New EIA Chairman Norm Aardema Takes Charge

Elected chairman of the Environmental Industry Associations for 2001, Norm Aardema has proven himself a solid leader in the industry.

With years of industry experience under his belt, Norm Aardema takes the helm as chairman of the Board of Trustees for the Environmental Industry Associations (EIA), Washington, D.C.

As a dedicated, proactive leader for the association, Aardema discusses the role of the EIA and the waste industry in 2001 and beyond.

What are the major challenges facing your association during the next few years?

There are several major challenges facing the EIA during the next few years.

A challenge that continues from year to year is the battle of interstate transportation of waste. This issue is running hot again for the 2001 year with Bruce Parker, CEO of EIA, and his staff in the battle representing the industry.

A second challenge, albeit a positive one, facing the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA), EIA's hauling, recycling and landfill sector, is to identify and secure the startup companies in our industry across the country as new EIA members. The EIA staff's job is to ensure a balance of services and needs to all its members, ranging from small one-truck operators to large public companies.

A third challenge is that the WASTEC Association, EIA's manufacturing and distribution sector, faces new and revised workplace rules, and continuing product liability issues.

How are the needs of today's members different than those 10 years ago?

NSWMA members' needs have been constant for many years. The hauling portion of the waste industry needs advocacy on a local, state and federal level. Although, throughout the years, most changes in this industry have been as a result of legislation.

As an association, we need to keep our haulers, manufacturers and distributors informed of these changes. The EIA must continue to provide networking opportunities to these groups to share ideas and problems within their companies.

This is done at WasteExpo, at many of the state chapter meetings and at other exhibits that the EIA provides throughout the year.

What are the most important factors to being successful in our industry today?

Our WASTEC members have to listen to customer needs and be able to make changes in equipment as requested by haulers and waste generators. If they are willing to listen, be flexible, provide a good product and back that with service, they will be successful in today's market. Because they do not provide a product, NSWMA members have one major factor to consider to be successful in today's market: service, service, service!

Has the relationship between our industry's manufacturers, distributors and waste management companies changed in the past few years? How will it continue to evolve?

Because of industry consolidation during the past several years, manufacturers and distributors have had to deal with a more price-conscious buyer. Many of the large public companies have switched to central purchasing, eliminating many of the small hauler-buying that previously was done on friendships or sentimental buying.

As we see new haulers entering the waste industry, some who are new and others who have previously sold their companies, I think we will see buying trends return to the friendship purchase. Also, we'll see people buying quality products even if it costs more.

If you had a chance to do anything differently in your early business career, what would it be?

I am not one to look back and have regrets. As I look at the early days when my brother and I began our careers, I do not think I would have changed a thing. Struggles and challenges are learning experiences, but they also are as exciting to conquer as the successes in business.

How is the general role of any association changing?

The basic role of EIA has not changed. However, the way we provide notification and training to our members in advocacy and technology has changed. Throughout the past five or six years, Bruce Parker and the EIA trustees have done a great job of managing and positioning EIA to accommodate the changes in our industry.

As consolidation of waste companies hammered our membership, EIA was able to streamline and adjust the organization to service its members. We have been successfully balancing the needs of the small startup members and continuing to provide service to large, public companies.

Today, we are seeing some of the same consolidation in the manufacturing and distribution sector of the waste industry, yet we feel confident that the experience we gained through the haulers' consolidation lets us service the members of WASTEC through a time of change.

Do you see reverse privatization — where municipalities are competing with and successfully taking back waste services from the private contractors — becoming a threat to the waste industry's private sector?

I think we saw a small rise in municipalities competing and successfully taking services from the waste industry private sector, but as new competition develops in the marketplace, the public sector and municipalities will struggle again with competing in the service area. There was a fear during consolidation that municipalities would not have choices and would be left with only one hauler in their marketplace to service their waste needs. With new startups forming, many of those fears have evaporated.

How will your association be different in 10 years?

The waste industry's foundation has remained the same since its conception: to pick up waste from generators using quality equipment, providing good service and disposing of waste in an environmentally sound manner.

As an association, we are here to provide support to haulers, manufacturers and distributors through networking and advocacy. That has been our role throughout the past several years, it is our role today and it will remain our role for years to come

Rebekah A. Hall is Waste Age's Associate Editor.