For more than a decade, Geoff Aardsma has tackled diverse roles within the waste management industry. He started his career as a trainee with Waste Management in Colorado and now is the vice president of client services at Enevo Inc. in Boston.
Enevo aims to transform the financial, environmental and social impact of waste while helping its clients to make smarter decisions waste management decisions. Enevo’s waste container sensors provide data and insight that can improve its clients’ collection and management programs. This includes proactively working with haulers to address missed collections, eliminate overflowing containers and ensuring proper service levels.
At Enevo, Aardsma leads a team responsible for delivering comprehensive waste management services to waste generators, developing strategic partnerships and executing continuous improvement programs focused on waste generation behavior.
Aardsma recently was named as one of Waste360’s 40 Under 40 award winners.
“It is a well-deserved honor for Geoff to be on the 40 Under 40 list. His dedication to the industry combined with his wealth of knowledge and ideas are a huge asset to any organization and we are lucky to have him at Enevo,” says Ric Hobby, Enevo’s president and general manager.
Aardsma spoke with Waste360 about Enevo’s technology, his passion for making waste management more efficient and effective and his thoughts about the industry innovations he sees on the horizon.
Waste360: What services does Enevo provide?
Geoff Aardsma: The big issue is that services are based on two inefficient models. First is the concept of assumed services. If a waste generator sets up services with a certain size container three times per week they have no efficient way to know if that’s the right level of service for them. All they have is an assumption that those services are appropriate and they’re being executed.
The other inefficient part of the system is observation. The only time that you find out that something is different than what you were assuming is when somebody notices or observes an exception and chooses to communicate that. This creates a lot of confusion and a lot of unknowns in the market. We’re able to address those inefficiencies by providing actual data that allows us to take action based on the needs of the waste generators and communicate the information efficiently and accurately.
Waste360: What are some of your major responsibilities at Enevo?
Geoff Aardsma: I run our client services department. I am responsible, along with my team, for managing all of our client relationships. We own the performance of that account. We do everything from day-to-day management of services to making sure that invoices are on time and correct.
All of our services and actions taken are based on the data from our sensors directing us to focus on the most urgent containers on any given day so we are able to be both proactive and efficient, saving our clients time and money. We also run all our continuous improvement programs.
Waste360: What brought you to the waste management industry?
Geoff Aardsma: I spent almost nine years with Waste Management. I started in the waste industry on the landfill side. I managed a special waste disposal in the Denver area, which is where I’m from. I was a biochemistry major in college and I wanted to find a career that matched up with the technical aspect I got through my education. I found that special and regulated waste gave me that.
Waste360: Tell me more about your experience of working at the landfill in Denver.
Geoff Aardsma: Recycling was growing at that time. We had set up several specialty recycling programs such as after a large hailstorm when we organized an asphalt shingle recycling program at the landfill where we set aside all of the asphalt shingles that were coming in because of the damage to the area roofs. We worked with an asphalt company to grind it.
I worked with our construction division to do sorting for LEED projects. Rather than just putting the construction debris into the landfill, we worked with the contractors on requirements and sorting operations. I was always interested in how we could take the materials that were coming into the landfill and find new and better uses for them that were interesting to our clients and were also good for business and good for the environment.
I was drawn to the collection side of the business because I had never really been that exposed to waste generators in the commercial or industrial fields. It was always construction or mediation firms. I went to California in the Bay Area [with Waste Management] for five years and switched over to the collection side of the business. We had great recycling facilities and a composting facility. That was where I really got interested in helping waste generators find new ways to become better at handling their waste.
Waste360: What is something that has surprised you about the industry?
Geoff Aardsma: I’m not sure it’s so much of a surprise, or maybe it’s a pleasant surprise, but I think I’ve always appreciated the pride of work that people in the waste industry have no matter what their role. You find very engaged employees who are proud of what they do and the effect they’re having on their communities and on the world. They feel that there is a very important job to be done, and people are excited to go to work every day to provide that service to their neighbors and to their communities.
Waste360: What does good leadership look like to you?
Geoff Aardsma: Good leadership requires listening. I was a manager for several years at Waste Management and now I have moved into a leadership role at Enevo. There are always a lot of pressures on a leader. There are a lot opinions and stakeholders who are vying for your attention. In order to make good decisions and to enable the teams that you work with to do what they need to do it’s important to listen to everyone and not interject your opinion into it but to have a level playing field before directions are set.
Waste360: In your opinion, what are some exciting opportunities that you see opening up within the waste management industry?
Geoff Aardsma: There is an evolution of technology being injected into the waste industry, whether it’s a new landfill technology or recycling technology. Trucks are becoming more and more intelligent all of the time. At Enevo, we’re working on connected devices in waste containers and services that will affect several areas of the industry. I think I’m interested to see how this influx of new knowledge helps the industry to create better solutions for customers, and how it’s presented to waste generators, and how they can start learning about their habits.
Waste360: If you were talking to a young person who wasn’t considering entering the waste management industry, what would you say to encourage him or her to give it a try?
Geoff Aardsma: I would say not to underestimate what you can do in the waste industry. Keep your options open and look at all aspects of the waste industry. There are so many different areas and it’s such a diverse landscape of professional opportunities as well as opportunities to interact with the market and find mentors and work with great people. One of the things that I think as I look back on my career thus far is that I’ve had a very diverse career. I’ve worked in several different parts of the waste industry and that’s been valuable to me.