When Kim Caron started Executive Mat Service in 1996, he was a one-man proprietorship offering a mat rental service to local businesses. Today the business is much more than just mats. It has grown to around 100 employees across branches in Calgary, Vancouver, Edmonton and Regina, is one of the largest independent mat companies in North America, and provides high-quality customizable mats and consumable products. On top of that, Caron is leading the charge toward zero waste for himself and his clients through his Green Thumb Initiative.
From early on, Caron was an innovator with an environmental consciousness. When a client asked him to wash their cloth towels soiled with printers’ inks and hazardous solvents, Caron discovered it was illegal to send the used water into the sewer system.
“There was an opportunity there,” says Caron, founder and president of Executive Mat. “I decided to adopt some technology that would extract the hazardous solvents before I washed the towels.”
He created a system to separate the hazardous solvents from the towels, which left him with cloths ready for standard laundering and barrels of hydrocarbon. For a while, he gave the hydrocarbon to mechanic shops for parts washing, but alternatives played in the back of Caron’s mind. He discovered that the hydrocarbon was essentially kerosene which could be purified into a working fuel. He sourced a burner to link to his boiler so he could use this fuel to generate heat. He then took it a step further and extended the process to paper wipes used by various industries including automotive mechanics. He generated three drums of fuel daily using this process.
“Our technology could handle those paper wipes no problem, but the issue became what are we going to do with all this paper towelling?” Caron says.
The whole point was to lessen the environmental impact of these chemicals so sending the paper to landfill once the contaminants were removed wasn’t an option. The solution: a gasification boiler that would allow Caron to convert the paper towel into thermal energy. The system worked great but, again, he looked for ways to expand his program to divert even more materials from the landfill. After hearing about the number of coffee cups accumulating in the landfill, he turned his attention to office consumables like paper towels in the restrooms, paper cups and plates, and wooden stir sticks. Executive Mat has recently incorporated a line of paper-based health-care products including exam table paper and drapes into its Green Thumb Initiative, keeping those products out of landfills as well while saving clients the cost of waste removal.
Caron developed a technology that would take all of the used compostable consumables and paper towels he collected from his clients, shred them and then condense them to form biofuel briquettes. These briquettes were then used to fuel the biomass boiler in the facility. Today, Executive Mat processes 0.5 tons of paper products this way every day.
Unlike many other companies whose green commitment ends upon delivery of their product to the end user, Executive Mat comes full circle by ensuring the materials are handled properly on the back end.
“This concept of taking back the waste is revolutionary. No one else has thought to do that,” he says.
When Executive Mat Service changes the matting at a client’s office, the representative will also pick up the used towels, cups, biodegradable green plastic cutlery and other consumables that had been purchased from Executive Mat at the same time. This service is offered at no extra charge to clients. He then leaves the order of replacement consumables and the freshly laundered and sanitized mats behind and returns to the facility with the used goods for processing. That way no extra trips are made and the program’s carbon footprint remains small. And as clients don’t fill their dumpsters with used paper products, the money saved on waste pick up is often more than what they pay for the consumables in the first place.
“It’s an absolute no-brainer,” he says.
Many of Caron’s technologies have been created because he couldn’t find anything in existence that met his needs. Caron has also been quick to adopt new technologies as they are developed. WaterHog Plus, a key vendor of Caron’s, has recently developed a bi-level rental floor mat that has the potential to completely revolutionize the floor matting business. Made with recycled pop bottles, the product is literally a magnet for water providing a much drier and safer environment for customers. These mats can absorb more than five litres of water per square yard, and the heavy dam border ensures there’s no leakage onto the floor. This new technology has been slow to be adopted by other competitors as the product is very difficult to handle and clean using traditional laundering technology.
Caron created a mat processing machine to solve this issue. His patented technology allows an operator to feed these mats onto a conveyer where they are automatically washed and sanitized, dried and rolled at the other end, all in under two minutes. The system is great on water, using 1/20th of the water other systems use saving the company more than $70,000 a year on water, and is great for extending the life of the mats. It is also a green system as the water is heated using solar power. Best of all, Caron’s system is safer for operators as they don’t have to wrestle with heavy, tangled mats as they did with previous systems.
This technology will make it easier for businesses and health facilities to move away from traditional mats, permanent matting and recessed wells, which are a prime source of mould and poor indoor air quality. WaterHog Plus mats and well tiles are safe and durable, customizable, and come in a variety of sizes, thus meeting client needs. And cleaning them regularly eliminates the breeding ground for mould and makes buildings healthier.
People are taking notice of these innovations. Caron’s inventions have attracted the attention of the global marketplace as other companies from around the world are asking for the patented technology. Caron is working closely with the federal Industrial Research Assistance Program (IRAP) to help fulfil the global demand for his new technology.
“It’s exciting. Our little company might turn into something quite a bit bigger,” he says.
But the company already has. Its towel program earned it an Emerald Award for environmental excellence, it was the only North American company in the industry to get ISO 14001 certification, and it has high COR safety ratings. Its technologies are having a significant impact that reaches far beyond the mat rental industry. In 20 years, it has blazed a trail in environmental business, saving its clients money in the process. With its technologies in demand everywhere from oil and gas sites to small municipal landfills, Executive Mat Service is poised to turn into something even bigger in the years to come.