Traveling the green highway

Traveling the green highway

Junkluggers hauling its way to a cleaner planet

Each year, more than 9 billion pounds of garbage are produced in the United States. Any way you cut it, it’s a whole lot of trash. And growing.

About 25 percent of that mountain of detritus is recycled. The remaining three-quarters consist of valuable glass, metal, paper and other materials tossed into landfills.

Fortunately, recycling has progressed over the last several decades. In 1980, Americans recycled 15 million tons of garbage. By 2016 that number had climbed to well over 90 million tons, and it continues to grow.

Operating with a larger vision, the newest member of Northern Virginia’s business community is channeling tired household goods into second lives by recycling furniture, appliances, glass, metal and other commodities.

The company’s business model centers on moving used things to their next useful stage. And it does not involve a visit to a landfill.

Potential customers might include families renovating a home, empty nesters cleaning out after a young adult’s departure, loved ones disposing of a life of accumulated possessions after the death of an elderly family member, or simply those switching out one piece of furniture for another.

Welcome to Junkluggers.

Hauling for humanity

The force behind Junkluggers is Mark Harrington, 44, a Haymarket resident, husband and father of three young ones. He is a native Virginian who grew up in Alexandria and Springfield.

The first part of his professional career centered on business development in the IT industry. “I worked for a mid-size Chantilly firm, securing IT contracts for eight years and then spent 12 years with a larger firm in a similar capacity. That company was sold in 2016 and I took time off to consider what I wanted to do with the rest of my life,” said Harrington.

Energetic and imaginative, Harrington has a strong entrepreneurial streak. He undertook extensive research on franchises to find one that was both profitable and would contribute to the common good. Junkluggers resonated as among the best.

The company was the original brainchild of Josh Cohen, who stumbled on the idea of an environmentally friendly junk service in 2004 while studying in Australia. He returned to the states and established the nascent service using his mom’s SUV.

Needless to say, that original workhorse has been put out to pasture. Today, the company is a highly rated waste-and-junk-removal franchise.

With his experience in business development, Harrington quickly assessed the potential success factor of opening his own hauling company. “Initially I didn’t know anything about the industry, but after my research, it was appealing to me and it fit my skill set.”

Two months ago, the local firm began service and is now serving all of Northern Virginia, D.C. and suburban Maryland.

Its service is simplicity itself, mobilized in green trucks. Junkluggers contracts to haul any used household goods and recycles almost 100 percent of the contents. When a truck full of former life stuff leaves a customer’s home or office, its destination is either partner charities or recycling centers.

“Frankly, the term junk is a misnomer. Often, it’s simply things that … need to start a new life somewhere else,” Harrington explained. He added, “at Junkluggers we save our customers money and time and respect their commitment to the planet. We believe in a holistic approach to the waste stream. We want to reduce the volume of material headed to landfills, redirecting as much as possible into donating, recycling and upcycling.”

Here’s how it works: A customer places a call to the firm and arranges for a free estimate. After an agreement on terms, the company’s two-man team arrives with one of its trucks, outfitted with an off-loadable 15-yard container. The container is only left on site when the sorting and packing cannot be accomplished in one visit.

As the used materials are removed from the home, items are separated according to their intended disposal. Furniture, lamps, appliances, etc. that obviously have second-life potential are packed separately from glass, metal and other recyclable materials.

“Currently we have six designated charities: Habitat Restore, Soles4Souls, Inova Children’s Hospital, Vets on Track Foundation, Women Giving Back and Mikey’s Way Foundation. We will grow our list of hyper-focused charities over time,” said Harrington.

The remaining items, including unusable home furnishings, are taken to multi-stream recycling centers. “For example, if we are removing used paint cans, we do not simply put them in a plastic bag for dumping. We segregate and dispose of them in proper recycling bins,” said Harrington.

He also underscores that, unlike simple trash-hauling companies, his crew will remove furnishings from throughout the home, including basements and third floors. “A lot of trash companies want you to stage the stuff. That’s not required with our service,” he explained.

The cost of the service is divided into 13 tiers, depending on the size of a given load. The average job to “clean house” has been running around $533.

In the next few months, Harrington will open a 5,000-square-foot warehouse as a remix marketplace. “It will be a further testament to sustainability and 100 percent landfill diversion.

“If a piece of furniture is really banged up and one of our charities does not want it, the last thing we want to do is take it to a landfill. At the center, we can re-purpose and refinish it and upcycle those pieces to sell them, giving a portion of the proceeds back to a charity.

What I really would like to ultimately do with the center is create a ‘do-it-yourself’ operation and have creative people produce art and craft items to benefit a charity,” said Harrington.

Any way you look at it, Junkluggers is an emerging force in the battle against landfill overload. They are located at 6632 Electric Ave., in Warrenton.

To learn more about how the company can declutter your life and help a local charity, visit itscomprehensive website at or call 1-800-LUG-JUNK.