Moving from being reactive to proactive, the waste and recycling industry is committed to charging full speed ahead on recycling issues, PFAS, public education, automation, and a shift to reusable packaging and product stewardship.

Looking back on 2019, what are the significant changes you have seen over the past year in the waste and recycling industry?

David Biderman: A significant change over the past year was the industry’s transition from complaining about China’s National Sword to taking concrete steps towards addressing the challenges it has created. Although some of the complaining, candidly, has continued into the new year, many companies and local governments are working collaboratively to improve the quality of the recovered materials generated at recycling facilities, and are lobbying elected officials for funding and other assistance. The other substantial recycling-related development has been the decline in contamination rates in a variety of locations. A second significant change was the increased seriousness that the disposal side of the industry began to pay to PFAS. Whether it was EREF’s PFAS Summit, WASTECON or other events, a variety of associations and others began to warn landfills that public health concerns over PFAS in drinking water was focusing attention on landfills, whose leachate contains certain PFAS compounds, and which is sometimes sent to wastewater treatment facilities. This will be a very active area for the industry in 2020, and the U.S. House of Representatives’ passage of a PFAS bill in early January demonstrates that elected officials are focused on this issue. Even though landfills are receivers of PFAS-containing material, the industry needs to take seriously the public health concerns being raised.

Tom Griffith: 2019 was a year in transition or even a ‘reset’ for the industry. I know we are going to talk about China’s National Sword ruling later, but the bottom line is that the industry is still reeling from aftershocks. Diversion is down and disposal costs are up. The changes come in the way the industry is looking at ‘recycling’—What are we trying to accomplish and how do we pay and charge? At the same time, California and other states are still looking to divert with their new bills on containing organics and diverting them from the waste stream. A question raised by many is, “Are we going down the same rabbit hole as we did with recycling?” Again, it is another cost and the costs could outweigh any revenue. Finally, many large corporations and some municipalities are looking at other possible and profitable ways to dispose of waste.

John Paglia, III: First and foremost, consolidations. There have been acquisitions not just from small private haulers, but also the big companies. That is a big trend. In addition, everybody is leaning towards as much automation as they can in any sector, whether it is in the office or out in the field—billing, routing, collection, etc. We are all trying to do more work with less manpower. That’s really the sign of the times right now. All of us are trying to make things work efficiently. The other obvious answer as we will discuss is recycling and the negative impact “single stream recycling” has caused us. Single-stream recycling needs to be destroyed.
Will Flower: In 2019, the waste and recycling industry continued to struggle with volatile commodity markets. At the same time, we saw community after community adjust their recycling programs. In many cases municipalities changed their compensation formula used to pay processors by moving away from a commodity-based formulas to the process-fee model. We also saw that many towns adjusted their curbside programs and eliminated hard to recycle material such as glass and certain plastics. People came to realize that if there are no markets, there is no recycling.

Is there particular development that really stood out in 2019 with regards to moving the waste and recycling industry forward?
DB: Waste Management’s mid-2019 disclosure that it is piloting remote operations of heavy equipment at a Colorado landfills could be the harbinger of a significant change in landfill operations. I first became aware of this technology in December 2018 when I spoke at an industry event and look forward to learning more.

TG: Many are looking at alternatives for recycling. I’ve seen an upsurge of companies, established and new, developing: biodigesters, RDF facilities, biofuel (diesel and jet) facilities and many different bioenergy plants. Biofuel and bioenergy seem to be leading the charge on new development. For landfills, the use of GPS and even drone technology is allowing them to understand advanced fill sequencing, overburden/cover soil movement, planned design, final design and, more importantly, initial daily density. With this knowledge, managers and engineers will be able to lower build costs and production costs while being more efficient. In MRFs, most of the safety concerns come with the amount of human touches per day. Artificial intelligence (AI) added to lines are reducing human touches while decreasing safety concerns and increasing productivity. Heavy machine technology is moving forward with remote operating possibilities. Dozers and compactors that perform repetitious operations and landfills that can control inbound waste will be able to work with machines that are operated remotely. With camera and sensor technology advancing annually, operators can be off of the machine and operate from an ‘operations center’ sometimes miles away. Of course, there has to be safety guidelines in place in all aspects of the machine, operation center and landfill operating area.

WF: Every aspect of our industry evolved in 2019. One of the most interesting developments was the application of robotic labor. Another interesting development is taking place in the packaging industry. Several brands are taking a hard look at refillable containers. Reusing, rather than recycling, containers use less energy. Refillable technology is in the early stage development phase and its success will be dictated by economics, consumer acceptance and demand.

From your point of view, what are a few of the most important ongoing concerns and challenges in the waste and recycling industry currently and how can they be addressed?

DB: Regarding recycling, will sufficient domestic capacity be added in the U.S. and other countries in North America to offset the decline in Asian markets, including China and India? Will the federal government, either through enactment of a recycling bill such as Save Our Seas 2.0, or EPA through establishment of a national recycling goal, galvanize capital investment in recycling and convince local governments to continue their recycling programs? Will local governments be willing to ask households to pay an additional $1 to $3 per month for recycling services, rather than suspending curbside collection? An increasing challenge for the industry is recruiting and retaining employees. To some extent, increased automation at MRFs is a response to the tightening labor market. With a 3.5 percent unemployment rate, the lowest in 50 years, I do not expect that most companies will be able to address this issue entirely in 2020, and the continued ranking of solid waste collection as the occupation with the fifth highest fatality rate in the U.S. hardly makes it easier to attract qualified employees. Interestingly, I do not hear from municipal sanitation departments that they are having trouble attracting and retaining drivers. There continues to be a high level of fires at solid waste and recycling facilities, and many of them are associated with the improper disposal of lithium ion batteries. Sources in the insurance sector advise me that several carriers are dropping coverage, while others are increasing premiums by as much as 80 percent. The industry needs to come up with a better game plan for addressing this issue in 2020. SWANA is working with the National Waste & Recycling Association and others on this important issue.

TG: The first big elephant in the room, of course, is still the China National Sword ruling and how the industry is trying to change. As I mentioned previously, companies are looking at fundamental changes due to looking at the real costs of doing business. Recycling costs money. The former thought process of “landfills are bad, and recycling is good,” is not working. We need to be proactive and not be reactive to waste diversion. Some think that there should be programs developed to help get rid of recycling and compost. (governmental or private) (where does the money come from?) The second elephant in the room is safety. Everyone is developing programs but mostly, they aren’t working. We are still the 5th most dangerous industry in the U.S. Slogans, bumper stickers and safety plans on shelves don’t work if there is no follow through. The buzz word is that safety is a culture. It must be, but the culture or message is not always enforced at different levels. Policies, procedures and training need to be developed, implemented and enforced. Those policies, procedures and training aren’t just for onsite. Some companies are taking that to the next level of enforcing rules/regulations of anyone on their site. Also, some companies offer general industry/safety training for customers and the public that might use their facilities. Those companies that offer those programs are seeing great improvements in their safety records. Composting is like recycling. It is expensive and although companies do it, there is very little money in it for most. Also, there must be a market for the end product. I’m not sure that companies or maybe the regulators have taken a good look at the how’s and what to do with the final materials. Again, talking with people that do compost, they are hoping that help will come in the form of someone helping them find and work with other companies that can help them distribute or sell their product.

JP: Handling commodities more efficiently from collection, sorting, processing, to end user. Attracting talented youth to join in as a career opportunity. Labor is a large part. Finding a quality workforce applicant at almost every position in our industry. I would like to see single-stream residential recycling be phased out forever. I would like to see us go back to a dual-stream or singular materials sorted at the site system based on each region of U.S./local market. It’s okay to not have one system that is supposed to work for everyone. We dug ourselves in this hole with China, but if you can have clean products, you can always move them. If plants receive materials presorted, then all we are doing is removing contaminants. We need to revert to keeping things simple and control the tempo, not let the public sectors mandate us with regulations or requirements to win a bid or book of business. We need to suggest what we know as professionals that is current and works. We recently took on a new residential municipality in Central Florida where we only let them recycle metal and paper products at the curb in the provided cart. Single-stream recycling, aka in my opinion “Wishful Recycling”, assisted in creating the problems in the recycling and commodities market currently. Imagine if the American Beverage Association mandated its members to only bottle using aluminum cans or bottles. That’s fixing the problems at the source that we should assist as an industry to target; not waiting for them to make changes and leaving it to the garbage guys to try and find a solution. If the goal becomes to decrease the mediums of packaging, the easier it will be on the haulers, collectors, recyclers, etc. That’s just one example.

WF: On the recycling side, the lack of markets for commodities continues to be a headwind for recycling. Many processors have tweaked the formulas by which they are compensated with many recyclers now receiving a processing fee rather than the outdated commodity-based model. Another concern which impacts all areas of the industry is the tight labor market. To attract and retain employees, companies have had to increase wages. As wages increased, so did consumer costs for waste collection and disposal services. I think our expenses in the waste industry are going up faster than the consumer price index. While the mechanization of recycling facilities and automation of collection routes can reduce operating costs, there is a large capital expense associated with robotics and automation.

After the initial knee-jerk reaction of China’s National Sword ruling in 2018, the most prominent theme last year in 2019 was rethinking recycling? How do you think these strategies will change in the coming year?

DB: The growing awareness that everyone in the recycling chain needs to work together, a trend that started in 2019, will likely accelerate in 2020. Local governments need to work closely with the recycling facilities, who need to collaborate with equipment providers and technology companies developing new and innovative systems for capturing as much recoverable material as possible. The recycling facilities want to sell these materials to purchasers and consumer brand companies, who are setting recyclable content goals. At every step, education is critical, and one of the primary drivers of federal legislation is the fact that most local governments, when choosing between funding recycling education and schools, parks or police, will not fund recycling education. Recycling is an essential part of our national infrastructure, and needs to be funded as such, and not just on the backs of ratepayers.

TG: According to some, diversion tactics won’t work until we develop a mindset of processing the material and making it into a resource that someone wants or needs to purchase. For recycling to work, some say we need to look at common sense and financial practicality. Recycling costs money and to change we will have to raise rates. Talking to a few MRF managers, the consensus is that recycling and diversion (as in the organics) needs to be pulled not pushed.

JP: Recently, we took on this new municipality and gave everyone a brand new, 95-gallon cart for garbage, a brand-new cart for recycling and the residents asked what was going to be done with their old carts. We told them that they would be re-used for yard waste, so instead of all the old containers going to a landfill, we are repurposing them. At the end of the day, recycling is at its best when we are reducing, reusing or repurposing. The problem in residential recycling is getting the message to everyone. Contamination in single-stream recycling becomes garbage and we are right back to the problem where China cut us off. No one wants to hear that recycling is not profitable right now, it’s really about what is sustainable. If we can simplify it, that will be a whole lot better. I would like to see our industry come together. If the industry associations can set a precedent and we can all agree to it, that would be ideal. With the right arm knowing what the left wants, we can work together as human beings, citizens of the U.S., stewards of the world, and make a real change that’s realistic, logical and sustainable. Too many of us allow people to overthink this problem. Step back and think logically, the answer is in front of us.

WF: In 2018 and 2019, recyclers that exported commodities had to search for alternative outlets beyond China. Over time, commodity markets grew in Vietnam, Indonesia, Turkey and other countries. If these markets decide to restrict the import of recycling commodities, we will see another challenging year for recycling. One bright spot is that several brands are announcing and promoting the use of recycled content in their packaging and products. Time will tell if these brand owners are simply greenwashing or if they are actually going to create a demand for large amounts of recycled materials.

Some of the big words were sustainability, packaging, circular economy, diversion, automation and PFAS. How do you think these will become more ingrained in the waste and recycling industry? Do you think it will cause a shift in dynamics?

DB: The impact of National Sword, combined with the growing awareness surrounding marine litter and the Pacific Garbage Patch, is increasing dialogue around sustainability and the circular economy. There are other factors at play here as well. The increase in fires at recycling and other solid waste facilities associated with the increased improper disposal of lithium ion batteries, is making companies that generally oppose product stewardship and EPR consider it for these items.

JP: I think so and it needs to. It should be talked about more and more. For example, Amazon has already had a shift in packaging. At one time it was only Styrofoam packing material, now you are getting the thin plastic packing material filled with air. An average household delivery on amazon consists of a box, in a box, in a box, in a box, literally! Why allow residential single stream when majority of the stream is cardboard, paper and metal (tin/aluminum). With all this online and e-commerce, waste and recycling tonnage has shifted more towards a residential application, so it is important that we capture and re-capture it at the residential level. We must go to a more simplified residential stream at least in the short term to fix the problem. The word shouldn’t be on profits for recycling, it should be on sustainability.

WF: All of these subjects are complex and will continue to get attention in 2020 and beyond. Consumer packaging will get the most attention in 2020 as the spotlight on consumer packaging that creates solid waste will continue to get brighter.

In particular, concerns about PFAS is a big part of the conversation now. Why do you think this is and how do you believe it will be dealt with from an industry and regulations perspective?

DB: It is too early to tell how PFAS will be addressed from a legislative or regulatory perspective in the coming year. In the absence of federal action, we can expect an increased number of states to enact laws or issue regulations establishing maximum contaminant levels for PFAS in drinking water. This will create a patchwork of standards across the 50 states. We are already seeing this in New England.

TG: From research, PFAS (the simplistic term) is appearing in water resources in many large cities. It could become a big regulatory issue. The concern here is that currently, it seems that not a lot is known about how it will affect humans and animals. There are only a few places that can test for all the different forms of PFAS. Regulations and public opinion could force treatment of water systems, but will it be enough and the right kind of treatment. Of course, there are concerns of concentration of PFAS in landfills. Monitoring wells could be regulated to a stricter guideline. There needs to be more research on all of this, but again, it will cost money.

JP: We’ve made sure that it is disposed of in a lined landfill. Carpet is well known to have PFAS in it and must be handling accordingly. It’s a haulers duty to make sure it is disposed of properly; if in doubt we should handle it and dispose of it per regulation requirements. No one seems to have a firm answer on its environmental impact, so until then continue to research and take precaution where you dispose of loads containing items known to have PFAS.

WF: Like PCBs in the 1980s, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances or PFAS are grabbing a lot of headlines. A lot more study and research both need to be done to understand the persistency and risks associated with PFAS. The industry needs to advocate for a thoughtful and scientific approach to creating legislation and regulation to the PFAS issues. A knee-jerk reaction could be expensive and wasteful.

Several states and cities have banned plastic bags and are considering banning disposable plastics in restaurants and compostable containers for carry out, do you believe that these ordinances will become more prominent this year (or be implemented nationwide)? What is your take on the cities/municipalities that have started to fine residential containers that have incorrect recycling items in them?

DB: SWANA would prefer that local governments focus resources on educating citizens about how to recycle properly, including “oops tags” and leaving containers with contamination. However, it is certainly within a city’s or county’s authority to impose fines on citizens who violate their laws, and there is nothing like a fine to get someone’s attention.

TG: My personal opinion is that I don’t disagree that we need to take ‘plastics’ seriously. Are we on the right path with banning plastics? We could go down the path of banning plastics. Then go down the path of banning packaging. Then go down the path of banning … etc., etc. We spend a lot of money-making regulations on banning things where that money could be used to help educate and find ways to process these types of plastics. There could be manufacturers that use this type of plastic in some of their processes. Has anyone looked to see how to marry the problem with the right manufacturer? I mentioned education. Our society or culture needs more education on how to dispose of materials correctly. The EU has done a good job of this in some areas. Of course, in others, they have had to fine people for not following regulations. It seems when people are financially involved, they get the message and start doing the right thing. Start with better education then follow up with fines if needed.

JP: I hope so and agree to it. As I mentioned earlier that’s fixing the problem at the source. Any processor hates glass and plastic bags in their sorting lines. If states and cities are banning it, and we can get every state to buy in, plastic bags will disappear. Sure, it’s not going to happen overnight, but if everyone bans it, the problem no longer exist. Either use a reusable bag, don’t bag at all, or find something that can have an alternative use in the average household. I can speak personally shopping at a retail grocer, Sams Club, most items are packaged in bulk. Upon checkout no bags are used. You either bring your reusable ones or package the bulk items. It works just fine. We should be looked at as professionals. If the associations stepped up as a voice on a nationwide level, people would pay attention more and trust what they are seeing/reading/hearing. I think that would slowly start to change the attitude of the people from county to state to nationwide. Being involved personally with the NWRA at a legislative level in Florida, we have talked round and round about ideas from our professional viewpoint to benefit our communities and industry, only to see our elected leaders at the Capital reject our ideas year after year. That’s never going to get things changed. I’m sure this happens in the other 49 states as well. It’s frustrating to see representatives of Waste Management, Advance Disposal, Republic Services, and a few other privates, including my company, agree as a unit on an idea and change, only to see it never make a legislative change. After a few years of round and round, you lose your will to fight the issue because the issue has already changed.

WF: Bans on bags, straws and foam containers are in vogue and we will definitely see more. The real issue for recyclers is what ends up in the bin and therefore education is a critical component to the recycling process. Recycling is a shared responsibility and consumers, municipalities, collection companies and processors all need to work together to ensure a successful end result. Educating and holding consumers responsible for their actions is an appropriate role for municipalities to make recycling work.
Last year, New York city passed a law similar to Los Angeles to implement commercial waste zones. What are your thoughts on that decision? Do you it see becoming a trend in the larger cities?

DB: New York City’s commercial waste zone (CWZ) law authorizes three haulers in each zone. The CWZ model, also known as non-exclusive franchising, is unique, as virtually every other commercial waste franchising system in the U.S. involves a single exclusive provider. I served on the Department of Sanitation’s (DSNY) Advisory Board that helped DSNY develop the CWZ system, and look forward to helping City officials, the carters, and other stakeholders successfully implement it over the next few years. The transition from an open market to a franchise system can be tricky, but I am confident that DSNY is aware of these challenges. The interest in franchising stems from the common-sense notion that a single hauler, or even three of them, results in fewer trucks on the road than an open market system. Fewer trucks means less pollution, fewer greenhouse gas emissions, less noise and, hopefully, fewer accidents. As cities look for ways to reduce truck traffic and its byproducts, I would not be surprised if other major cities evaluate whether a franchise system makes sense. Smaller haulers can be expected to vigorously oppose franchising, as they did, unsuccessfully, in both Los Angeles and New York City. SWANApalooza will include a session on the NYC CWZ system, which will likely interest municipal and private sector attendees.

TG: There are two schools of thoughts on this: 1) Bad: Single hauler equals rise in costs and little control. In L.A, some costs tripled; 2) Good: Single hauler does allow for one contact point and might raise prices but needs to be monitored and regulated. In many cities, politics will get involved and the contracts should be bid fairly. Who will monitor or handle within the city?

WF: I’m all for open competition. I think fair completion is good for the consumer and drives innovation. Regulated waste zones and schemes to restrict competition are often unfair to smaller waste haulers because of large capital demands. Hopefully, New York will learn from the experiences in Los Angeles.

Waste collection continues to stay in the top five most dangerous jobs in the U.S. according to BLS. What are some of the things the industry can do as a whole to help improve these statistics?

DB: SWANA has been collecting and evaluating the safety data for the industry for the past four years, particularly the fatality data, and NWRA has data going back at least 10 years before that (which I collected when I was Safety Director). While collecting data is important, it is no substitute for action, including outreach and education. SWANA’s data suggests that small solid waste employers, primarily, but not exclusively, in the private sector, have a disproportionate number of the fatal incidents in which an employee is killed. We need to focus our attention on those employers and their workers. SWANA is doing precisely that through its Hauler Safety Outreach (HSO) events at landfills and other disposal facilities. All collection crews dump their loads somewhere, and SWANA and our chapters are committed to meeting them at the gatehouse and providing them with safety resources that will hopefully prevent a future incident. We started this program in late 2018, and it is leading to increased safety awareness. If all of the national companies and the larger regional companies worked with SWANA and its chapters to hold HSO events at their landfills, waste-to-energy facilities, transfer stations and MRFs in 2020 and 2021, and helped us educate their hauler customers, we would see a decline in the solid waste collection industry’s fatality and injury rates. Using fewer manual rear load trucks will decrease the frequency of struck by incidents and reduce the risk of ergonomic injuries. Putting large highly visible Slow Down to Get Around decals on the back of trucks helps reduce rear end collisions and struck bys. Making sure all employees receive initial and periodic “refresher” training is essential. At the end of the day, it’s about improving the safety culture of the industry, and encouraging each employee to make sure they perform their daily tasks safely. One of the ways SWANA is trying to improve the industry’s safety culture is through our Safety Pledge, where employees commit to working safely. We urge all industry workers, even if they are not SWANA members, to go to and take the Safety Pledge. SWANA is committed to improving the safety performance of the industry. Nothing we do is more important, and we will partner with anyone and everyone to achieve our goal of getting solid waste collection employees off the list of the five occupations with the highest fatality rate.

TG: Culture means every person on the team takes responsibility for what happens. Policies and procedures need to be developed. Training and understanding must take place at all levels. Then, follow through from the top down. Many of the places I’ve been that have good safety records keep safety visible out in front of the management and employees. It’s not a ‘flavor of the month’ attitude. Everyone must talk the talk and walk the walk. No exceptions. When procedures aren’t followed, then action needs to take place.

JP: Number one is to automate, whether it is converting from a rear load to automated side loader or Curotto Can, that eliminates one to two guys per trucks that are running everyday across the nation and reduces the population of waste workers that are exposed to the highest level of safety hazards. The guys that are touching the garbage are most susceptible to getting hurt or hit by a car. Slowly eliminating/trading those positions will help the injury and mortality rate come down. Number two, we need to continue to be stringent in training our drivers. If the person is not a well-trained driver, you are going to have issues. We should not cave because of the driver shortage; we need to be strict on the hiring and training practices, as well as have well compensated drivers that see themselves as professionals. We need to make sure that gone are the days of hiring someone one day and then putting them in a truck a couple of days later— it should be a minimum 30 to 60 days of training. Onboard cameras are also a great tool to have on the vehicles, but you must have a system in place to address and correct those actions before the catastrophic event happens immediately/same day to change the driver behavior. It’s no secret. Our industry really boils down to who can handle the basics consistently and efficiently. There is not a crystal ball. Who can build a team with leaders and have followers wanting to join those leaders? That’s success.

WF: First and foremost, we must all understand that the only acceptable number of accidents and injuries is zero. We work with heavy machinery, drive large vehicles, perform in all types of weather conditions and lift tons of waste every day. Given our working environment, a strong safety program is a necessity. Every safety program must begin with the personal commitment of every employee, supervisor, manager and executive to keep safety top of mind.

What do you think that 2020 will hold for the industry?

DB: I think the high pace of acquisitions in the industry will continue in 2020. There have been a multitude of major deals over the past few years (e.g., Macquarie buying Wheelabrator, GFL buying Waste Industries and American Waste, Waste Management (WM) buying Advanced Disposal (AD)), and many smaller transactions. The lower capital gains taxes and strong economy, combined with the specter of a Democrat being elected President in November, will likely persuade some haulers to sell their companies in the coming year. The expected Department of Justice-mandated spinoff of assets from the WM-AD deal will likely create opportunities for other companies to grow, and this may in turn result in additional deals. The strength of the economy is a major factor in the industry’s prospects for 2020. If growth continues at a moderate 2 to 2.5 percent annual rate, the industry will do well. If growth slows, it may impact volumes, that could lead to efforts by some companies to lower prices to retain market share. On the policy front, whether Congress enacts Save Our Seas 2.0 or some other bill providing funding for recycling is probably the most significant legislative issue. On a related front, EPA’s issuance of national recycling goals will also be closely watched.

TG: Change. People saw what happened with recycling. There is belief that people are ‘starting to get it” and have learned from their past mistakes. There will be a cost to doing business. Again, there are companies that see promise in using waste to develop alternative fuels like bio diesel and bio jet fuel. Companies will still look for countries outside of the U.S. that “need” or want the resources we divert during the MRF process. India is taking up some of the slack that China left. However, the discussion is that India either won’t be able to handle what is sent or will go down the same line as China with regulations. Africa and Latin America are being looked at, but freight will be costly. It won’t be like China where both are buying/trading goods back and forth. There is also an upsurge in Oil Field Landfills. All the sludges pumped out of the hole, all the materials from the drilling, all the contaminated soils, etc. go into the landfill. Although they are being treated and regulated as ‘lined’ landfills, a lot is not understood about the materials and the correct way of planning, designing and working the landfill. Regulations for these landfills might change. There is a lot of talk about what is happening with landfill methane etc. due to material diversion. We are taking a lot of organic and bio-degradable material out of our landfills. With the new organics regulations, more will be diverted that helped make landfill gas. Some of the landfills are under contract to gas-to-energy companies. What happens when methane starts subsiding or the amount or quality contracted doesn’t exist due to too much diversion? Consensus from many is, “let the landfill do what it is supposed to do!”

JP: With the lingering merger of Advanced Disposal and Waste Management, along with GFL Environmental, FCC, and Waste Connections constantly on the growth train via acquisition/new market, it will be interesting. There are a lot of opportunities when the economy is doing well in continuing to grow for the public and privates. I think there will be more mergers and acquisitions in the next couple of years and throughout 2020. I also believe who is elected President in 2020 for the next four years will have a large impact on our industry. I think this economy is set for the next year or two regardless, but it could be subject to a lot of change based on if the presidency changes.

WF: I believe 2020 is going to be another good year for the waste and recycling industry. The economy appears to be holding up. That said, predicting the next recession is like predicting Tom Brady’s retirement … it will happen someday, but we don’t know when. In the wake of the recycling crisis, more attention will be placed on brand manufacturers. The reality is that, in many cases, it does not make sense to manufacture products using recycled material because of cost and quality differences between recycled and virgin materials. Therefore, there has been little incentive for product makers to use recycled content in the goods they make or the packaging they use. This has to change. Product makers must design for recyclability and use recycled content in order to expand markets for recycling. I am eternally hopeful that at some point there is an understanding that for recycling to work, a diverse group of people including consumers, brand manufactures, government, regulators, and service providers must work together and share in the responsibility for its success. | WA


BidermanDavid Biderman is the Executive Director and CEO of SWANA and has been a leader in the waste industry for more than 20 years. He has been with SWANA for nearly five years, and has helped it significantly grow its membership, visibility and leadership position concerning solid waste and recycling issues in the U.S., Canada and overseas. He serves on the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Environmental Technologies Trade Advisory Committee (ETTAC) and on several solid waste task forces in New York City. David joined SWANA in April 2015 after 18 years with the National Waste & Recycling Association, where he was their General Counsel, Vice President for Government Affairs, and Safety Director. He has testified before numerous federal, state and local agencies and councils, and has spoken about waste and recycling issues, policies, and trends at numerous international environmental conferences, including events in Asia, Latin America and Europe.



Will-FlowerWill Flower has 30 years of experience working in the field of solid waste management and environmental protection. His career started in 1983 when he began working for the Director’s Office of the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency in Springfield, IL. He served as a Public Information Officer working in the Bureau of Air Pollution Control and the Emergency Response Unit. In 1990, Will began working for Waste Management, Inc. in the Midwest Region covering 13 states. In 1996, he was named Vice President of Communications and Community Relations for Waste Management and moved to New York City to work on a variety of projects including acquisitions, business development, community relations, municipal marketing and regulatory relations. In 1999, Will was hired by Republic Services as a manager of business development in New York City. Eventually, he managed operations in the Bronx which included hauling operations and a large, 3,000 ton per day transfer station with significant long-haul logistics including trucking and rail. In 2000, he moved to Republic’s corporate office in Fort Lauderdale, FL where he served as the Vice President of Communications. Following Republic’s acquisition of Allied Waste Industries, Inc. in 2008, he was named Executive Vice President of Communications and in 2011 he was named the Senior Vice President of Communications. He retired from Republic Services in May 2012 after 13 years of service. Will frequently gives presentations at training and educational seminars discussing a variety of environmental and communication topics. He is also an active member of SWANA where he has served on the International Board of Directors. He is currently President of Green Stream Recycling in Brookhaven, NY, specializing in the processing of recyclable materials and the creation of high-quality recyclable materials for manufacturers.

Tom1Tom Griffith is a Solid Waste Operations Consultant III for Blue Ridge Services (Mariposa, CA). Retiring from Caterpillar in June 2019 as a Waste Market Professional in Applications and Products, he has had more than 20 years in the waste and recycling industry. Tom first worked his way through college by working and operating machinery (dozers, large mining truck and wheel loaders) in the Central Illinois coal mines while teaching school for two years. He joined Caterpillar as a test operator mid 1978 and in 1991 became part of their Demonstration and Learning Center as an operator/instructor on large mining machine training. Part of his job was to also help Caterpillar develop their Certification Training syllabus with the University of Illinois. In 1996, Caterpillar needed someone to help with waste training and machine concerns, so Tom started working part time helping Caterpillar in the waste industry. Soon after, he was promoted to Caterpillar’s Waste Group as an Application and Machine specialist where the focus was on supporting product design, industry and machine training as well as supporting dealers/customers in waste applications, products and training and helping as a SME to develop waste industry marketing materials, waste industry websites, etc. Currently working for Blue Ridge Services as Solid Waste Operations Consultant, he is also helping them to develop an online Solid Waste operator training program.

johnFollowing in the footsteps of his faher, uncle and grandfathers, John Paglia III is the 3rd generation of leadership for Florida Express Environmental. From an early age, John has been around every sector of the business. John’s earliest memories are from riding in a front loader in a car seat in the early 1990s under United Sanitation. While continuing his education through college, John remained an active part assisting wherever he was needed in United Sanitation, Sunstar Transport, Florida Express Shavings and Florida Express Environmental. After graduating from Charleston Southern University with a degree in Business Management in 2011, John joined Florida Express Environmental full time. Starting as a driver, John was raised with the attitude that before you can manage you need to be able to complete any task you assign an employee. After working hands-on in every sector of the business, by 2013 he became Florida Express Environmental’s General Manager. John is an active member of NWRA’s FILA group (Future Industry Leaders Alliance). From 2015 until the present, he has authored a monthly column termed “From the Experts” in Waste Advantage Magazine which is one of the largest publications in the waste and recycling industry. Articles are based upon safety, best management practices, leadership and motivation. He has a strong belief in servant leadership, having served on many leadership councils, including the FCA (Fellowship of Christian Athletes), NCAA, and Charleston Southern University from 2007 to 2011. John and his wife have three boys, John IV, Rocco, and Roman, who are in line for the 4th generation of leadership at Florida Express Environmental.