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The Heap

In the Wake of WASTECON

Another WASTECON has come and gone. As in past years I enjoyed the show, held this year at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., as an opportunity to reconnect with industry colleagues and forge new relationships while taking in some great technical sessions. But some changes in the way this year’s event was run did leave me scratching my head.

WASTECON 2012 opened under something of a pall given the unexpected passing of Connie Burns a day before the show’s opening. A mainstay with the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), Ms. Burns was by all accounts a warm and beloved figure in the waste community. I’m sorry to say I did not know her personally, but spoke to many folks during the week who regaled me with stories of her wit and generosity of spirit. Her loss was deeply felt. She was honored with a heartfelt moment of silence during the SWANA awards breakfast.

Nevertheless, attendees obviously were glad to be among their compatriots and I had no trouble running into old friends in the halls and on the show floor. Indeed, there was little chance of missing each other, since the way the show is scheduled meant that either the show floor was open or sessions were happening, but never both at the same time. It’s an odd choice, but one that has worked well enough in the past.

But this year the bizarre scheduling was taken to another level, with almost all of the technical sessions running concurrently during two periods late on Tuesday afternoon and another on Thursday afternoon. This left Tuesday morning, all day Wednesday, and Thursday morning solely devoted to the show floor, which was easily walkable in two hours or less, and that was with plenty of stops and conversations along the way.

I found myself in a confounding situation when it came to the technical program I have always valued in the past, forcing me to commit to just a fraction of the offerings since so many ran at the same time. I enjoyed the sessions I attended, but was left feeling rankled by all the ones I missed. Whether this was a deliberate attempt to funnel people through the exhibit hall or not, it was a poor decision by the organizers. Next year, I hope they will spread the technical program out a little more evenly. Better yet, consider running sessions and the exhibit hall simultaneously and let attendees choose for themselves how they will spend their time.

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