October 21, 2016 | last updated October 21, 2016 4:20 pm
2016 Connecticut Family Business Awards: 1st Place Winner

Innovation key to Paine’s trash-hauling evolution

PHOTO | Contributed
PHOTO | Contributed
President Mike Paine Sr. with Vice President Julie Paine-Miller.
PHOTO | Contributed
Company founders Albert and Mary Paine.
PHOTO | Contributed
One of Paine’s first garbage trucks.
PHOTO | Contributed
A Paine’s employee riding in a modern-day trash hauler.
PHOTO | Contributed
The dog’s name is Duke and he is the company’s “resident morale officer.”

Paine's Incorporated

Headquarters: East Granby

Industry: Recycling and rubbish removal

Year Founded: 1929

Founder: Albert and Mary Paine

Generation Currently Running Company: Third and fourth

No. of Full-Time Employees: 69

No. of Part-Time Employees: 5

Family Members Currently Employed at Company: Mike Paine Sr., President, husband of Jean; Jean Paine, Financial Assistant, wife of Mike; Mike Paine Jr., son of Mike and Jean; Molly Paine, Customer Service Commercial Representative, sister-in-law of Mike and Jean, mother of Julie; Julie Paine-Miller, Vice President, daughter of Molly, niece of Mike and Jean; Sean Crombez, IT Administrator, brother-in-law of Mike, Jean and Molly, uncle to Mike Jr. and Julie

Company Website: www.painesinc.com

Mike Paine's family trash business has always been ahead of its time. Looking for ways to be frugal at the start of the Great Depression, Paine's grandfather Albert, a farmer, came up with an idea to collect garbage from two private schools.

In those days — before processed and pre-packaged groceries — food scraps made up most of the trash, so he brought the waste back to the family farm in Simsbury and fed it to the pigs.

Call it the ancestor of curbside recycling.

"The business has almost come full circle," said Mike Paine, president of Paine's Recycling and Rubbish Removal in East Granby. "Now we're starting to talk about organics recycling, which is really what we were doing back then."

Decades later, Paine's, founded in 1929, would become the first trash company in New England to do automated collection and curbside recycling — practices that are now staples of the business.

That track record of forward thinking helped land Paine a spot this year in the National Waste and Recycling Association's Hall of Fame. It was a highlight of a career that began when he was a teenager accompanying his dad on his dual route: collecting garbage and delivering eggs to homes around Simsbury.

"I can remember going into people's kitchens and their refrigerators and looking to see how many eggs they had and filling the empty spots," said Paine.

Over the years, the garbage route grew by word of mouth from the two schools to much of Simsbury, eventually surpassing the farm as the family's main money maker. In the mid-1970s, to keep up with the expansion, the family moved the business to the center of town, and in 1986, to its current location in East Granby.

"When we moved up here we had 11 trucks and we had so much space it was crazy," Paine recalled, explaining his father, who was running the business at that time, wanted ample room for future growth. Today, with 55 trucks and nearly four times the staff, the company serves more than 40 towns in Hartford and Litchfield counties and parts of Massachusetts.

Paine's has long been a pioneer in the industry. During the economic boom of the late 1980s — when new hires in the trash business were hard to come by — Paine's became the first in New England to introduce automated trash collection, partly as a way to keep good employees working. The new trucks emptied trash barrels using a mechanical arm maneuvered with a joystick.

"You were no longer limited by how long your body could lift a metal barrel and dump it in the back of a truck," said Julie Paine-Miller, Mike's niece and expected successor. "As long as you could move your hand and use your feet and steer, you were good to go."

Soon after, the company started curbside recycling — before the state made it mandatory — and transferred displaced workers from the old two-person trucks to the recycling operation. It's become a major focus of the business.

"We started with 14-to-18-gallon bins and now we use 95-gallon carts," Paine said. "Some are actually going to smaller trash barrels because they are generating so much less waste and recycling so much more."

When it comes to the environment, Paine's walks the walk. The company is in the process of converting its fleet from diesel to compressed natural gas, a greener, although costlier alternative. "It's not necessarily dollar conscious for us but it's the right thing to do," he said.

Paine said good customers and good employees have been key to the company's staying power, and the company strives to treat both like family. He said recently a customer came in to pay a bill and his car broke down in the parking lot.

"We offered to get him going but he already called AAA," Paine recalled. He said the customer seemed surprised that employees would go out of their way to assist. "I said, 'Why wouldn't we? We want to help you out.' "

To be a Paine's employee, added Paine-Miller, "you've got to have a good heart and want to do good things for people."

In turn, she said, the company does the same for employees, some of whom have known her since she was in diapers. In September, the company sponsored a river cruise in Hartford to give workers and their families a chance to socialize outside of work.

"The more you get to know one another, the more it really is like family," she said.

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