Vibe With: Houston chemist dives into waste disposal business to come out on top
Written by Nakia Cooper on October 31, 2021
It may not be a fancy title, but it sure can be a lucrative business, and one young Black woman has given the phrase “waste not, want not” a whole new meaning. Entrepreneur Rose Rice, of Pledge Waste Services, sat with Vibe Houston to educate us on a business not many even knew was out there, and has definitely inspired us to want to dig deeper into the “waste disposal” business.
Vibe Houston: Tell us about yourself.
Rice: I’m originally from South Park, Houston but lived in Washington, D.C. while attending college at Howard University. I had no family, no friends; it was just me venturing out. It was scary at first. The vibe on the East Coast is so much different than in Texas, so there was an adjustment period that I had to go through. But over time, I fell in love with the city and wanted to live there but I already had a job lined up back in Houston, so I moved back soon after I graduated. I earned a B.S. in chemistry, so this was my start at working in the chemistry field.
Vibe Houston: What is medical waste disposal?
Rice: Medical waste is healthcare waste that may be contaminated by blood, body fluids or other potentially infectious materials. Prior to the 1980’s, you could throw this waste in a general trash bin. This put entire communities at risk – from the users of that bin, to garbage handlers, to waste processors – and exposed them to any contaminants associated with that waste. Medical waste disposal is now highly regulated, and laws are in place to outline exactly how and where it should be disposed.
Vibe Houston: How did you go from being a chemist to medical waste disposal?
Rice: Many people view working in the chemistry field as a mundane and boring career choice but there are a lot of interesting aspects of this field. I’ve worked in many areas of the industry, and they’ve all enriched my life. One being, analyzing waste products for one of the largest waste incinerator plants in the United States. It wasn’t uncommon to see visits from customs agents – armed to the teeth – bringing in pallets of seized narcotics or 40-gallon drums filled with defective designer perfumes and clothes from big retailers. In both cases, these products needed to be properly disposed of, according to state law. It was there that I learned all about waste disposal, how big this market is and, sadly, how few African Americans were informed about this industry.
Vibe Houston: Why don’t many African Americans know about medical waste disposal?
Rice: To be honest, it’s not a mainstream topic. We work with business and government entities directly. There’s not a lot of discussion surrounding medical waste with the general public. However, individuals with certain illnesses like diabetes would be aware of certain aspects of medical waste disposal, such as how to dispose of syringes used for insulin injection.
Vibe Houston: How has the pandemic impacted business?
Rice: The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of proper medical waste disposal. Containment and minimizing exposure to the virus have proven effective in stopping the spread of this disease. Our business has proven to be essential and continues to expand and grow as a result.
Vibe Houston: What was your inspiration to open your own medical waste business?
Rice: I realized that many businesses outside the central business district and other high traffic areas could be charged twice or even three times more for medical waste disposal services. Unfortunately, under-served and minority-owned businesses are oftentimes impacted. As a minority, I wanted to make sure that we had the same access to affordable medical waste disposal services, which is why I started Pledge Waste Services.
Vibe Houston: What is unique about your company?
Rice: We are the first Black- and woman-owned medical waste disposal company in the U.S. We also, proudly, have been given a new contract handling waste disposal for a Health and Human Services facility.
Vibe Houston: What do you feel is the best thing about entrepreneurship?
Rice: Doing something that you’re good at and making an impact within your community. It’s always a good thing to be recognized for what you work hard for.
Vibe Houston: What advice would you give to aspiring, or even struggling or entrepreneurs?
Rice: Be realistic about what you want and the amount of work that it will take to achieve it. Many times, new or aspiring entrepreneurs underestimate the amount of effort it takes to see results. This may tempt you to give up too soon if you had unrealistic expectations from the start. The biggest challenge with entrepreneurship is that it may take a while to finally reap the benefits of your hard work, patience and commitment are key. Don’t give up. Your success is right around the corner, even if it is not what you envisioned it to be at first. Trust the process.