Industry Professionals Experience WasteExpo On A Grand Scale

In true Texan style, WasteExpo 1994 was undoubtedly big. The event, which was held the first week of May in Dallas, attracted more than 9,700 visitors, according to Environmental Industry Associations (EIA), WasteExpo's sponsor.

While the industry is still overcoming the stagnation of just a few years ago, it has clearly made it over the hump. And to further comfort the industry, attendees were willing and able to buy, said Lawson Hockman, EIA's chief operating officer. A survey conducted at the event showed that a majority of the attendees said that they plan to purchase solid waste equipment or services within the next seven months. To meet the needs of the attendees, there were more than enough products and services to choose from.

The Melting Pot This year's exhibition featured 516 companies covering 222,000 square feet, which makes this the largest show in size in WasteExpo's history.

While representatives from cities and counties were present at the three-day event, the majority of the Dallas Convention Center floor was filled with members from the private sector.

Many of the attendees traveled a great distance to make it to the show. Beyond the professionals from coast to coast, there also were representatives from Australia, Mexico, Japan and Greece.

"Right now I am examining all the equipment," said an Australian recycling facility owner. "Later on, I would like to try to sit in on a few of the courses. We go to a lot of waste events, but this is just enormous."

Recycling, to no one's surprise, dominated a huge portion of the Expo. From grinders to McMRFs, the exhibitors brought it all.

"It was reassuring to me to see a strong recycling presence at the show," said one recycling manager from Pittsford, N.Y. "There is just a whole lot of recycling at this show and I'm trying to absorb it all."

Geared toward recycling, relevant equipment on the floor included containers to hold the recyclables, trucks and bodies to collect or co-collect the materials, machinery to tear apart blue bags, MRFs to separate the recyclables and balers to complete the package. And then, to close the loop, several companies were on hand to display end-uses for recycled materials. The largest end-use display included a log cabin made of recycled materials while several other manufacturers showcased products such as containers made with recycled materials.

The total number of exhibitors was down slightly from last year, some of which was due to consolidation among the manufacturers.

As a result, some of the Waste-Expo groupies expressed some disappointment with this show from years past. Even though the numbers were similar to last year, some felt an overall slow pace of the show. Oddly enough, one recycling machinery manufacturer from California raved about the number of private buyers looking to buy machinery while another recycling manufacturer from New York - only a few booths away - reported that the show was slower than expected.

It's All In There "We are pleased with the quality of the attendees at this year's exhibition," said EIA's Hockman. "While the attendance was down slightly from last year, WasteExpo still remains a buyer's show."

"I'm looking to find some safety equipment," said a hauler from Baltimore. Amidst the large trucks, heavy equipment and herds of people, safety equipment was not hard to find. Rear vision equipment was bountiful, all featuring its own benefit. Some equipment included sensors that will bring the vehicle to an automatic stop while others featured cameras and monitors to eliminate drivers' blindspots. "I need something to help me out during the drive. At times it ain't easy driving that truck," he added. "So I'm going to help look for some equipment."

Computer scales and software options seem to be growing. "I have just about had it with any kind of manual billing," said an Ohio refuse company owner. "I'm hoping that automated billing will allow me to switch from quarterly to bi-monthly and make me more efficient."

Computer scales and software offer several advantages to both the small and large hauler, public or private. With increased regulations and pressure to meet federal and state waste reduction and recycling goals, several software companies noted an increasing interest in their systems. Computers can improve fleet management as well as provide a means to monitor waste flow and workers.

Unit-based collection pricing, which is the cost customers must pay to dispose a specific quantity of waste, has apparently gained the at-tention of waste professionals and manufacturers. Volume-based rates, when residents are billed according to the number and/or size of the carts put out for collection, and weight-based rates, which bills according to the weight in the cart, have opened a world of opportunity for scale manufacturers. Technology demonstrations let attendees see first-hand how a cart with an electronic bar-coding device can be lifted and weighed. By the touch of a button, relevant data such as weight, size, residents address and condition of the cart is transmitted into a management report.

As with most computer systems, accuracy, is the key to a successful waste management scale. Several manufacturers have devised their own way to most accurately weigh the cart by accounting for various distractions such as vibrations.

"It's a real close competition between scale manufacturers," said a scale company representative.

While small in number, a few companies exhibited one of the newest ways to transport waste - by rail. One exhibitor said that the inquiries were slow but steady. A lot of attendees have not even heard of the concept of transporting waste by rail, the exhibitor said. "One guy even asked if waste by rail was the name of a company."

A good portion of the show, however, was dedicated to the site where much of the waste is brought after the haul by rail - the landfill. Liners and covers, pipes and monitoring equipment, tractors and compactors, it was all there.

One of the toughest realities for landfill owners and operators has been accommodating Subtitle D. While the regulation is by no means new, a lot of time and money is still being invested in landfills to bring them into compliance. Several consultants representing a vast array of services were on hand to offer their skills. Perhaps one of the most unusual services included a team of methane divers who crawl into confined spaces to clean out collection lines and restore leachate shafts.

There is no doubt that landfills, re-cycling, collection and processing dominated the floor. But mixed within the business-tone voices, piles of literature and larger-than-life equipment, were some unusual finds including hiking boots, bumper and container stickers, satin jackets for haulers, portable toilets and even a company offering drug testing.

For those seeking more knowledge than industry exhibitors and colleagues could offer, the show included seminars on waste-to-energy, hazardous wastes, hauling equipment, landfills, recycling and management.

Hockman also noted that the attendees "were more interested in the professional aspects of this year's programs." The sessions, most of which were well attended, offered maintenance tips for transfer trailers, a roundtable on overcoming waste-to-energy obstacles, advice on markets for recyclables and a de-bate: Entombment vs. Accelerated Biodegradation - Which is Better?

WasteExpo '94 clearly illustrated the industry's commitment to solid waste management and a grand-scale comeback.