Eugene Pollock, Voice of the Solid Waste Industry, Dies at 90

When Kenneth Pollock was 17 in 1957, he remembers driving around the country with his father, Eugene. But this was no ordinary father-son cross-country trip. The two snuck into phone booths and ripped out sections of the yellow pages under "garbage collection." They gathered some 10,000 names, and promptly formed a mailing list for the elder Pollock's new solid waste magazine, Refuse Removal Journal. The magazine became the industry's first trade publication.

On April 14, 2000, Eugene Pollock, a native of Philadelphia who lived in North Bergen, N.J., died at the age of 90.

"The industry at the time was totally mom-and-pop, single- or two-truck owners. My father created this community voice between people," Ken Pollock says. "News went to him, which then went out in the magazine."

Subsequent mailing lists for the journal came from industry trade shows, many of which Pollock helped plan. Refuse Removal Journal later became Solid Waste Management, then World Wastes, which was incorporated into Waste Age when Intertec Publishing, Overland Park, Kan., bought it in 1999 from the Environmental Industry Associations (EIA), Washington, D.C.

Pollock also was instrumental in creating the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA), Washington, D.C., in 1968, and he served on its board of directors - even after he retired in 1980.

Eugene Wingerter, president of Wingerter and Associates LLC, Bethesda, Md., and former executive director and CEO of NSWMA for 24 years, calls Pollock a "legend."

"I could always count on his loyalty to the private haulers and the role of the private sector in serving the environmental needs of municipalities and the industry," Wingerter writes in a statement. "He was dedicated to the application of new technologies and honest to a fault in his pursuit of the economics of waste handling services," Wingerter says.

The private sector and the government shared a tense relationship, remembers Harold Gershowitz, the first executive director of the NSWMA who currently is chairman and CEO of a software company in Chicago. Gershowitz says Pollock did not approve of rigid governmental control over the industry, so Pollock helped the federal government and private contractors work together on policies.

Pollock's reputation as an advocate for the private sector meant the government "was more worried what Gene Pollock would have to say about [regulations] than what any one hauler had to say," Gershowitz says. "Because every contractor in America read [the journal], and if Gene said something was good, it was good [for them], and if he said it was bad, they would agree. His word was gospel."

In the early 1970s when recycling was becoming a hot issue, Pollock was determined to report the facts accurately, Wingerter remembers.

"He was a stalwart voice for the truth," Wingerter says. "He was always on the forefront trying to keep the record straight."

Eugene and his wife, Diane, were constant personalities at industry trade shows, friends remember. Ken says his mother handed out apples at the publication's booth, and aggressively sold classified advertising to haulers.

"She knew literally thousands of haulers, because every time someone wanted to buy or sell a used truck, they'd call her," Ken says about his mother, who died in 1996. "She was quite a personality."

Whenever Eugene Pollock had an idea, solid waste industry professionals took note, Gershowitz says. "He was kind of a one-man crusade," Gershowitz says. "He was the voice of the industry."

For someone who did not graduate from high school, Eugene Pollock had a way with words, Ken Pollock says. He remembers being at a trade show when his father was about to give a speech to 1,000 people. Eugene Pollock spent 10 minutes scribbling on a napkin before delivering a comprehensive address.

"It was something on trends in the industry, something other people would have spent a lot of time on," Ken Pollock says. "He was just the kind of guy who was able to take ideas and integrate them, and I was impressed with that about him."

Pollock is survived by his three children: Ken, a psychologist and psychology professor who lives in Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; Robin Epstein, a homemaker in Scarsdale, N.Y.; and Eugena Spear, who lives in Western Massachusetts.

Although Pollock had been retired for years, he leaves a legacy, Gershowitz says.

"There aren't too many in- stances when one person had so much influence on an industry," he says. "It closes the book on an era with his passing."