships, is Big’s Sanitation, a hauler that is growing by leaps and bounds. A family-owned and operated company since its inception in 1999, Joseph Eori, Sr. started working on the back of a garbage truck at 14, later moving to sales and then to General Manager. When the company that he worked for sold their business to a larger one, Eori asked the owners for advice. “The owner said, ‘You did it for us, you can do it on your own’ and that is when I bought my first garbage truck back in the early 1990s for $3,500 and went into business. I sold that company in 1998 and in 1999, I started Big’s Sanitation, bought some trucks and started to grow again. Today, we are currently running 68 trucks with 96 employees,” says Eori.

Even now, Big’s Sanitation is continuing to expand, getting anywhere from 10 to 12 new stops per day and buying tractor trailers of containers weekly. In Pittsburgh, they have a truck working six days per week for commercial pickup, while they also collect residential trash and co-mingled recycling (all types, except glass) in surrounding areas, including Whitaker, Braddock and others. They also deal with bulky waste—customers can set out two to three bulk items per week for collection. In addition, customers can set out electronics on the curb and Big’s Sanitation will have them picked up and sent to a recycling center. “We are growing daily. Our customers want to deal with a smaller hauler. We just bought some new equipment. My son Joe Jr. is in the business with me, having been around garbage trucks since he was 13 years old, and he loves it.”

Big’s Sanitation presently serves 21 municipalities, with more than 35,000 customers on the residential side and over 4,000 commercial customers spanning four different counties. They even started serving a new municipality, Whitaker, at the beginning of this year. “We are keeping everything rolling,” says Eori. “We recently hosted the Small Business Administration here sent by President Trump to talk about small businesses and their success. They visited our trucks, put us in the local newspaper, and asked us about our growth. We are growing at a rapid pace in a distressed area and they could not believe how we have expanded.” Eori says that the company even serves many of their original customers he had with his first company. “Everyone wants the family owned business and we give them the old-fashioned service that they are looking for. We cater to our customers. At Big’s Sanitation, you are not just a number and you will never ever get a recorder; someone answers the phone at all times during office hours.”

Facing Challenges Head On
Fortunately, Big’s Sanitation has not seen a lull in recycling in their areas, using the same recycling plants in Pittsburgh and Hazelwood that are family owned and that accept all of their recycling material collected. “We haven’t had a hiccup yet or had to raise prices, so we can keep everyone’s bills affordable. If the recycling issues affect us in the future, we will address it then,” says Eori.

He comments that their biggest challenges have been in hiring quality employees. While, there are driving and throwing jobs available, sometimes prospective employees just do not complete the hiring process. However, he does point out that he has a great office staff, some who have been with Big’s since the beginning. One of which is General Manager Kim Bitonti, who was a previous owner of her own trucking/refuse removal company. Her tireless efforts continue to support Big’s growth and profitability.

Big’s has also had a mix of mechanic, driver and thrower hires that have come from larger franchises as well. “They see what it is like to work for a family owned company and they love it here. We do keep going down the hiring line, and eventually we do come across some gems. We do not discriminate on age; we have an employee here that is 62 and can run rings around the young guys. In order to keep everything running smoothly, we also step up when needed—myself, my son Joe and our Operation Manager, Harry Wilson will work garbage collection, so the garbage never stays out overnight at our municipalities.”

As Big’s Sanitation continues to hire laborers and drivers, they place ads in the local newspapers, on social media, in the job career links and rely on word of mouth as well, telling council members in areas they service that they are hiring and to spread the word. A big believer in second chances, the company also hires veterans and goes into halfway houses looking for potential employees. Says Eori, “Every day we are hiring and growing. Some employees have been with us since the beginning. Everyone calls me Big Joe and my son is Little Joe. If an employee wants to see one of us, all they have to do is ask and we make time for them. The same goes for our customers.”

Hands-On Experience
When it comes to the company’s training practices, Eori makes sure that it is a very thorough process. If the new hire is a driver who is interested in getting their CDL, they will help them and work with them to get through the process, including riding with them and ensuring that they know how to maintain the equipment. If they already have their CDL, they will still be trained for at least three to four weeks since driving a garbage truck is completely different than driving a school bus, tractor trailer or dump truck. New potential drivers will learn the truck from the back to front. They will be on the back of the truck for six months and when they receive their CDL, they learn the front, riding with an experienced driver and then a little on their own. A fully hands-on experience, it takes about a year to go through the whole process.

For maintenance, everyone does a pre-trip inspection checking the tires, steps, cables, etc. After the truck is brought back in from a route, the mechanics go over the entire truck front to back, checking the tires, lights and if there are any other issues. They also fill out a post-trip checklist every single night to ensure everything was done. “Many of the mechanics that we have now used to work at other garbage companies, and they are used to fixing a certain make/model of a truck that others don’t have, so we’ll see what they know and go over everything.”

Big’s Sanitation holds weekly safety meetings, reiterating points like where to put a container, wearing the proper attire (vests, hardhats, gloves and boots where necessary, etc.), safety procedures, as well as any other concerns that may be necessary. “These meetings involve myself, my son and the Operations Manager. Every meeting is different; we go over everything that has happened since the last one. If someone accidentally bumped a car, we tell them to be careful, we go over blind spots, school closings, delays, weather, cell phone use, etc. We are repetitive with these issues because it gives the guys time to process and do the job right.”

Right: Big’s Trucking roll-off truck driven by a U.S. Army Veteran with a mural of the soldiers and camouflage wrap.
Bottom: Big’s Sanitation front load trucks staged before a parade.

Giving Back
Not only is everyone at Big’s Sanitation animal lovers with Eori donating to local animal shelters, they are also known for their pink carts, helping to support Breast Cancer. “We recently took over a municipality and delivered 600 pink carts. Both my mother and my grandmother had breast cancer, so it is important to me to bring awareness to this issue by supporting it wholeheartedly,” stresses Eori. “We have been doing this for years. Instead of selling stickers, customers buy our container and part of that goes towards breast cancer research. If you want a pink can, you come to us.” Big Sanitation has also supported their community by participating in Veteran’s Day parades. “One of our best employees is an Army veteran and 100 percent military, so we wrapped a truck for him with a mural of soldiers in combat and a camouflage background, which only he drives on his routes and in parades. In turn, he washes and maintains it every day,” says Eori.

Big’s Trucking roll-off truck with a 30-yard dumpster on the rails.
Left: The Pink Cart used by Big’s Sanitation customers. Proceeds contribute to the American Cancer Society to raise breast cancer awareness.

Big’s Sanitation has also visited local community colleges, elementary schools and junior/senior high schools where they have done seminars about separation and recycling properly. With at least 10 school districts in their area, company employees have gone to local elementary and junior-senior high schools to talk to students about proper disposal and recycling procedures. “They ask and we are there,” says Eori. “We love it when people know how to recycle the correct way because it brings refuse tonnage down and that is less that we have to pay going into the landfill, so we always want to promote it.”

Non-Stop Growth
Currently looking to expand, Big’s Sanitation is growing exponentially and has a goal of increasing their facility space to a six-bay garage with offices. “We were looking at a couple of places but haven’t found anything yet,” says Eori. “However, the SBA called us and said they would lend us what we needed.”

As contracts come up for bid, Eori always makes sure that the company is there to place one, especially when it comes to municipalities. In fact, a large municipality they started servicing in January was previously an exclusive area to the residential service provider, just changed over to an open market for commercial service. This created an opportunity for the small haulers to compete with the large franchises. Eori and Big Sanitation’s very first salesperson have been knocking on every door to get customers and right now they have about 70 to 80 stops under their belt. Says Eori, “We are currently buying three to four trucks per year and are going full force ahead, growing as big as we can get. Each day is something new and each day is a new customer. However, the main thing I am proud of is my son. I have never seen a young kid work like he does. I love that we are family owned and that is what keeps America rolling. Garbage is my life, and my life is garbage.” | WA

For more information, call (724) 379-4331 or e-mail [email protected].