Recapping the SCHAEFER-hosted NWRA’s FILA Leadership Summit, IFAT 2018 in Germany

A group of 30 FILA members spent seven days in Germany, gaining new perspectives and sharing insights about the waste and recycling industry with the group's German counterpart, the BDE Junior Association.

The National Waste & Recycling Association’s (NWRA) Future Industry Leaders Alliance (FILA) held its first international Leadership Summit in Germany last week to meet with its counterpart, BDE Junior Association, and to attend IFAT 2018—the world's leading trade fair for water, sewage, waste and raw materials management.

Sponsored by SCHAEFER, Lobbe, REMONDIS, Faun, Volvo, Steinert, BDE, BDE Junior Association and NWRA, a group of 30 FILA members spent seven days in Iserlohn and Munich, gaining new perspectives and sharing insights about the waste and recycling industry.

Maria Frizzell, CEO of the SSI SCHAEFER Plastics Group North America, initiated the idea last year and led the charge to sponsor FILA’s first trip to Europe.

“The trip is really about exposing the FILA members and industry leaders to the technology and their counterparts in Europe,” says Frizzell. BDE Junior is the German equivalent to NWRA’s FILA group, so “both sides can learn from each other.”

FILA was formed in 2008 under NWRA to promote the development and advancement of future leaders in the waste and recycling industry through meaningful education, assistance, networking and mentoring. FILA has approximately 70 members and holds an annual fall education summit and a leadership summit focused on professional development, networking and community service.

"In the past, FILA trips have always been in the United States or Canada, so going abroad to Germany was the next step to evolving the group," says Frizzell.

Zach Martin, co-chair of FILA and vice president of sales of North America for Big Truck Rental, said Frizzell approached him at WasteExpo 2017 with the idea to travel abroad for the 2018 Leadership Summit and connect with the BDE Junior Association.

“Schaefer has been very generous to sponsor this opportunity and it’s going very well—it’s been a great opportunity to establish our relationship with the BDE Junior Association and to continue to learn. We haven’t done any joint networking like this before,” says Martin.

The first half of the trip was spent in Iserlohn—about an hour outside of Dusseldorf—where the FILA group spent three days listening to presentations and visiting facilities from their trip sponsors.

On the first day, Thursday, May 10, Dr. Armin Vogel, executive vice president of plastics for SSI SCHAEFER, Gustav Henrik Edelhoff of Lobbe and BDE Junior Association president and Christian Bremer, BDE Junior member and managing director of SSI SCHAEFER Institute for Disposal and Environment Technology, held a welcome reception, offered a tour of the SASE waste and recycling museum and hosted a German barbeque.  

On Friday, May 11, the day began early with a tour of Lobbe’s plastics recycling center and AMK’s waste-to-energy facility. This gave FILA members a first-hand look at how Germany’s waste management companies receive, process and recycle waste in compliance with their mandated regulations. Landfills were banned 15 years ago, so all waste must either be burned or recycled.

In Germany, government regulations require all waste to be separated in different colored collection bins for specific kinds of waste. Gray bins are meant for non-recyclable materials, brown is for food and organic waste, blue is for paper, yellow is for packaging and plastics and a large bag is used for glass collection.

After the two site tours, the FILA group returned to SASE for an afternoon of presentations and demonstrations from Dr. Vogel and representatives from Steinert and Faun. The presentations gave FILA members a preview to what they would see at IFAT 2018 in Munich later in the week.

Dr. Vogel gave a presentation on the digitalization of waste and what the industry can do to improve its own technology and not fall victim to disruptive technological changes out of its control. With that in mind, Dr. Vogel gave an overview of the new smart products SCHAEFER was showcasing at IFAT. Lucas Dörr of Faun provided a demo of its Rotopress truck—a side loader with a rotating drum that allows for continuous loading instead of a packer plate. And Steinert provided an overview of its 125-year company history and its product offerings and services.

The first full day concluded with a traditional German dinner at a hunting lodge hosted by SCHAEFER and the BDE Junior Association.

On Saturday, the group traveled to Lünen and met with Dr. Michael Rose, director for REMONDIS Dusseldorp Rioolservice (Sewer Service) for a tour of REMONDIS’ Lippe Plant—Europe’s largest industrial recycling center that spans 230 hectares (568 acres) and has a carbon footprint of negative 496,000 tons.

Seeing this facility was a highlight for the FILA group members, as there is nothing like it in the United States.

“They’re taking recycling to the next level,” says Mike Schmidt, FILA board member and executive vice president of strategic growth and development for Gold Medal Environmental.

“It really awesome to see” that REMONDIS essentially thinks of nothing as waste, and it’s processing and cleaning items or taking it to the incinerator and everything is being reused, says Brett Belda, FILA board member and regional sales manager for SSI SCHAEFER. “Everything’s closed loop in terms of everything they’re doing. There’s really no waste coming out of that facility and their organization, especially the one we toured.”

Before kicking off the second half of the trip at IFAT 2018 in Munich, the group had a free day on Sunday to explore the historic city before reconvening at a dinner hosted by REMONDIS.

Liza Casella, FILA board member and director of solutions development and coordination for Casella Waste Systems, said she was fortunate enough to sit at the table with the Australian CEO for REMONDIS, one his counterparts and REMONDIS Board Member Egbert Tolle.

“It was nice to hear their history and experience in the industry and, just in general, to have the opportunity to kick around ideas and share different perspectives and see how the business is changing for them and how it evolved over the years,” she says. “It’s interesting when you sit down with folks from a global perspective. Those individuals have sat down with counterparts of ours in the states in the past, and it’s nice for us as younger leaders to be able to be exposed to them just as the leadership of our organizations have.”

The first day of IFAT kicked off with members of FILA presenting how waste management is handled in different regions of the United States and BDE members giving insight to the Green Dot System and global waste management efforts.

Peter Kurth, president of BDE—the parent organization to the BDE Junior Association—welcomed both groups to IFAT and said he was happy to start this partnership between FILA and the BDE Junior Association. Frizzell thanked everyone for attending and said how impressed she was with the content of the tours and presentations that the BDE Junior members and SSI SCHAEFER in Germany have prepared for the FILA Leadership Summit.

Dr. Vogel, who is also the president of German ReTech Partnership, gave an overview of what waste and recycling trends could look like in the future and how citizens need to be aware of all the resource mining that is occurring globally. He said that due to global population growth and urbanization, the need for natural resources is also growing, but the supply of those natural resources is diminishing. He said the resources that are needed are only collected at a 1 percent rate and more needs to be recovered.

Following Dr. Vogel’s presentation, Josh Thompson, FILA co-chair and director of purchasing for Waste Industries and Casella, gave the BDE Junior members an overview of waste management practices in the United States.

Thompson gave insight to how landfills are operated and touched briefly on why recycling and resource recovery isn’t achieved at as high of a rate as Germany. Casella provided another perspective to waste management processes in the United States and how the China waste import ban is impacting the industry. She said the import ban has created a major shift in the industry and it’s not likely to improve. She also gave insight to the varying levels of regulation that her market faces.

Michael Weider, CEO of Der Grüne Punkt (The Green Dot), explained how the Green Dot System, founded in 1990, helps producers, consumers and waste management companies comply with Germany’s packaging ordinance.

The Green Dot System allows the responsibility to fall on all parties involved instead of just the waste management companies. The companies that produce the packaging materials must follow compliance and use only materials that can be discarded in the specific bins. Consumers pay for the recycling through a built-in cost when purchasing the product and are responsible for the sorting into the specific bins, and the waste management companies are responsible for the collection of all waste, incinerating or recycling and recovery, said Weider. With all parties involved, this creates a closed-cycle economy.

Following the Green Dot presentation, Martin provided the BDE Junior group with information and background on both NWRA and FILA. And Jared Lauritsen of Environmental Solutions Group wrapped up the first day of IFAT with a presentation on 3rd Eye technology.

The BDE Junior Association members and FILA members continued discussions at a dinner sponsored by SCHAEFER and BDE.

Tuesday was the final day of the trip, with a tour of the show floor led by the BDE Junior Association members visiting the booths of the FILA trip sponsors BDE, Lobbe, REMONDIS, Steinert, SCHAEFER, Volvo and Faun.

The trip concluded with a dinner sponsored by Faun and Volvo.

By the end of the Leadership Summit, it was clear that Frizzell’s vision had come together.

“I’ve noticed we’ve had more conversations outside of the tours and presentations talking about what we saw,” says Mike Zukusky, FILA member and CFO for Big Truck Rental. This was Zukusky’s fourth FILA trip.

Martin Mattsson, FILA member and director of national accounts for Volvo Construction Equipment, viewed his first trip as a benchmark for future Leadership Summits. He said it’s been a good mix of networking, learning from other companies and having some free time.

“REMONDIS [Lippe Plant] was extremely eye-opening, and hearing the presentation from Dr. Vogel on what’s next and what we’re up against in the next 15 to 20 years, summarizing the challenges we face as a society—it was very good,” says Mattsson.

For Stephen Redfern, FILA member and regional sales manager for SSi SCHAEFER, a highlight was meeting the BDE Junior members who have hosted the group from the start—Gustav Edelhoff, Christian Bremer and Philip Fechner.

“Meeting the BDE guys has been a great experience. I feel like we have the same mission; we’re in two different parts of the world, but we seem to have a similar mindset and vision for the future of the industry,” says Redfern. “Our hosts have been over and beyond hospitable. They’ve been very welcoming and accommodating.”

“What an amazing experience,” says Steve Walter of Walters Recycling & Refuse and FILA member. “This trip has given me more than just tools as a business person but even on a personal front. Before FILA, I had never been out of the U.S., but now I have both domestic and international friends.”

“Meeting everyone from the BDE … wow … what a hoot and a half. Those guys are just like us at heart. They all love the industry, enjoy talking and discussing it with you. They can also relate on a personal level because, all in all, we are somewhat in the same place in our careers,” says Walter. “That is great because FILA offers you the opportunity to retrieve advice on some or all of the struggles your company or you personally may be facing.”

Casella said it was great to see how other companies “in other countries are investing in their people and to see how our companies are investing in our own and seeing what the difference is.”

David Marcouiller, FILA member and executive vice president of the sales engineering group at Machinex, said it was interesting to meet the BDE Junior members and it was nice of Schaefer to make the effort to sponsor the trip in order to give FILA members more of a global perspective.

This was Marcoiller’s fifth FILA trip, and he recognizes the benefit to being a FILA member. He said that on his first FILA trip in Montreal, the group learned different negotiation techniques that he said he uses to this day.

“I’m also able to learn more about the industry from the other guys. It gives you an idea of where the industry is going,” he says. “It’s great to see SCHAEFER step in and see the improvement and development. The FILA organization needs more companies like SCHAEFER to keep hosting trips and improving the development of its members.”

Belda says “this has been a fantastic opportunity, and I want to give credit where credit’s due. Maria planned this a year ago, and it’s really raised the bar of what FILA is.”

He said the whole point was to bring the two groups together to foster the next generation of waste and recycling industry professionals.

Edelhoff said this is a very good start of a relationship between BDE Junior and FILA.

Frizzell, Thompson and Martin all said they want to reciprocate the hospitality and host BDE Junior in the next year, possibly at WasteExpo 2019.

“My grandfather said he met with an American group more than 40 years ago, so it’s a nice chance for both sides to get in contact again,” says Edelhoff. Edelhoff’s family has owned Lobbe for four generations.

Edelhoff said he is interested in visiting the United States. “I only know the technical way in Germany, and I know the U.S. is very good with landfills and is good at collecting waste, so I’d like to see how that’s done. Both associations have good ideas for waste collection systems, so it’s a good idea to talk and share ideas—it’s really important for both.”

“Anyone aspiring to be in a leadership position in the industry should join FILA,” says Casella. “It’s as simple as that. A lot of us are in more specific parts of the industry. Being a part of FILA gives you exposure to so much more of what’s going on. I think to be a good leader  you have to have a well-rounded perspective and a global perspective. This is one of those ways we’re offering that to NWRA members and people who want to grow within the industry. But I think as everyone else has felt with this trip and the last trips in more recent years, they’re getting more out of it and gaining a more rounded perspective.”

“All in all, I truly hope we as FILA could work out a deal where we alternate years—odd years in the U.S. and even years in Europe—so that we can almost become a global trash networking association. That would truly be incredible,” says Walter.

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