The Frontlines of COVID — A Discussion with Eco Tech Environmental

The COVID-19 pandemic has shaken up industries all across this country. Lots of businesses have shut down completely. One industry that has proven resilient to the challenge posed by the pandemic is trash.

The numbers show that waste has not increased or decreased during the pandemic, it is merely being deposited and collected in different places. And our nation’s haulers have risen to the challenge of operating in a pandemic. Many are not only surviving, but thriving.

In this interview series, we will be talking to the CEOs and owners of the country’s waste haulers about their companies, their communities, and how COVID-19 has affected them.

First up is Bobby Lee, owner of Eco Tech Environmental. Eco Tech is a family-owned business serving the greater Louisville, Kentucky area, including southeastern Indiana. Eco Tech offers roll-off, commercial, residential, and recycling services, and works on community projects extensively in their service area.

It has been my pleasure to know and work with Bobby over the years, and I am honored he could be the first to join us for this new article series.

Nate Morris: What has been your proudest moment as a leader of your company?

Bobby Lee: During Eco Tech Environmental’s 22 year span, many moments have occurred that we can be proud of, from being a pivotal player in the cleanup of Henryville, Indiana in 2012 to many of the major contracts we have been awarded and maintained throughout our history. Our proudest moment though is our employees and their families giving back to the local community through Eco Tech.

With the tornado cleanup that took place in 2012, we at Eco Tech pledged to donate 10,000 trees to the Louisville and Southern Indiana region to help those that were devastated by the tornado as well as increase the foliage throughout Louisville and all of its neighborhoods and small cities over a 10 year period. At this point, we have donated 7,000 trees and plan on donating the 10,000th tree in 2022.

Another big initiative we have procured is giving back to the special needs community. In 2018, we started a program where our employees could donate weekly from their checks, voluntarily, that would be matched by Eco Tech, and quarterly we would choose a special needs program to donate our proceeds to. We have given to the likes of Barren Heights and FEAT, and have bought 600 lunches for all of the employees at Clark Memorial Hospital in Southern Indiana during the stressful time of the Pandemic. We have also wrapped many of our trucks in the Autism Puzzle Pieces to raise awareness for autism and to help all those we can. Sierra Container has worked with Eco Tech to help us with this message by putting the Puzzle Pieces on all of our garbage cans and donating $1.00 for every garbage can we purchase from Sierra Container.

NM: How has COVID-19 impacted you personally?

BL: Personally, COVID-19 has brought about a change in my life and for Eco Tech, though this is not a bad thing. When the shutdown first occurred, my weekends became somewhat boring. I am always working on the weekends away from Eco Tech, be it cutting down trees to clearing land to working on side projects many others have asked me to do. COVID-19 slowed my side projects down considerably. This allowed me to spend much needed time with my wife and two kids and enjoy the finer things in life. Hiking, swimming, and relaxing became a normal part of my schedule, which was hard to get used to. My wife, Adrian, had a honey do list that I thought I could get knocked out, but as I completed one, two more were added.

Everyone struggled with the changes due to the pandemic, but I saw this as another challenge to overcome and always looked for the positives in a world that seemed to focus on the negatives during this time.

NM: Tell us one thing you are proud of in your community.

BL: When my son got diagnosed with autism on September 11th, 2018, it was a major moment in my life where I had to make decision on which path I wanted to follow. Though we knew early on that my son Trystan may have had a delayed development and we started therapies at an early age, to hear that your son is on the spectrum is still a hard thing to swallow. From that day on, I made it a point to help others that do not have the blessings I have when it comes to raising a special needs child. From being an elf at the Barren Heights Christmas Santa meet-and-greet to receiving the FEAT 2020 Autism Friendly Business of the Year award, I have been overcome with delight to be able to help many others and bring happiness to families that deal with the daily struggle of providing for special needs children.

NM: What is the greatest obstacle you have overcome as a business leader?

BL: Being a partner and owner in a major family business, obstacles come about personally and professionally that many others do not have to deal with. Managing the family aspect of a family owned business can be a struggle. Juggling time, trying to keep family and business separate, and just overall keeping the peace has always been in the face of our family as well as our employees. At Eco Tech, we have always been fortunate to put aside any family issue we have and to come together for the sake of our company. No matter the issue, we have always seen the greater good for Eco Tech and our 120 employees as the major concern and have always been able to move forward with any dilemmas that can come about when being a part of a family business.

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