Kathleen McLaughlin
The Bulletin

What: The Broomsmen

What it does: Event setup, cleanup and waste management

Pictured: Philip Torchio, founder

Where: Bend

Employees: 10

Website: thebroomsmen.com

Philip Torchio, 28, started a booming small business by picking up trash at events, plus thinking about every possible angle in litter-control and waste management.

He thinks Bend could recycle everything — down to cigarette butts — and set an example for the hordes of tourists who litter the banks of the Deschutes River and Cascade lakes. “I look at the ground all the time,” Torchio said. “That’s how I’m wired now.”

Torchio started his business, The Broomsmen, after helping his wedding-planner girlfriend, Abby Elvebak of AE Creative, clean up after weddings at venues such as Aspen Hall, where waste management is the responsibility of the wedding party.

“I was like, ‘Why am I not getting paid for all the hard work?’” Torchio said.

He launched The Broomsmen in 2015 to serve the wedding market. In a stroke of luck early this year, he landed Les Schwab Amphitheater as a client. Since then he’s been hired to work other big events, including the Cascade Lakes Relay. The major-event side of the business has grown so quickly that he expects to double the size of his seasonal crew next year and create a separate brand, Triple Flare.

While plenty of Bend janitorial services will clean up after events, Torchio said no one else offers planning services to eliminate waste and then handle recyclable and compostable material.

Starting The Broomsmen was simple. Torchio built some mobile bins that look like crafty flower planters and connected with the local waste-hauling franchises, Bend Garbage & Recycling and Cascade Disposal, which transport material to the landfill, or recycling or compost point.

“They make it very clear: You’re not to be hauling trash,” he said.

As a former construction manager, Torchio said he had plenty of practice estimating and bidding jobs, so he dove into the literature on litter, trash, recycling and what he believes to be the wave of the future — reuse.

The Broomsmen was profitable in its very first year, Torchio said, but the real growth came after a call from Les Schwab Amphitheater. Managers of Bend’s largest concert venue were looking to get a grip on the waste generated by massive concerts like Dave Matthews Band. They found Torchio’s website and asked whether he could scale up to serve the venue.

“They trusted me that I could put something together,” he said.

The Broomsmen, which consists of Torchio and a seasonal crew of 10 laborers, became part of a $30,000-plus waste-reduction effort at Les Schwab that kicked off with the 2016 concert season, amphitheater Director Marney Smith said. “You have to choose to spend the money on sustainability,” Smith said.

Plastic beer cups were one of the biggest sources of waste at the amphitheater before the venue switched to a corn-based compostable cup, Torchio said. The previous cups were made of a type of plastic that can be recycled, but they aren’t accepted by Bend Garbage & Recycling, Torchio said. Unaware concert-goers were throwing their beer cups in the amphitheater recycling bins, and many of the cups ended up in the landfill, he said.

The amphitheater also eliminated the sale of bottled water and started selling reusable pint glasses, Smith said. After the first concert of the 2016 season, Alabama Shakes, Torchio said The Broomsmen diverted 48 percent of the waste from landfills and captured 98 percent of the available recycling. They collected 1,088 gallons of compost, 188 gallons of recycling and 576 gallons of glass.

Torchio’s approach is labor-intensive, but he thinks it’s the most effective approach for events. He places crew members at disposal stations so that waste ends up in the right place from the beginning, and the bins move with the crowd.

“I constantly watch how trash moves, transition points,” he said. “I know where the trash is going to be.”

—Reporter: 541-617-7860,


Q: Where do you see the business in five years?

A: Philip Torchio: By 2018, I think we’ll be at every sizable event in Bend, then Portland. We want to be a national brand someday.

Q: If the future of waste management is reuse, how will your company thrive?

A: I bus tables, do dishes. We try to fill in any service gap you have.