Discussing the challenges and opportunities that the industry is going through, from China’s National Sword ruling to organics diversion and food recovery, the CRRA’s annual conference focused on helping to develop new strategies to meet California’s recycling goals.

At the end of July, the California Resource Recovery Association (CRRA) held their annual conference and trade show in Oakland, CA. This comprehensive and informative conference dedicated to recycling and sustainable materials management in California and beyond, attracts more than 600 attendees annually and showcases around 30 presentations by some of the biggest environmental names throughout the country in order to help develop new strategies to meet California’s recycling goals. Featuring the theme of “Sea Change—Weathering the Storm in the Recycling Industry”, reflecting the challenges and opportunities that the industry is going through, topics covered everything from China’s National Sword ruling to organics diversion and food. In addition to the conference, more than 40 exhibitors showcased their products and services on the trade show floor during the event. The event also offered tours of Oakland’s Chinatown, food rescue and recovery in Alameda, as well as the Port of Oakland, Schnitzer Steel, the Davis Street Transfer Station, DR3 Mattress Recycling and Kay Chesterfield, a reupholstering shop.



On Friday, after a welcome from conference co-chairs, Laura McKaughan and Peter Slote, the opening session featured Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf who discussed how Oakland is committed to becoming a more sustainable city. Then attendees had the pleasure of listening to a talk by Vien Truong, CEO of Dream Corps, a policy expert, who has been a key architect to building an equitable and sustainable economy. The Dream Corps includes Green For All, which works to build an inclusive green economy to lift people out of poverty, #cut50, working to reduce crime and incarceration in all 50 states, #YesWeCode, helping 100,000 young women and men of diverse backgrounds find success in the tech sector, and #LoveArmy, a national network of people committed to revolutionary love.

When the plenary session ended, attendees were invited to have coffee with the exhibitors, where they learned about the latest in technologies and best practices throughout the recycling industry. Then, everyone broke out into their individual sessions that included topics on food waste reduction initiatives, responding to recycling threats, developing environmental leaders, climate change, strategies to strengthen recycling in the long-term, measuring for zero waste success and more. After a day packed with informative sessions, tours and mentoring, attendees were treated to a Zero Waste Reception in the exhibit hall with companies showcasing their latest offerings, giving everyone a chance to network with new contact and old friends.

On Saturday, sessions kicked off the day with the topics on illegal dumping mitigation, food waste diversion and recovery, planning for organics and packaging challenges. David Allaway, Senior Policy Analyst for the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality’s Material Management Program, closed out the morning with a talk on reducing the environmental impacts of materials and wastes. He has led efforts to develop and update the nation’s first sub-national consumption-based greenhouse gas emissions inventory, served as an invited science advisor to Wal-Mart’s Packaging Sustainable Value Network and served as an advisor to Paul Hawken’s Project Drawdown. Following an afternoon of additional conference sessions, attendees got ready to wind down the day with the CRRA and the California Product Stewardship Council’s (CPSC) awards ceremonies, honoring those environmental innovators in the industry (see Award Winners sidebar). Susan Kattchee and Tom Padia, both of whom worked with the City of Oakland, received CRRA’s top honor as Recyclers of the Year. Oakland is consistently recognized as one of the most livable and sustainable cities in the nation and their years of service have helped elevate the city to this standard. San Francisco Department of the Environment, the local government leader in innovative materials management policies, was also honored by CPSC. On Saturday night, everyone was treated to the NCRA Players’ performances of adventure and mishaps on mixed paper markets and compostable paper recovery. The performers entertained with comedy, tragedy and love through litter and leftovers and had people dancing in their seats!

Finally, on Sunday, the last day of the conference, after a morning of sessions covering public education, tackling mattresses, textiles, styrofoam, glass building end markets for plastics, creating RFPs for organics infrastructures and others, Zero waste fashion designer, Daniel Silverstein closed out the conference with great discussion on his journey into being an advocate for zero waste and how we need to transition people’s mindsets from that of recycling to reusing, creating a truly zero waste society. Based in New York, Daniel is a clothing designer and zero waste pioneer. In 2017 his story and brand went viral with more than 20 million views worldwide on features in Now This and Insider sharing his mission to end waste in the fashion industry one scrap at a time. Now in its third year, Zero Waste Daniel has transformed literal tons of scrap material into a growing business. During the conference, Danial also created a custom garment made from recycled textiles, which was raffled off at the end of his presentation to a lucky and excited winner. wastecon2

The CRRA Conference and Trade Show was the place to be in Oakland at the end of July as attendees learned, laughed, networked and had a great time. Next year’s show will be at The Westin Hills Golf Resort and Spa in Rancho Mirage from August 11 – 15. See you there!
For more information, visit www.crra.com.