CDRA Member Spotlight: Michael Gross

Michael Gross, Director of Sustainability at Green Waste in San Jose, CA

Michael Gross

What materials do you recycle? Can you describe the volume and types of incoming materials you process? 

Materials recycled: asphalt, concrete, wood, construction debris, demolition debris, mixed debris, drywall, brush, and soil.

  • In 2019, Zanker Recycling processed over 800k tons of C&D with a rate of 213 tons/hr.
  • In 2021, Zanker Recycling processed over 900k tons of C&D with a rate of 225 tons/hr.
  • In 2022, Zanker Recycling hopes to process over 1 million tons of material. 

How did you get started in the business?

My brother owned several small garbage collection companies in northern California. At the end of my junior year of high school, we bid together on a small US Forest Service garbage collection contract on Shasta Lake. I was the only employee the first year, but I steadily grew the business for three years until we had six trucks and took over the operation of the county landfill.

What are the biggest challenges in your market and C&D recycling?

Consistent finished product markets have been the main challenge in the last few years.  

Where are the biggest opportunities?

There are big opportunities in secondary recycled markets. Zanker has focused a lot of attention on this in the last few years and we plan on developing several new operations in the next few years. (So, Michael what are these secondary markets? Sorry, it’s still a secret…)

How long have you been a member of the CDRA?

Twenty-three years. I also joined the board at my first meeting. My friend John Armando who was on the board at the time brought me to C&D World. It was one of the best things he has ever done.

What inspired you to join the CDRA?

I was inspired to join the CDRA to be able to have discussions and cultivate relationships with others working in the C&D field. We can have conversations about innovative new technologies and legislation that affects our industry.

What do you find most rewarding about working in this industry?

The good choices of wine at the board dinners, working with a diverse range of dedicated people, and the lifelong relationships that are fostered.

What challenges have you faced over the years and how have you overcome them?

Liars and cheaters in the industry have been a challenge. It seems like every industry has these types of problems, but I believe that the C&D industry must have received someone else’s allocation too. Having RCI-certified diversion rates have helped with this issue but getting jurisdictions to embrace them has been challenging.

What’s something about you (a fun fact) that not many people know?

I create a bucket list every year of new things to try. One of last year’s items was eating 26 unique cuisines, all starting with a different letter of the alphabet, all in alphabetical order.

How do you think the industry is changing and what trends do you see coming up on the horizon? 

New technology, especially robotics, data tracking, and accountability are changing the industry.  

What advice would you give to someone interested in this industry?

Choosing a career in recycling will be relevant for years to come; it’s robot-proof. My career as a C&D recycler has always stretched me beyond my own strengths as a leader, which is something you want in a career because opportunities in this industry require patience and innovation, both of which are traits you need to play the long game. My short-term advice: Do not worry about titles or recognition. That will come with time. Short-term decisions do not yield long-lasting results in the industry.

Best piece of business advice you’ve gotten or learned over the years?

How about two things? Fostering long-term relationships is everything and never burn a bridge, and Bill Turley is smarter than he looks!


Would you like to have your company featured in a spotlight like this? Contact William Turley at [email protected] or 630-258-9047. 

Share this post:

Comments on "CDRA Member Spotlight: Michael Gross"

Comments 0-10 of 0

Please login to comment