Lee Brandsma – Groot Industries

Lee Brandsma

In 1973, Lee Brandsma entered the waste industry as a residential and commercial route driver for his father-in-law at Groot Industries and became the Chief Operating Officer in 1980 at the age of 26. Brandsma and his partner, Larry Groot, built the company from 20 trucks and 35 employees to more than 400 trucks and 650 employees, from 2 to 5 operating locations, 4 transfer stations, and a single-stream materials recovery facility (MRF). They also own a materials transport business and a mobile document destruction operation. Groot Industries started the first curbside recycling program in northern Illinois in 1986, the first single-stream MRF in the Midwest in 1997, and was the first to run its entire fleet on biodiesel in 2007. In 2009, working with Mack Trucks, the first 20 compressed natural gas (CNG) vehicles came off the production line and Groot Industries built and operated a CNG fueling station open to the public that same year. In the last 3 years, the company has received awards from the Illinois Recycling Association, Clean Cities Coalition, and the Energy Solutions Center. Brandsma served as the NSWMA Illinois Chapter chair from 1985 to 1987, chair of NSWMA’s Waste Haulers Council from 1987 to 1989, vice-chair of NSWMA from 1992 to 1993, and chair of EIA from 1994 to 1996. He was a board member of the NSWMA Foundation now the independent Environmental Research and Education Foundation from 1994 to 2000.