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Takeaways from Day One at IFAT

Day one of IFAT came with plenty of insights and highlights.

The National Waste & Recycling Association’s (NWRA) Future Industry Leaders Alliance (FILA) Leadership Summit attendees met more members of the BDE Junior Association during the first day of IFAT, the world's leading trade fair for water, sewage, waste and raw materials management, in Munich, Germany, on Monday. Members exchanged presentations showcasing how waste management is handled in different regions of the United States, and BDE members gave insight to global waste management efforts and the Green Dot System.

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. Maria Frizzell, CEO of SSI Schaefer’s waste and technology division, thanked everyone for attending and reflected on the trip thus far, saying she’s heard excellent feedback from FILA members and is impressed with the content of the tours and presentations that BDE Junior members and SSI Schaefer in Germany have prepared for the FILA Leadership Summit.

Frizzell initiated the idea in 2017 to travel abroad for the 2018 Leadership Summit and meet with and exchange ideas with the BDE Junior Association. She said she hopes to continue the relationship between FILA and BDE Junior and said they plan on reciprocating in the next year.

Dr. Armin Vogel, executive vice president of plastics for SSI Schaefer and chairman of the board for the 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.

Dr. Vogel 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.

Because of Germany’s enforced regulations for a closed-cycle economy, it can achieve a higher resource recovery rate and also help educate other countries on how they can improve their recovery efforts.

“It’s a global challenge,” he says. “We have to help other countries with practical adaptations for systems for differently developed countries.”

Following Dr. Vogel’s presentation, Josh Thompson, FILA co-chair and director of purchasing for Waste Industries ,and Liza Casella, FILA board member and director of solutions development and coordination for 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.

“Recycled materials are just being thrown away,” says Thompson, which he attributes to lack of education, lack of legislation and regulation, less passion, “or it’s just simple to throw it away.”

Casella provided another perspective to waste management processes in the United States and how the China waste import ban and contamination standard 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.

In Germany, the government mandates the rules of waste processing and recycling, but in the United States, there can be regulations on the federal level, state level and even the municipality level that need to be followed. For example, in many of the Northeastern U.S. states, glass is banned from disposal, and with the loss of the only bottle-to-bottle manufacturer in the region, there is no longer a home for this material. Similarly, with the ban on mixed paper entering China, the value of this commodity stream has dropped by more than 90 percent. Despite this, consumers in the Northeast are still required by mandated law to recycle those items at a significant cost, she said.

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.

Since the ban of landfills in Germany 15 years ago, 70 percent of collected waste is recycled and the rest is incinerated at waste-to-energy facilities, said Weider. This is achieved by the government mandate that all waste must 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.

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. The consumer pays 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.

Weider also said that the new German Packaging Act will be enforced starting January 1, 2019. This act will enforce a central registry for manufacturers and producers of packages, increase recycling targets and is introducing monetary incentives to companies for using ecological packaging.

“We’ll have higher recycling targets for all materials. Targets for plastic will increase from 36 percent to 63 percent,” says Weider. “Plastic and mechanical recycling will be the most challenging target to meet.”

Following the Green Dot presentation, Zach Martin, co-chair of FILA and vice president of sales in North America, provided the BDE Junior group with information and background on both NWRA and FILA.

NWRA has around 700 members in 29 state chapters with a focus on advocacy, education, communication, safety and networking. 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, said Martin.

FILA has roughly 70 members and holds an annual fall education summit and a leadership summit focused on professional development, networking and community service, he said.

Martin also explained the requirements to join FILA and other membership benefits including the certificate program.

“The certificate program emphasizes the importance of education in key areas, including leadership, finance, operations, management, human resourced and industry advocacy,” says Martin.

The FILA/BDE Junior Association meeting wrapped up with a presentation from FILA member Jared Lauritsen of Heil on the use of 3rd Eye Technology.

The first day of IFAT was concluded with a dinner hosted by Schaefer, where FILA and BDE Junior members were able to meet and get to know more about each group’s work and what they’re doing in the industry.

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