WASTECON’s final day featured keynote speaker, Jeff Kirschner, Founder and CEO of Litterati. First talking about how the company got started, he explained that Litterati measured and monitored litter in order to reduce illegal dumping and help cities address litter problems. In turn, the data is used to drive policy as well as engage city residents and partner with organizations to help keep local communities clean. He pointed out that every photo of litter has a ton of data, including time, location, what’s going on around it, etc. We are surrounded by trash and have become desensitized to the litter. Every part of our daily lives have shifted to more sophisticated technology, such as phones, computers, other electronics, however, one hasn’t changed—the trash we ignore. 32 percent of trash ends up as litter and there is not a lot of accountability. Nine cities spend 68 million per year taking care of litter, but it is still not enough. The problem is resources are stretched across departments, ROI difficult to monitor and residents are frustrated. Cities are looking to engage citizens and analyze the root cause of where the litter is coming from in order to help understand what we are dealing with.  This is when the data becomes really helpful. If you start to look at the underlying cause, it allows you to strategically plan where to put your funding and resources instead of just being reactive. Every city in the world has a unique fingerprint. Involve brands in the area to help change the ways they do things. For example, in the Netherlands Aniflu changed their packaging from plastic to paper as a result of analyzing data. In Philadelphia, data led to a city ban on plastic bags. Everything has to be identified and catalogued. It is hard to take ownership, but the ability to collect data is something that we can all do in order to see shifts in policy, start to inspire companies to come up with more sustainable packaging, etc. he explained that some of the lessons learned along his journey were 1) trust your gut, think differently, 2) you can make a difference, 3) find value in the void – where in your work/lives can you look to make a change, 4) look around the corner, how do you start to sow the seeds today to benefit tomorrow, 5) be radically honest about the state of affairs. That’s the only way you can pave your path to a solution. It really helps us shape where we can go, 6) follow the pain, 7) be flexible and resilient, 8) focus on what matters, 9) find clarity amidst the chaos, 10) have patience, practice and give a little bit of luck and love. We are passionate about what we do, we want to see the world change, we want to leave this place better than we found it. We must love the problem we are trying to solve, not the solutions, 11) Don’t wait, there is no better time.

Sandoe conducted the final session, which was an open conversation on what we saw this week, learned, talk to one another, how do you want to collaborate. Asking some group questions, it was an opportunity to have open discussion on what was going on, takeaways, and discuss where we go from here. Everyone just wanted to connect and learn from one other. She stressed to find clarity amongst the chaos. How can we lean on one another? What do you want, need more of?

Biderman stepped in last to thank the attendees, exhibitors, sponsors, partners, emcee, the amazing SWANA staff and all of their hard work that was done to make the show successful. He also highlighted the importance of leadership and SWANA’s officers who give guidance to make SWANA a better association. Now the goal to take that stuff back to your workforce, apply it, and think about what is next and how you want to take it to the next level. He stressed that SWANA isn’t just about events, it’s about sharing information, data and best practices when we all come together.

In 2022, SWANA will be holding major events, SOAR, SWANA’s technical conference in March in Kansas City, MO and WASTECON 2022, held in beautiful San Diego in December. We will see you there!

For more information, visit wastecon.org and swana.org.