Journal of Business Features Sunshine Disposal & Recycling

Article by Kevin Blocker

Spokane Valley-based Sunshine Disposal & Recycling has more than doubled its workforce in just a little more than a decade as the company continues to expand services across the Inland Northwest, says company president Marc Torre.

Sunshine had 45 employees in 2004 and now has just over 100. An increase in business by securing key contracts across the region and acquisition of roughly a half-dozen smaller companies over time have helped spur Sunshine’s growth, Torre says.

He says the company anticipates adding more staff this year.

Sunshine is two years into a 10-year contract to provide disposal and recycling services for the city of Spokane Valley, and also is two years into a decade-long deal with the city of Liberty Lake to provide disposal and recycling services there, Torre says.

The company is headquartered at 920 N. Argonne and operates a 32,000-square foot transfer station and a 12,000-square foot recycling center on almost 4 acres of land at 2405 N. University. Facility hours are 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

In addition to its municipal contracts, Torre estimates Sunshine provides services to 35,000 to 40,000 customers who self-haul waste and recyclables to the Spokane Valley facility, in addition to offering curbside collection at residences, businesses, and local school districts, he says.

Sunshine Disposal also operates a Stevens County-owned transfer station in Loon Lake, as well as that county’s recycling center in Colville.

Says the company’s website, “We offer full business recycling and composting services in the city of Spokane, Spokane Valley, and most of Spokane County.”

Sunshine is the largest privately held disposal and recycling business in the Spokane area, and the second largest overall behind Waste Management Inc., which is a publicly traded company, Torre says.

“We make sure we work hard every day to evolve with the industry,” he says.

Torre declines to reveal the company’s annual revenues.

Sunshine Disposal & Recycling today is being run by a fourth generation of Torre family members. Marc’s sister, Adrienne Torre, is the company’s human resources manager.

Torre says his great-grandfather, Louis Torre, would be amazed at where the company he founded in 1920 in Seattle sits today.

“He was an Italian immigrant straight from Ellis Island. It was very common for the garbage industry at that time to fall to Italian immigrants,” Torre says.

The Torre family moved to Spokane in 1986 after setting up the Sunshine facility in 1983.

“Our business in Seattle was well established, but the Spokane division needed more focus, so my dad, Michael, relocated our family here,” Torre says. The family shut down the Seattle operation in 2000.

Though most of Sunshine’s efforts are still related to garbage disposal, Torre says the company has made a concerted effort to increase its recycling business. And a large part of that effort has been through securing contracts with most of the local school districts in Spokane County.

“We provide service to most of our area districts. We have a dedicated employee in place working with the schools,” Torre says.

“The best way to increase recycling in any community is by reaching the young people and giving them the good recycling habits at a young age. As a company, we’re very cognizant about capturing renewable resources,” he says.

Sunshine secured contracts for disposal and recycling services for both the Spokane and Mead school districts in recent years.

Ned Wendle, Mead’s director of facilities and planning, gave strong praise to Sunshine in its recycling efforts throughout the district. As recently as five years ago, the Mead School District only recycled cardboard, he says.

“It’s a building-to-building effort, which is something that is very challenging,” Wendle says. “We do recycle and we encourage the buildings to recycle. But Sunshine has been able to help us improve that effort.”

Tim Wood, maintenance and operations director for Spokane Public Schools, says that with 34 elementary schools, six middle schools, six high schools, and several other special schools, the job of recycling and waste disposal is a challenging task.

Wood says the school district chose Sunshine over the city of Spokane and Waste Management when it submitted a request for proposals in 2013 for disposal and recycling services. Spokane schools entered into a five-year contract with Sunshine after it submitted the lowest bid.

Sunshine’s bid amounted to just under $50,000 a month for services while the other two bids were $61,000 and $58,000, Spokane School District records show.

Wood says the school district is aggressive in its recycling efforts. “The more you recycle, the less you pay for garbage disposal and help the environment,” he says.

At its Spokane Valley facility, Sunshine has a baler to compress loose cardboard into piles for easier shipping and recycling.

Dustin Bender, Sunshine’s general manager, says the company collects “green” yard waste for composting, handles household hazardous waste, and takes free recyclable drop-offs from the general public.

Bender says he’s been a Sunshine employee for 16 years. He now runs the facility that Torre says he first started working in as a teen.

Despite the company’s recent growth, Bender says it continues to have an intimate feel to it.

“We offer a good place to come to work. And being family owned, it still has that family atmosphere. I think we do our best to try to offer that for the communities we serve,” Bender says. “We offer our time for events and many different causes.”

Torre says his family remains proud of what previous generations of the family have built.

“It’s not easy to successfully transition a business down through four generations,” he says. “I have two kids, sons, and I feel obligated to give the fifth generation an opportunity similar to the one I was given.”