Utah economy

Jason Utgaard is gaining momentum with his recycling career

Coming from a retail background, Jason Utgaard decided to forge his own path and moved to Sustainability Services about 7 years ago.

“My family owned and operated a national chain of 75 sporting goods stores,” he says. “I’ve worked in a variety of roles – from setting up new stores to helping manage the distribution center to analyzing data at head office – it was a global experience. “

Utgaard is the Managing Director of Momentum Recycling in Salt Lake City, Utah. Momentum was founded in 2008 with the mission of bringing communities towards zero waste. The company provides comprehensive recyclable collection services to over 1,000 organizations and over 10,000 residents along the Wasatch Front.

“Since the inception of Momentum Recycling, the company has processed hundreds of millions of pounds of recyclable material, transporting it from thousands of customer locations to responsible treatment facilities,” Utgaard said.

As the 2021 winner of Waste360 40 Under 40, Utgaard sat down with the publication to discuss their role at Momentum Recycling, their initiatives and their passion for sustainability.

Waste360: Describe your role as Managing Director of Momentum Recycling.

Jason Utgaard: I oversee Momentum Recycling’s commercial and residential recycling collection services. As a full service zero waste company, I manage our wide range of services related to food waste recycling, glass recycling, mixed recycling, hard to recycle collections as well as waste audit services. My role is to work with new and existing municipal partners, which largely relates to our monthly curbside glass recycling service for their residents as well as public drop-off points for glass recycling.

Waste360: How do you help communities move towards zero waste?

Jason Utgaard: I led the expansion of our curbside glass recycling service from a single city to over 17 cities, many of whose residents previously did not have access to glass recycling. I also had the idea of ​​painting murals on our public glass recycling dumpsters (pictured below – I can share others as well) to help spread awareness of these places and to show how recycling helps preserve Utah’s natural beauty.

Another area where I help to have a significant impact in the evolution of communities towards zero waste is the fight against food waste. Momentum Recycling is now Utah’s primary food waste transporter, in large part thanks to years of public outreach to business entities to educate them about the impact of food waste on the climate and its correlation with US dollars. state tourism.

Waste360: Tell me about your company’s glass recycling initiatives.

Jason Utgaard: Momentum Recycling operates Utah’s only glass recycling facility. We collect glass from our collection services and public drop-off points locally, as well as over 350 miles from neighboring states who collect it through their various municipal programs. Once processed, we send the glass to various local businesses who use it in their products, which in turn helps support Utah’s economy.

On the residential side, we offer a monthly curbside glass recycling collection for residents to choose from. In Salt Lake City in particular, 16% of households are now subscribed to the service, which will hopefully soon reach the tipping point where the city will consider an unsubscribe program for all residents. We also collect glass from over 60 public drop-off points along the Wasatch Front.

Commercially, many types of organizations subscribe to our glass recycling collection service, from bars and restaurants to apartment complexes. We serve incredibly difficult areas geographically given our mountains here, especially in ski resorts. Regardless of the customer, I am proud of our team to always find a way for them to recycle their glass. These customers are then included in our “Support Blue Businesses” directory on our website, which helps residents support not only local businesses, but also local businesses that also go the extra mile to be sustainable.

Waste360: What are your goals?

Jason Utgaard: One of my biggest goals for next year is to work with our local municipalities to review the establishment of an ordinance requiring (1) liquor licensees to recycle their glass and (2) grocery stores. and full-service restaurants to recycle their food waste. . I am fully aware that these ordinances on the surface seem entirely selfish in light of our affairs; However, with nearly a decade of experience performing waste audits and reading various city waste characterization studies, these two streams compromise around 60% of the waste stream of these business entities. If we want to achieve zero waste, this type of requirement must be put in place.

Another goal is to expand our residential food waste collection service. Even though many towns in our area offer a green waste service, it is primarily for yard waste – and many residents are unsure which compostable foods are accepted. I know we can divert a lot more food waste out of the residential sector than we currently are, and what’s exciting here is that residents really want a service that allows them to do that all the way through. year.

Longer term goals include developing a geographically extended network to provide more glass for our facility, as well as significantly expanding our existing outreach work to include a school curriculum that we could provide to local schools that include interactive presentations such as live virtual tours of the various recycling facilities in our region.

Waste360: What advice would you give to others working in the field of sustainability?

Jason Utgaard: My only advice is that it’s important that the work you do on sustainability is measurable. Avoid engaging with people who only get involved in the hype: work with people who roll up their sleeves and produce real results. You need to know your diversion or emission reduction goal up front and compare your performance to it when implementing your proposed solution.

Waste360: What professional achievement are you most proud of?

Jason Utgaard: I am very proud of my work on the municipal side working with many cities to help them change their existing municipal codes to allow them to adopt better recycling services. Much of the focus during these discussions is not so much on how to help Momentum Recycling deliver its services to residents, but on how to rewrite the code to allow a path for future collection services. selective that might become viable later than we can not predict at this point. time. By creating this framework, we hope to help other startups succeed in their zero waste efforts later.

Waste360: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

Jason Utgaard: In 5 years, I know without a doubt that I will still be working in sustainable development. I also think that after working closely with so many board members over the years, I will become more involved in the public service to some extent.

Waste360: What do you like to do in your spare time?

Jason Utgaard: Given our proximity to the mountains, I enjoy mountain biking and hiking in the summer as well as skiing and snowboarding in the winter. I also like to build furniture and interior decorations using reclaimed materials.

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Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion