Through a nationwide network of independent haulers and reverse-recycling carriers linked through an app-based platform, CheckSammy brings long-overdue change to an outdated waste-management and recycling industry.
Increasingly in waste management, it pays to think outside of the box. Most companies have the basics ticked off when it comes to recycling or recovering value from common-use materials; but the bulkier, fiddlier or more unique the item, the harder it is to find a responsible, value-led solution. That’s where Canada-based bespoke sustainability operator CheckSammy comes in.
CheckSammy’s unusual name is inspired by company co-founder Sam Scoten. During a family vacation in Hawaii, Scoten saw the high volume of waste generated by tourists — items such as pool toys and toiletries, that potentially could be reused. He hit on the idea of offering a customised service whereby companies could ‘check with Sam’ to see if such items could be dealt with in a more sustainable manner.
Over the past five years, the company has been working with a diverse customer base — ranging from hospitality and healthcare through retail to property management — to find new ways to deal with the ‘hidden’ waste streams these industries generate. According to CheckSammy’s chief sustainability officer, Cameron Funk, these streams usually manifest themselves as complex waste issues or emergencies.
“This could include defective merchandise or returns in a back room that sit until a new seasonal delivery arrives, requiring that space. Or it could be a hotel chain that decides to replace all of their mattresses. Consumers don’t see these missed opportunities, and the companies don’t know where to turn to address them,” he tells Sustainable Brands®.
To date, CheckSammy has completed more than 40,000 jobs and diverted over 60 million pounds of material — including 28M pounds of textiles — from landfill since its founding in 2018. Its success lies in its ability to leverage a nationwide network of independent haulers and reverse-recycling carriers through an app-based platform, which can also provide a wealth of smart data and reporting for customers, enabling them to share key outcomes with stakeholders.
“We connect independent haulers to businesses with complex challenges or unanticipated volumes within the same day, where a regular carrier may not be logistically able to service the need. We’re considered a partner and supplement to national waste haulers. Whether that’s finding a better outcome for 55,000 mannequins or six truckloads of defective security tags, our expertise will identify as many ways as possible to divert and reuse or recycle materials,” Funk says.
Recently, the company launched its Drop program to offer a more simplified, flexible solution for textile waste. Under the scheme, CheckSammy supplies ‘Drop’ bags and bins to clothing retailers and manufacturers — enabling them to schedule either one-off or recurring pick-ups. The bags and bins can be installed onsite with customers who require a regular service or brought in for a one-time need.
“We’ve spent the past four years supporting retailers across North America through the growing issue of textile recycling to help alleviate illegal dumping and save our landfills. However, we continue to hear large retailers today ask what, if any, solutions exist when they’re juggling extra inventory they cannot sell or throw away,” Scoten says.
Examples of such inventory may be mannequins, which can be recycled; or clothing such as denim that can be upcycled into teddy bears for non-profit organizations. Funk says textiles are at the forefront of reusable materials that too often end up in landfill, and sees the Drop service as a means of helping brands meet expectations — and increasingly obligations — around producer responsibility. Last November, Massachusetts introduced a waste disposal ban for textiles and mattresses, and California is proposing similar measures with its Responsible Textile Recovery Act.
“We think regulations targeting textile end-of-life will be directed specifically towards manufacturers and retailers. However, we also believe these regulations will extend to residential textile disposal — particularly within multi-family communities. We hope that manufacturers and retailers will develop opportunities to encourage takeback programs, or textile drive events, and CheckSammy can play a central role in those efforts,” Funk says.
Drop also claims to offer a host of other customer benefits including savings in waste-management costs, as the net weight to landfill is reduced; and the potential for revenue generation, as many of the materials handled have a commodity value that is passed directly back to the client. Going forward, Funk sees a lot of growth opportunity to replicate the model into different markets and applications.
“The material itself is secondary to the Drop process. Any material that can be recycled, repurposed or reused is suitable for Drop. Our process creates the opportunity for these materials to be separated from landfill-bound waste streams and handled independently,” Funk adds. “We send this waste where it makes sense, based on the material and location.”
CheckSammy prides itself on its extensive service offering, which is designed to fill in the gaps of the traditional waste-removal industry. Besides data and analytics reporting, the company provides ESG (environmental, social and governance) programs and a carbon-offset marketplace. All aim to help companies advance their sustainability strategies.
“Sustainability strategies must be both financially and environmentally sustainable. We’ve heard from many chief sustainability officers that they know what they’re trying to achieve, they just don’t know how to start achieving it, or that their existing team is unable to tackle their problems alone,” says Funk.
“We take an approach that looks to minimize costs while also maximizing value created. That value can be in the form of commodity sales of metal, plastic and textiles, or via carbon credit generation.”
It’s an approach that certainly appears to be paying off. “We may start a client relationship through our bulk waste-removal or emergency jobs; but when our clients begin to understand how we can regularly support their unique needs, we often shift to working with them on holistic sustainability solutions,” Funk says. “The main challenge is informing people that this unseen, everyday waste can be diverted towards more sustainable outcomes. People are not aware that there are cost-effective alternatives to the landfill — part of our mission is generating awareness of these alternatives.”