Rich Kogler recently has been appointed president of County Disposal Inc. and chief operating officer of American Disposal Services Inc., both in Burr Ridge, Ill. He is responsible for the operations of eight co llection companies, three transfer stations and four landfills. Formerly, Kogler was employed by Waste Management Inc., Oakbrook, Ill., for 11 years as vice president and regional manager for collection, recycling and disposal in 10 Mid-western states.
WW: What are the major issues facing the industry today?
RK: The largest issue that affects our entire industry is increasing governmental regulation and governmental in-volvement in solid waste management.
The private sector has been challenged to continue growing our business, while all levels of government (including most local governments) continue to dictate the conditions under which we can provide service. I believe the key to success and survival for a private company lies in taking an active role in helping to develop new regulations, particularly at the local level.
WW: How has the industry changed since you began your ca-reer?
RK: The past 10 years have seen remarkable changes in the disposal side of the industry. First, the oft-predicted landfill capacity shortage simply did not occur in most of the country. Instead, volume reduction due to recycling as well as large increases in supply and demand created the opposite effect.
In addition, in recent years, the long-awaited Subtitle D regulations have leveled the playing field for disposal operations, especially in terms of costs and quality. For example, who would have predicted 10 years ago that all U.S. landfills would have synthetic caps and liners today?
WW: What is the future for the small- to medium-sized private company?
RK: I believe that the fundamentals of the waste business are as strong and secure as they were 10, or even 20, years ago. What has changed is the level of complexity and the increased capital required in this industry. Any business, large or small, that does not adequately plan for capital needs will find its growth limited in the future.
WW: What advice would you give to smaller contractors to survive in the competitive market of the 1990s?
RK: I think smaller companies excel in two areas: providing good, customer-focused service and being flexible enough to meet their customers' ever-changing demands. My advice to smaller companies is to emphasize these strengths, particularly because this is a service-oriented industry which rewards a company with strong customer loyalty. I have found that loyal, satisfied customers will help you to survive in today's increasingly competitive markets.
WW: What are the most profitable areas in the waste industry today and what will they be in five years?
RK: I believe that an integrated waste collection network feeding a regional disposal facility is still the best, most profitable business strategy in the waste industry.
In addition, commercial recycling, particularly fiber materials, looks to be a promising area over the next five years. Companies have already begun reaching into that market. Hopefully, demand for recyclables will stay at a level high enough to sustain the customer's interest while making the business profitable for the waste hauler.
In the meantime,