Jimmy Contreras has started three waste-hauling companies. His most recent is called RJ Waste Recovery, which he co-founded with his wife, Ruth. Based in Charlotte, North Carolina, Contreras hopes the startup will help businesses cut their costs and recycle more.
"It's called an addiction—once you get garbage in your blood," says Contreras. His biggest challenge is winning clients in an industry that has long been dominated by companies like Waste Management and Republic Services, which have a combined market share of nearly 40 percent, according to data from IBIS World. Contreras, by contrast, employs 50 contract workers and counts roughly 200 accounts across North Carolina and parts of South Carolina.