CDRA Member Spotlight: Rockwood Recycling

Rockwood Recycling in Lebanon, TN

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

Rockwood Sustainable Solutions recycles a variety of C&D materials; however, the largest material that we process in house is wood.  Rockwood has been recycling wood since 2015 and processes a little over 25,000 tons of wood annually.
Additionally, Rockwood processed about 20,000 tons of concrete, 6,500 tons of metal, 3,000 tons of OCC, and about 1,500 tons of drywall for a total of approximately 56,000 tons of materials, in 2022.  


How did you get started in the business?

In 2014, I was in the roofing business. During that time, there were two (2) large hailstorms that hit the Nashville market. We saw two (2) companies come in and collect massive piles of shingles during these events then they left town, leaving the property owners with a mess. I was in the roofing business and at that time was struggling with disposal locations.

I began to research the industry and realized there was an opportunity in shingle recycling in our market if we did the right thing and developed the business with integrity.  In 2014, I partnered with a paving contractor in Middle Tennessee and we started Ground Up Recycling. Within a few years, we had three (3) locations servicing nine (9) asphalt plants and recycling about 30,000 tons of asphalt shingles annually.

In 2017, we founded Rockwood Recycling, Rockwood was formed to collect and process wood as a feedstock for a gasification plant purchased by our local municipality. As Rockwood grew, we eventually began to take in all types of C&D materials and continue to grow today. There have been many changes over the years, but the same core values remain; conduct business with honesty and integrity, service the customer in a timely manner, and communicate clearly to all stakeholders.   


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

C&D recycling is in its infancy stage in the south. All the end markets revolving around C&D in Tennessee were created by Rockwood. This is a good thing but also a bad thing. We have spent a huge amount of time and money doing research, changing specifications, training, teaching, communicating, and growing end markets in the state. I love the challenge but creating markets from the ground up on every end product does limit the speed of growth.


Where are the biggest opportunities?

I believe that our biggest opportunity in C&D is going to be how we creatively handle waste materials. There tends to be a push in any market to standardize the approach to waste material management. Although process systems are important, no two construction jobs are the same. For us, I love being creative on a per-project basis regarding how the materials are handled. It fuels creativity, business growth, and the entrepreneurial spirit in our team and our customers. I absolutely love to work on a project, develop a plan, and then see that plan executed. Many large companies don’t have the flexibility to be creative, I think ultimately the flexibility to do so leads to an opportunity in the market. 


How long have you been a member of CDRA?

We joined CDRA in 2016.

What inspired you to join CDRA?

When we first got started in shingle recycling, I picked up the phone and called Jason Haus with Dem-con. Jason did not know me, nor did I offer any potential business to him, yet he took the time to invite me to his facility, talk to me about shingle recycling, show me his processing equipment, and guide our company through some start-up issues. His willingness to share ideas and processes was a huge blessing for our company. He recommended CDRA and so we joined.  What we found was a network of men and women that seemed to all carry the same idea….working together to develop strong businesses, strong relationships, and strong teams to make a difference in the handling, processing, and recycling of construction materials. CDRA is an organization I am proud to be apart of.  

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

I think there are two (2) things:
People:  My biggest driver is my team and the families represented by our staff.  The kids that are cared for and provided for by the jobs that we work to create every day. The men and women that choose to work for Rockwood over other companies each day. These folks are the heartbeat of Rockwood, and I am so blessed to be able to have a great team and staff. It is quite humbling at times to see how our staff work every day to make Rockwood a great company. 
Growth and Development:  I think I am addicted to starting new things.  Sometimes my staff wants to kill me, but I just love seeing something work.  Right now, I am working really hard on drywall recycling. This requires research, trials, processing, education, and policy change to implement. It isn’t easy, but I love this part. I love being able to drive just about every road in Middle Tennessee and know my shingles are under the tires and that our mulch is in the landscape, and that our concrete is on that driveway. That part is so fun to me. 


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

I wouldn’t be writing answers to this question or running a company if it were not for the grace of God and the people that he has put in my life along the way. Not to go too heavy on you here but I started our company in 2014, in 2015, my wife and I had twin boys, and the same year I was diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer that required very aggressive treatment. I thank God that we are where we are today, but that was challenging. A lot of people had to step up and help run a new company with me when I couldn’t do it all. Regardless of what it was, health, pandemic, tornado that came through the area, whatever, there has always been a group of people that have rallied around me and our company to bless us in some way or the other. I couldn’t thank these people enough.

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


Ha, well growing up my family and I were big into 4-H and horses. In high school, I competed across the country in horse judging. This is where you watch horses and riders compete, judge their performance, then you must give a speech to a panel of expert judges on why you placed the class the way you did. Our team won the world championship in this, so it is safe to say, I majored in the minor sports.  Ha Ha.  

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

I think we are seeing a stronger push for sustainable material management across all business sectors. I think landfills will always be needed but recycling and diversion will be commonplace as a first step over just going to landfill. I also see a big push in reporting data, with transparency and integrity. I think this is a good change, but I am starting to have more and more customers needing data immediately, at their fingertips. I think the data we provide and the way we provide it to our customers will continue to be a leading factor in closing and keeping jobs.  The other thing that I hope we see soon is a more comprehensive approach to recycling plastics. I am excited to see some of the things coming out of Eastman, in East Tennessee, and hope someone is able to create some huge success with plastics, I’ve got plenty of the stuff I would love to send your way.

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

My advice would be this:
-       Ask questions:  Get involved with CDRA, your local recycling coalition, and ask questions to your state departments. Get all the information, processes, costs, and challenges out on paper. Understand what could go right and what could go wrong and start right. Don’t be shady, get a permit, get the right zoning, if you start on the right foot you will have a firm step for your left, starting up without a plan and process is not the way to go.
-       Start with one thing: Find one thing or one product or one material and start there.  Become the expert in your market on your one thing, let that one thing grow your business organically but start small and be the expert. 
-       Take your expertise in your one thing and have something you control. I am not advocating to be a control freak but what I am advocating is diversifying your business by controlling at least one of your own markets so that you are feeding yourself materials through your collections. Example: Collect shingles to feed your business's asphalt plants. Collect wood to feed your boiler or gasifier.  Collect concrete to feed your excavation company. Controlling at least one aspect of your end markets allows you to have flexibility and diversity when the markets change.  

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

Learn from others. Call people. Email people. Ask them questions, watch what they do, and listen. You don’t always have to be the smartest person in a conversation, many dollars can be saved when you listen to the lessons of others.  


Would you like to have your company featured in a spotlight like this? Contact CDRA Executive Director Becky Caldwell at [email protected]

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