Talking about solutions will not fix the problem; we need to do all we can as an industry to put an action plan together to make it happen.
By John Paglia, III

I recently listened to an interview with Waste Management’s CEO, Jim Fish, and a few of the topics he spoke on could not have been truer. As Waste Management being the leader of the industry, Jim holds a great responsibility of having the ability to influence change.

Distracted Driving
He spoke about how in Vancouver drivers can receive tickets for texting and driving. To my knowledge, there are some states like New York that have adopted these same principles. We all see it. I recently took a weekend road trip and anytime I came across someone on the highway driving erratic, driving 15 mph below the posted speed limit, or ignoring safety principles, they either had a cellphone in their hand or on their lap. In my opinion the NWRA should push until every U.S. state has the same policy as Vancouver. Texting and driving is the same if not worse than driving under the influence. I believe habitual offenders should be treated the same. If we could make all drivers on the road safer, it is my hope that we would have less distracted drivers around our collection vehicles. The goal would be to move us out of the top five most dangerous occupations. Talking about solutions will not fix the problem. We need to do all we can as an industry to put an action plan together to make it happen.

Labor Force
Recruiting the skilled trade of our industry in today’s economy will be a challenge. How do we attract millennials and those coming behind them? In generations prior, Jim referenced the great depression as employees were afraid to lose or find a job that kept most of them loyal and reduced employee turnover. In today’s market, job openings are everywhere, giving the youth many options. I could not agree more that leadership is the only way to attract and maintain employees for the long term. If you walk the talk of your company’s core values, you will be set up to attract people to not only work for you, but also with you. Give them responsibilities and a voice. Once they see the culture is not a dictatorship, word of mouth will spread, and turnover should trend downward.

Change in Recycling
The industry is facing many challenges right now regarding recycling. In Waste Management’s most recent earnings call they spent 90 percent of the call speaking about recycling which only makes up 10 percent of their business. Trying to summarize a solution, I would propose the answer to increasing consumer education and putting regulations on manufacturers. The simplest goal of recycling is to save natural resources. I have said it before, but we need to fix the problems at the source. The source being the manufacturer. Why is it the hauler’s problem to find ways to try and sort good material with a 30 to 40 percent contamination rate? If we could mandate how manufacturers can package their material, and reduce the medias used in bottling and packaging distribution, it would then give us less of a variance to pick up curbside. Go back to dual-stream curbside recycling and terminate single-stream recycling!

Implement Change
It is one thing to have great ideas, but we also need to ride them until we create the change we all speak and dream of. We will never create change unless we make it a number one goal of ours to educate the public on why we request the change and how everyone will have the opportunity to prosper. In this article alone, implementing an enforceable countrywide offense for using a mobile device while driving for all licensed drivers would make the roads a safer place. If we can suggest and make changes to the ways manufacturers can package their materials, with the goal of eliminating so many different forms of waste streams, we will have a shot at making the world we live a safer and more efficient environment to live in. These two proposals, if carried out, would start to make real changes that the waste industry would benefit from. We need to make our voice heard on a local, state and federal government level. If we come together as private and public companies and have the NWRA spearhead the focus of the ideas, we can then mandate and control our industry. We need to have state, local and federal government listen to us, not the other way around, as to what can be done to change the industry’s major challenges.

John Paglia, III is a 4th generation garbage man. Before he climbed the ranks to become Florida Express Environmental’s General Manager, he had a successful career in college and professional athletics. John has been around the garbage industry since his car seat days. Currently, John is focused on growing his company and offering the highest level of customer service and prolonging the world we live in today. John wakes up every day knowing the impact professional haulers have on their community is far greater than most realize. He can be reached at (352) 629-4349, e-mail or visit

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