The Weak that Wastecon Went West

The Pacific Northwest's trademark clouds parted over Portland for five days in late September as the city extended a warm, sunny welcome to Wastecon '96 conventioneers.

Beneath the shadow of Mt. Hood, more than 3,000 attendees bustled into the Portland Convention Center, relishing the exceptional weather and Oregonian hospitality.

Beyond the center's airy, skylit foyer, 210 exhibiting companies put last-minute touches on displays and buffed equipment dulled by the long journey until the pieces gleamed. And then they waited.

When the hall doors opened, the exhibitors were not disappointed. Undeterred by exhaustive flights across time zones, attendees turned out in full force on Tuesday, September 24, the exhibition's first day.

"There is a lot of participation, despite the good weather," said Alicia Burke of Camp Dresser & McKee (CDM), Cambridge, Mass., who enjoyed mingling with the crowd when she was not conversing with attendees at her booth. "It's a solid show with good floor traffic."

The convention center's floorplan was conducive to a productive show, Burke continued, noting that the hall was conveniently adjacent to most technical session rooms. Many attendees also enjoyed the convention center's proximity to hotels and the rail line.

Caroline Lacey, director of expositions for Wastecon's sponsor, the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), Silver Spring, Md., retrospectively billed the Portland show as "the largest West Coast Wastecon in history."

The show, which commenced on Sunday, September 22 and closed on Thursday, September 26, boasted hands-on tours, packed technical sessions, award banquets, daily cash prize drawings and opportunities for open industry discussion.

Monday's two technical tours routed participants to local sites such as the East County Recycling Center, St. Johns Landfill Closure and Environmental Monitoring, SSI Shredding Systems, Willamette Resources Material Recovery Facility and Riverbend Landfill.

"There was a good mixture of people on the tours and at the show," said SSI's Lisa Harper, who acted as tourguide to at least two busloads of participants. "It was interesting to look at the people's badges to see how far they traveled for the show. I met some people from faraway places like Maine and from overseas."

At SSI's Wilsonville site, participants were encouraged to experiment with the machinery by tossing objects such as bicycles into the shredder for processing.

Wastecon's attendee composition also impressed John Johnson, operations manager for Columbus, Ohio's Refuse Collection Division. "It was enlightening to talk to solid waste professionals who operate in climates and geography similar to Columbus," he said. The interchange was often an eye-opener for John-son, who left the show brimming with ideas. "The collections seminar was most helpful to me," he said. "I'm intrigued by Visalia's [Calif.] use of split containers, and I wonder if they would work as well in Columbus."

Many participants voiced satisfaction with the exhibitor turn-out as well. Johnson said he "enjoyed strolling the exhibit hall and talking with the equipment manufactures." The exhibit hall also was the perfect place to meet with peers, said N.C. Vasuki, chief executive officer of the Delaware Solid Waste Authority, Dover.

Denise Martin of SERIOUS LOCK, Hanover, Md., who met with many contacts and Wastecon regulars, pronounced the 1996 show to be "more fruitful than Baltimore."

SWANA's technique of closing the exhibition hall during the technical sessions effectively channeled participant attention and encouraged everyone to attend both the sessions and the hall.

"Trade shows can get tiresome, and since SWANA's sessions and exhibitor hours did not run concurrently, there were less stragglers in the hall, because people weren't getting burned out from walking," said CDM's Burke. "Besides, the half-Fday exhibition hours gave us exhibitors a chance to rest our feet for a while."

Lacey said that keeping attendees' interest was SWANA's goal. "Four dedicated hours are better than an eight-hour day with three non-dedicated hours," she said.

Some attendees reported that they thought there was not enough time allotted for the technical sessions, saying that a few speakers were "hurried through" their presentations because time ran out. "I look forward to the question and answer audience participation. That's often where I learn the most - from my peers," said one attendee as she was filing out into the lobby after a morning session. "However, time was up, and the panel allowed only a couple of audience questions."

David Yanke, director of operations for Reed-Stowe and Company, Austin, Texas, found himself as the fifth and final speaker of the "Public/Private Interface: The Free Market at Play" session. "I knew I would be left with little time [to speak], because everyone always goes over their allotted time," he said. "The result was I had ten minutes to talk, and there was little time for questions. I think that five speakers was too many for one session. Three would have been better."

Yanke, who was attending his first SWANA show, said that overall, he found the show to be "well done."

Of course, the technical sessions' interplay did not end in Portland. For example, Pete Chavez, sanitation director for Scottsdale, Ariz., reported that he still is receiving phone calls from people interested in finding out more about his lecture, "Transfer Station Planning and Design for Rapid Growth Areas: The Scottsdale Experience."

And The Winner Is ... SWANA's technical award ceremony was held during Thursday's luncheon. Four recipients claimed the gold award for industry excellence. The West Central Transfer Station, Royal Palm Beach, Fla., which is owned and operated by the Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach, received top honors in the "transfer station" category. This 22-acre transfer station boasts an average throughput of 550 tons per day of combined municipal solid waste, trash and yard waste.

Additionally, 90 tons of recyclables are transported to the Solid Waste Authority's Material Recycling Facility. This facility was opened in 1993, and has hauled 18,272 loads and 315,100 tons of waste and recyclables in its first two years of operation.

Besides the fact that it waltzed away with the SWANA gold for recycling excellence and won six other first place awards this year, the city of Plano, Texas, has reason to be proud of its commingled residential recycling program: It boasts a 25 percent recovery rate and has recycled more than 10,542 tons in 1995.

Plano's program offers collection of newspapers, magazines, aluminum, steel, tin, aerosol cans, plastic (numbers 1 and 2), clear and colored glass, and corrugated cardboard. Plano residents have the options of mulching their yard clippings, composting at home or placing the clippings in city-designated biodegradable collection bags.

"SWANA's award means more to us than the others, because we consider it to be more prestigious," said Nancy Nevil, Plano's solid waste manager, who noted that SWANA's judging criteria is more stringent than those of other organizations. "SWANA does not judge a program against someone else's program, but rather judges it against what they consider to be an excellent program."

The city of Wauwatosa, Wis., took silver in this category for its "Tosa C.A.R.E.S." recycling program.

The Elkhart County, Ind., Landfill impressed judges with its development of a successful, sanitary landfill. The facility, owned by the Elk-hart County Commissioners and operated by the Elkhart County Department of Public Works, encompasses 550 acres, of which 200 acres have been permitted for solid waste disposal.

Elkhart strives to educate residents and to safeguard them from the potential dangers of the commercial disposal area. The county has been able to maintain expenditures in the $1 million to $5 million range every two to five years in order to avoid bonding, financing or taxation. After the landfill closes, the end use plan calls for nature trails, softball diamonds and a ski hill.

The initiation of an intergovernmental agreement between the city of Elkhart and Elkhart County to construct and operate a paved, five-acre biosolids processing facility to help divert 150 tons per day from the landfill was another factor that made this landfill number one in excellence.

The Greater Lebanon Refuse Authority Landfill, Lebanon, Pa., achieved silver and the Woodland Meadows Recycling and Disposal facility, Wayne, Mich., claimed bronze in this category.

High honors were extended to the Union County Utilities Authority, Rahway, N.J., for excellence in waste-to-energy. This mass burn facility, which is operated by Ogden Martin Systems of Union Inc., combusts 1,440 daily tons of MSW and generates approximately 44 mega-watts of electricity to serve approximately 35,000 residences.

As part of the Authority's integrated waste management approach, the facility contributes significantly to the Authority's 60 percent recycling goal. Approximately 1,200 tons of ferrous scrap are recovered monthly.

In 1993, the county exported 400,000 tons of waste to landfills outside of the state. With the implementation of the facility and other recycling programs, the county has reduced exports to 73,629 tons of ash residue, which in turn leads to a reduced disposal cost - from $106.59 per ton for out-of-state transfer to $71.50 per ton at the facility.

Awards in public education excellence were given to Hamilton County Environmental Services, Cincinnati, Ohio, for its "Exploring the Environment" program; to Sanifill Inc., Land Reclamation Company, Racine, Wis., for its community relations program; to the city of Columbus, Ohio, for its "Simple Solutions"; and to Davis Street Station Materials Recovery and Transfer, San Leandro, Calif., for its "Davis Street SMaRT Environmental Education" program.

Meritorious achievement awards in education were extended to S.C. Johnson Wax, Racine, Wis., and to the Solid Waste Agency of Northern Cook County, Des Plaines, Ill.

According to SWANA program manager, Nancy Copen, the programs were judged on planning, design, equipment utilization, technology, public acceptance, operational excellence, public and employee benefits, impact on community appearance, costs and service, impact on human health, environmental quality and resource conservation, and overall application quality.

The Curtain Call The week came in like a lion, with teeming crowds and packed sessions, but went out like a lamb, with lower-than-expected attendance at the sessions and in the exhibit hall. Many exhibitors attributed Thursday's scant crowd to the travel required to return home from Oregon.

"Portland was far, and there was not a big flight menu to choose from. Many people had to leave either Wednesday night or early Thursday morning," said CDM's Burke. However, she noted that Paul Stoller, a CDM vice president, did speak to a "full house" during Thursday's final session.

"Flying out there was expensive, especially for companies that are struggling with dwindling budgets and cut-backs," said Burke, who expects that next year, more people will be inclined to attend and to stay for the duration because of St. Louis' more central location.

"We expect that St. Louis will be our largest show ever, both in terms of exhibitors and attendees," said SWANA's Lacey.

"We're already 50 percent sold out of exhibit space. We're encouraged by St. Louis' accessibility and good hotel rates," she continued, "The Missouri SWANA chapter is going all out to make next year's show a success."

And if the Portland show was any indication, it should be.