Manuel Avalos, Environmental Superintendent
Manuel Avalos, Holloway Environmental Superintendent
Manuel Avalos is a man of few words but lots of action. As Holloway Environmental’s Superintendent, Manuel and his team have long-range goals and action plans to maximize the Environmental side of the business and make waste sustainable. Quite literally taking trash and turning it into environmental treasure.
Holloway Environmental was born out of the need to reclaim the exhausted gypsum mine pits from Holloway Ag. Once a mine has expended all of its resources, the company responsible has to do something with the void that is left. Holloway Environmental accepts more than 30 waste streams to reclaim the pits.
“I am most excited about our composting facility,” Manuel says. “Our goal is to have at least a portion of that up and running by spring of next year.”
Holloway expects to run a couple compost facilities in the future, including green waste compost that will be commercially available to farming operations in the Central Valley, giving Holloway another great product to help growers succeed.
“Our green waste stream will come from a couple different sources,” Manuel says. “With the tight restrictions on air quality in California, old orchards, vines and other organics that would have been burned will soon need to be composted. Additionally, our leadership is working with cities and counties in the area on partnerships to process consumer green waste collected by Waste Management.”
Getting the permits and partnerships to process consumer-driven green waste takes time, so this program is in the beginning stages, but gives Holloway Environmental tremendous opportunity for growth by creating a sustainable, full circle solution for this waste stream.
“That’s one thing I really like about this job – there is a lot of room for growth,” Manuel says. “Goals are big and expectations are high and I like that pressure. Composting is a big goal that will expand the Environmental side of Holloway.”
And Manuel takes that vision even a step further, imagining the day when Environmental may need to expand past Lost Hills into different locations that need mine reclamation. With a proven track record of managing several different waste streams in a way that is sustainable and full circle, Manuel can see Holloway working with other companies that have a mine that is exhausted and now need to do something with their pit.
“We could come in and reclaim it, partner with them, or even discuss acquisition,” Manuel says.
With all this excitement and growth, Manuel and his team maintain that safety is paramount. Reclaiming pits and starting composting facilities take a lot of heavy equipment and personal protective equipment (PPE). He and his crew are diligent about always wearing the proper safety gear and PPE at all times around the pits. And the whole operation is run under MSHA and OSHA standards. All employees go through a rigorous training program that includes learning how to run and operate all the equipment.
“We have what we call a ‘Tailgate Meeting’ every morning. This is our safety meeting to make sure everyone is aware of any changes and continues to stay on their toes. We want all employees to be thinking about safety and not taking things lightly or getting too comfortable,” Manuel says.
As the Environmental Superintendent, Manuel’s first priority is the safety of his crew. Something he is very familiar with after his 12 years with a local construction and engineering company where he worked his way up from heavy equipment operator to General Manager of their Visalia location. As GM, he managed almost 50 people from drivers and operators to store employees at their bulk yard.
While he enjoyed his time at his previous company, Manuel was ready for a new challenge. That’s when Holloway called. He was recruited by Holloway’s VP and Director of Ag Services, Jordan Burt, who introduced him to Jeremy Bowman, our VP of Operations.
“When I interviewed with Jeremy, it was love at first sight,” Manuel jokes, “and now he’s my boss. It’s actually funny because I originally met Jordan through orchard removal and grinding because we were competitors. I guess he didn’t think I was all bad! Holloway is just a good team to work for. A good company to work for.”
Manuel works closely with Jeremy to provide reports, stats on the pits, tonnage projections and capacity so that Jeremy has the information he needs as he works with counties like LA and Kern on the green-waste-to-compost initiative. Manuel is also working on growing the fly ash waste stream because there is capacity in the pits. Fly ash is a waste product from reusable energy plants that burn agricultural waste like old orchards, but many of these are sunsetting due to clean air laws, but Manuel sees that as an opportunity.
“If reusable energy plants can’t burn the wood anymore, then Holloway can compost it as green waste and provide it as nutrients back to the growers. Either way, ash or raw material, Holloway can use it or process it,” Manuel smiles.
Another area of growth Manuel sees is auto shredder waste. Holloway Environmental currently takes auto shredder waste, which is all the “fluff” in a car after it is crushed. He and his team are workshopping an idea to extract the metals left behind in the “fluff” and recycle it.
“This is a very young and dreamy project that is in its infancy stages, but we are always trying to think creatively on how we can grow or innovate our waste streams in a way that supports a healthy environment,” Manuel says.
When Manuel is not quietly planning innovation and taking action, you can find him enjoying time with his three kids and wife of 12 years. A self-described Family Man, most of Manuel’s free time is spent at his kids’ sports and activities. And with kiddos ages two to nine in activities from softball and soccer to dance, he has his hands pretty full!