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Episode 108: Insights from a Lifetime in Waste & Recycling (Transcript)

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[00:00:00] Liz Bothwell: Hi everyone, welcome to Waste360's NothingWasted! Podcast. On every episode, we invite the most interesting people in waste recycling and organics to sit down with us and chat candidly about their thoughts, their work, this unique industry and so much more. Thanks for listening and enjoy this episode.

[music]

[00:00:26] Liz: Hi everyone. This is Liz Bothwell from Waste360. I have the pleasure of having Chaz Miller here. He's a long-time industry veteran and he spent many years at the NWRA. Hi, Chaz, and thanks for being on the show today.

[00:00:41] Chaz Miller: Hi, Liz. My pleasure to be here.

[00:00:44] Liz: I'm so excited to talk with you. I think it's such a great time to have you on and hear your perspective on so many things that are going well in the industry, and how things are moving forward. Before we get into all of that, Chaz, we normally start at the beginning. Will you share with us your background and how you made waste and recycling your home?

[00:01:08] Chaz: I got hired by EPA in 1976 to work in their nascent Resource Recycling program. I was hired by Penny Hansen who had run a recycling center in Columbia, Maryland, wanted to institutionalize recycling. She did tremendous great work to get curbside recycling going in this country. Stated EPA after we got out of solid waste for a time in 1980 but stayed handling recycling for the agency. Then in '88, I left to work for the glass industry on their recycling programs.

In '91 I went to work for what was then called the National Solid Waste Management Association, which has now changed its name. I've always been involved in recycling at the Association, but also in other aspects of solid waste from my time both at EPA and at NSWA. Even though I'm theoretically retired, I'm not since I'm still doing some work and still enjoying trash.

[00:02:15] Liz: [laughs] I love it. We're glad you haven't left us completely yet. Chaz, I know you had two interesting calls this morning talking about the markets and I would love your insights as to where we are now, paper, plastic. What you're seeing, and what you can share coming out of the pandemic?

[00:02:39] Chaz: I'm happy to. I spoke this morning at the virtual annual conference for the Northeast Research Recycling Association. Then, about an hour later, we had the Northeast Recycling Council's monthly meeting of our recycling markets task force, which I chair. I did the same presentation of both because we had a speaker cancel at the NERC meeting. I was looking at markets, where they are, and making some predictions about where they're going forward.

Right now, markets for paper are very good. You're seeing national price for corrugated boxes, OCC, the boxes we get through eCommerce that so many stores, put on their loading dock for recycling, they're running at $90 plus a ton. Actually, I think the tracking prices are actually a little low to what's actually going on the street. Mixed paper is up very nicely. Mixed paper is in the upper 30s lower 40s now, per ton. This is largely driven by more demand in this country for recycled paper.

More packaging demand and I think it's going to stay, at least for a while. The price of virgin pulp has gone up in the last couple of months. That makes recycled content, that gives that some room to grow and you're just seeing more and more demand for the boxes. In fact, the reality is that some of the companies that make boxes are predicting prices for OCC to increase by $30 a ton throughout the year. That'll increase the price of mixed paper by five to 10 a ton.

I think those are going to hold steady through this year barring the unexpected. I only say the latter because I spoke in Connecticut a year ago. It was my last public speech with the real live audience, the end of January. I predicted, yes, paper would go up modestly and plastic was hard to say, although Natural HDPE was really good. I never mentioned the word pandemic in that presentation so that is now my caveat on any predictions I make. I certainly didn't call that one.

There's some things that I think we realize we just don't know what's going to change. Plastic prices, colored HDPE, Natural HDPE, polypropylene those are all setting records, they're stunningly high. Only PET is lagging. There's problems with the recycle PET market, and those may be more systemic to just the whole market itself. It's nice to have prices as good. I'm tired of being the depressing guy at markets presentations and at recycling conferences. I like being upbeat and I like this.

[00:05:52] Liz: What a turnaround. This is one of the unexpected silver linings of this crazy year.

[00:06:00] Chaz: Absolutely, Liz. Some of the articles in Waste360, the company updates on the first quarter, the companies were all talking about increased revenues from recyclables, significantly increased. I think that's good news going forward.

[00:06:17] Liz: I love hearing the optimism. I've enjoyed your articles on Waste360 so much. I need to ask you about the one you recently wrote.

[laughter] 

[00:06:29] Liz: I know you know what I'm going to ask.

[laughter] 

[00:06:33] Liz: You were debunking, shall we say, some of John Oliver's recycling rants and you called it John Oliver is Wrong: Recycling Is All About Individual Responsibility. Please tell me what inspired you to do this. Just walk me through some of what you shared in that article, please. It was very entertaining.

[00:06:54] Chaz: Recycling has always had magic bullets but somebody is going to solve the problems of recycling. In the case of John Oliver, the plastic in and of itself was intrinsically evil. This whole thing about, "It's not individual responsibility. It's somebody else's responsibility", it overlooks what has always been the key reality to recycling. I don't care what kind of system you have. I don't care whether it's deposits, curbside, pay as you throw, EPR, you name it.

It's you and I who actually have to put the recyclables at the curbside or return them for deposits. We can have all the producer responsibility you want but the producers ain't coming to my house to sort out my recyclables for me. I have to do that. I think people just don't want to concede that point. I think there's just a belief that we can give it to somebody else and they'll solve the problem when reality it's you and I who put out the trash, it's you and I who put out the recyclables and we either do it right or we do it wrong.

When I saw that SWANA study that came out, looking at the test out in the Columbus, Ohio area and you saw that group that they labeled as underperformers. Before the tests, they did all kinds of things to increase participation, increase enforcement and get people to recycle more and better. In a couple of neighborhoods, the number of underperformers actually increased at the end of the test. Yes, the people who wanted to do a good job, they did better. But the number of people who didn't care they did worse.

I think recyclers have got to take that into account. We have to start designing our programs, I hate to say this, but for failure. We have to accept the fact that people are not particularly good recyclers. They're not bad in this country but we're not great, either. That, for better or worse, we have our own priorities, and being perfect recyclers is not a priority for 300 million Americans. We have to figure out how to get around that.

That's going to involve, in part, increased mechanization of MRFs, the rise of artificial intelligence, the robotic arms, optical sorting. Some of the reports that were done for As You Sow, which did a shareholder thing with some of the publicly traded companies about what they were going to do about plastic recycling, one of the companies said, "Look, our goal is to get the 10% residue." What that is really saying bluntly, they're expecting a ten percent failure rate but that will be success. They will have been able to cut out the contamination down to that point, and that's in spite of all the high-tech stuff they can do, and all they can do on educating consumers.

If we don't accept the fact that people will not recycle perfectly, then we're going to keep misfiring on our recycling programs, and we will keep totally failing to meet the recycling goals that are being set. I think it's frustrating that people like John Oliver and others would rather pick on the plastic industry and be, "Hey, go ahead on that one", instead of looking at the real issue and what really has to be resolved.

[00:10:48] Liz: It's true, and I think you made some great points in the article, and what you just talked about there. Have you seen anything, Chaz, around consumer education that has helped or has legs going forward? Obviously, I know it's a combination of all the things that you mentioned, but is anyone doing it well? Is there a municipality? Is there an organization that you've seen?

[00:11:12] Chaz: Actually Seattle does it very well, and I say Seattle is [inaudible 00:11:15] for two reasons. First of all, I trust their numbers, a lot of cities that claim they do it well, you look at their numbers, and you discover flaws in the numbers.

Seattle, I think, has honest accurate numbers. They've been consistently above 50% for some time, they're also struggling to reach their 60% goal, and they haven't made it, they've missed it.

Actually, I believe the rate has gone down a little bit in the last couple of years, and it's partially due to some demographic factors that are out of their control. Yet, Seattle has done it so well, and they're blessed with very good markets, and very good collection. I think that tells you something, that there is a limit out there. I think it's quite possible we're trying to recycle too much that in our desire, understandable, to reach as higher recycling level as possible, we're overestimating what people are capable of recycling, and we're making recycling too damn complicated.

I think I'm a pretty sophisticated recycler, but I, sometimes, have to double-check what goes in my bin and what doesn't. I have the good fortune to live in a dual-stream county, so that means we create very clean paper, but the reality is the commingled bin, they mixed glass, cans, and plastics. That's all messed up. There's a lot of contamination that has to go out of that, and the county does a very good job of education. I think perhaps, like I said there's [unintelligible 00:13:03], we may want to lower some of the targets, or we may want to push them back in years, and we may want to reassess what is achievable, and in what time frame.

[00:13:13] Liz: That makes sense. I know also in that article you did mention producers, and how they can do their part to help make recycling work even though ultimately you think we hold the key to success, with that being said, where do you stand on EPR?

[00:13:31] Chaz: Let's hold off on that for a split second. Producers clearly need to step up their use of recycled content, that's really where the money hits the road.

[00:13:41] Liz: Okay.

[00:13:42] Chaz: You've seen a lot of press releases from a lot of companies saying how they're going to do recycled content, and their goal is 2025 or 2030, that's very nice, but I could care less about a 2025 goal, I really care about the 2021 goal, and the 2022 goal. I care whether or not the CEO's performance evaluation includes progress towards meeting that goal. I care whether or not the company has allowed its procurement agents to pay above the price of virgin for recycled content, that's what matters.

Clearly, we are seeing that on Natural HDPE, there are a lot of brands who are clearly paying very high prices for Natural HDP, it's a very versatile polymer, it's got a lot of application, and it doesn't need to be in food contact. I wish I could say the same for PET, but those are different polymers, and very, very different recycling markets. That's the first thought for what producers needs to do. When it comes to EPR, I'm happy for producers helping to pay for recycling facilities or helping to pay for publicity. I'm very skeptical about turning recycling in this country over to a producer group. That's a monopoly, I'm not big on monopolies.

I don't think monopolies are healthy, and the reality is it's not the producers who would run the EPR group because there's too many of them, any state in this country is going to have four or five thousand producers, except for the really small states, and nationally there would be-- I don't know 10, 15,000 producers, you can't get all of them in one room. What happens is somebody a group of entrepreneurs forms an organization to be the, "Producer group", and then all the producers just write the check.

They pay their dues, and they move on with their lives, and now recycling instead of being controlled by local governments, and state governments is controlled by this group of entrepreneurs who set up the producer group. I don't think that's healthy, I don't think that's at all healthy for recycling. We generally, as a company, are not crazy about monopolies, and there's a long history in this country of stopping monopolies, so I don't see any reason to create a new one.

Certainly, any money they want to contribute towards recite the infrastructure, be delighted if they decide to voluntarily charge themselves a penny a package or what have you, and set up a fund through EPR or what have you, and let's ramp up the infrastructure. We need more and we need better, especially at the processing end. Clearly, we need to update the processing infrastructure in the country. Those are my thoughts on EPR.

[00:16:47] Liz: That makes sense. I hadn't even thought of the monopoly side of that.

[00:16:52] Chaz: It's also just the whole way that solid race and recycling work in this country. We have 50 states, we have 10,000 plus towns of size, and another inner 20,000, very, very small little burrows and what have you. You have a lot of people living in an unincorporated land, and that ladder is very important. Look at the state of Maryland, where I live, there's exactly two counties that actually use taxes to pay for recycling, Baltimore City and Baltimore County.

The four counties that are on the I-95 corridor, between Baltimore and Washington, use fees to pay for solid waste and recycling, not taxes. The other counties it's all essentially subscription hauling, and its individual companies who are doing the recycling program, and they are directly billing their customers. There may be some local governments to use taxes to do it, because local governments in Maryland can do that if they choose, but population-wise they're a relatively small percentage of the state of Maryland, and they're definitely are some counties that are using some taxpayer money for education and for minor aspects of recycling, usually getting it to the processing facility, consolidating recyclables collected in the county.

I don't know how you impose EPR in that kind of in structure, it's never been done in the world. Whatever state goes first on EPR, is going to be inventing all kinds of things, and probably finding itself trying to figure out how to untangle an existing system to set up a brand new one, that will be very interesting to watch.

[00:18:41] Liz: That would be interesting to watch, and it is so complex just based on how it's set up now and how they would come in. Even the fact that these brands are multinational. It's, who owns that? At what point, and what are they paying for and where? It's a huge question.

[00:19:01] Chaz: It is. It's a very big issue.

[00:19:03] Liz: Well, we will watch.

[00:19:04] Chaz: We shall see how it plays out. I think there's three states now where the EPR bills are still active. One or two states may pass a bill, but the states have a lot on their plate because, legislatively, a lot of their schedules are [inaudible 00:19:17] 

[00:19:18] Liz: Right, a lot was pushed aside, they're focusing sort of-

[00:19:22] Chaz: Absolutely. In Maryland the legislature last year adjourned because of the pandemic three weeks before its normal adjournment date. When they came back in the session this year they had a lot of set to catch up on that they hadn't finished last year. It made for a very unusual session, and I think that's true in all 50 states.

[00:19:44] Liz: I think you're right too. Chaz, you're always the first one to say obviously recycling is not the, "Be all, end-all." It's diversion, and reuse. What are your thoughts on refillables?

[00:19:58] Chaz: I love refillables. I think refillables are great. I wish we had more. When I was a kid, soft drinks were all in refillables and so were beer, although I was much too young to know anything about that [chuckles]. I think there's a place for refillables, but Americans love convenience. I think that refillables to really make a breakthrough in this country have to hone in on the convenience factor and be a way where it's very easy, take back and reuse.

Bluntly, I look forward to the day when I can start getting my cold brews refilled at Starbucks instead of having to buy a cup each time. I'm hoping, hint-hint Starbucks, that that is soon. Until then, we're stuck. I think there's definitely a place for refillables but, again, they've got to deal with that human factor and making them as convenient as possible.

[00:21:04] Liz: Definitely. That's right why single-use plastics were born, a convenience, and then sometimes that and the environment don't always go hand in hand.

[00:21:16] Chaz: Yes. Single-use plastics and plastic packaging in general, it's so lightweight. Plastics have taken so many trucks off the road because you need so many fewer trucks to transport them than their competitors. In fact, I am curious to find out if petrochemicals were actually a mistake for the oil and gas industry if by creating something that was so lightweight it could be used by far fewer trucks, we use far less fuel to transport them. Did the oil and gas industry screw up on that one?

But they went out and invented them and they're there. What makes them so good, their lightweight, makes them so bad. Plastic bags, see them on hiking trails. I see plastic bottles on hiking trails. It gets back to people are lazy and they just drop them. They're ephemeral. They're easy to drop. Especially plastic bags, they blow away. It's really a Jekyll and Hyde kind of situation. A product in many ways that is very, very good and very good for the environment, and a product in many ways is very, very bad and very bad for the environment. I don't know how you strike the balance on that.

[00:22:48] Liz:  Yes. I think that's what we're all struggling with. With the pandemic, we saw that with masks, those being so lightweight, blowing, and finding those everywhere.

[00:22:58] Chaz: Yes, don't get me started on masks on a hiking's trails.

[00:23:02] Liz: I bet.

[00:23:04] Chaz:  That just drives me crazy.

[00:23:06] Liz: It's so unnecessary, right?

[00:23:08] Chaz: Yes. I think actually you rarely see a cloth mask on a hiking trail. It's almost always the disposables. I think they fall out of people's pockets but then they're very lightweight. I think people tend to take a little better care if it's a cloth mask than if it's just a disposable, which I think is another good thing about reusables and refillables.

[00:23:33] Liz: Definitely. No, you're right. You feel the value. There's weight to it, literally and figuratively. I think you're right there. Yes, we mentioned masks and the pandemic. I know that you have highlighted before how you think the pandemic has really shed a light on the importance of workers, and how really they became essential, and it probably should have been done years ago. What are your thoughts on what it's done to elevate the industry?

[00:24:04] Chaz: The real irony of the solid waste industry is we did too well. We did too well at collecting garbage. You look back at to when collection of garbage was instituted and all dates back to the 1880s in the City Beautiful Movement. Streets were filthy, people threw raw garbage into the streets. [unintelligible 00:24:25] we were starting to industrialize, we were starting to develop a solid middle class, people wanted to live in clean cities. They were tired of pigs in the street, so government started collecting garbage either by government or by private haulers.

We got very good at collecting garbage. Americans are good at putting their garbage out. We're not perfect, you get a certain amount of litter, but we're actually pretty good at putting garbage at the curb and in our cans. But we're best when it's just garbage in one can. Some of those early programs, actually, even in the 1880s and '90s were three sorts. One of the interesting things is the thing that was most collected at the curb, I don't know, 120 years ago, was actually ashes.

It was ashes from burning coal, and woods, and apartments, and in houses to heat the house for energy. Now you just don't see that. In a way, we failed because we did such a good job at that people forgot the garbage is a public health industry and it's vastly important for public health. You had Recro passed in-- I was going to say 1776. I meant 1976.

[laughter] 

[00:25:41] Chaz: Recro was a great law and it was aimed, primarily, to landfills and partially hazardous waste. But the immediate input on Recro's landfill is about doing the subtitle deregulation about closing down all the open burning dumps, and there were open burning dumps. I remember them because the very beginning of my career in trash and recycling was taking trash from a dude ranch in Colorado, down to a little dump in Kremmling, Colorado, emptying the barrels, pouring gasoline over it, setting it on fire and then leaving. It was perfectly legal at the time. I'm not defending it, it's just the way things were done.

We are better than that now. All those old open burning dumps are closed. Landfilling's not perfect. No disposal system ever will be perfect, but no recycling system is perfect. I think now we do such a good job when it comes to managing our waste that we've totally forgotten the public health impetus behind it. I think that's the one beneficial aspect of the pandemic, is that people now realize that those men and women working those trucks are helping to keep us healthy, and that without them, we would really have some serious problems and we'd have to try to figure our way out of. You're absolutely right there. I think it very much helped the profile of the industry.

[00:27:15] Liz: Another one of those silver linings, right?

[00:27:17] Chaz: Yes.

[00:27:18] Liz: I love hearing from seasoned people like you, Chaz, about what you think about the industry because you've been in it for decades. I'd love to dig in a little bit, what has surprised you over the years? What do you think about where technology is heading?

[00:27:36] Chaz: Let's start with technology. I think you're seeing extraordinary innovations at MRFs, artificial intelligence, the optical sorters, the use of robotic arms. I remember when optical sorters were first discussed for glass. We hoped it would work, but there were a lot of doubts. Now optical sorters have really found a place, although, ironically, it's less for glass than for other materials. The robotic arms are just fascinating.

I think if you look at a brand new MRF today and if that MRF has the management and the money to keep it up to date, then in five years you'll see a significant change in equipment as they simply bring in more effective use of artificial intelligence and more effective robotic and optical sorting equipment, and probably stuff I've never even heard of before. Because that technology is increasing. I think that's also good because MRFs it's a dirty job and it sometimes can be a dangerous job. It lowers that incidence by relying on machines instead of people.

I know a lot of people like to see recycling as creating jobs, but there are better jobs out there than working on a processing line. I think you're seeing more improvements on the disposal side. Frankly, I think there's always going to be a tension between those who want to simply eliminate disposal and the reality that we can't. Our ability to just to continue to ensure those disposal sites are run properly and maintained properly.

Right now, I think the biggest problem is the lithium battery and the fire problem. Whether it's in a truck or a MRF, or in a truck on its way to a disposal facility. That's a problem, those fires. If I had the answer, I would say what it is, but I don't. I think the industry is doing a good job of moving forward and just continuing to protect the public health in our country.

[00:29:54] Liz: I think that's great. Work technology can make improvements and innovate. It's great and, like you said, there are so many other good jobs that somebody can have and elevate their own position. I know when I interviewed Matanya from AMP Robotics, I asked that question because everyone's always nervous, "The robots are going for the human jobs." He said, "We always make sure that there's a human manager to oversee." That's an even better position. Obviously fewer of them, but it does exist.

[00:30:29] Chaz: Yes, there's a reason we don't have buggy ramps anymore.

[00:30:34] Liz: [laughs] Exactly. Chaz, you've seen so much. Is the industry more diverse than when you first started? Because I know even for me, I've only been in a fraction as long as you have. I just saw anecdotally how things were changing at WasteExpo in terms of gender, background, ethnicity, and age, even. A lot younger pros coming up. What are your thoughts on diversity in the industry?

[00:31:09] Chaz: The age part is easy. A lot of us are getting older and you can't reverse that one.

[laughter] 

[00:31:16] Chaz: That that part is easy. Gender, absolutely. That part is stunning the difference. It's both just at the ground level, just even in the trucks and on the trucks, but through management, just more and more and I think that is absolutely great. In terms of the ethnic diversity, it's interesting this has always been ethnically a very diverse industry. Different ethnic groups in different cities being the ones who are responsible for waste and recycling. But I think now there's even more of that diversity as we get into the boardroom, as we get into the ranks of upper management. I think that's also good for the industry. That is definitely increased all the way around.

[00:32:01] Liz: That's good, and I'm sure it will keep up. Anything that surprised you? Because I know you're so good at predicting things, is there anything that-?

[00:32:10] Chaz: Yes.

[00:32:11] Liz:  - other than the pandemic [crosstalk] that has popped up that surprised you?

[00:32:15] Chaz: Yes. There's a couple of things that surprised me or failed to surprise me. It still surprises me that people expect recycling be free. Garbage is not free. Recycling is not free. Garbage is not free. Recycling will never be free. But somehow that belief just remains entrenched. It still surprises me that there's a reluctance to concede that people aren't always great recyclers. A lot of people just don't want to have that discussion. Period. I'm delighted at the way technology has advanced.

I don't know enough about engineering to know what technologies they should be truly surprised about in terms of breakthroughs, but I think that's been one of the real marvels. I can remember the original MRFs. They had some magnets, they had some conveyor lines, they had a shredder somewhere. Then it got fancy and you put in and [unintelligible 00:33:17] current system for aluminum, but they were pretty unsophisticated. You simply cannot compare them to what we see today.

I'm just looking forward to being surprised about those in the future.

I'm always surprised about the new packages and products that we use. I'm curious how drone delivery of packaging will take off and how that's going to change packaging itself. There are some trials going on in this country of delivering packages by drones. The most important one is going down in the Virginia Tech Area, Christiansburg and Blacksburg outside where Virginia Tech is located. I just read that Kroger is planning to do some drone delivery tests, I think somewhere in the Cincinnati area. I am really curious to see how that plays out to the extent to which people want to get stuff delivered to their house by drones and how you'll have to package stuff for that. It'll be interesting to watch.

[00:34:19] Liz: It will be. How cool will that be? Then, how quickly you can get it, it could change things. It could make two-day prime look archaic.

[00:34:27] Chaz: [chuckles] But people also have to be willing to have drones flying overhead in their neighborhood.

[00:34:34] Liz: True.

[00:34:35] Chaz: I tend to think drone delivery is going to be much more likely in rural and ex-urban areas than it's going to be in densely populated areas. Although you can make a case for drone deliveries to apartment houses using delivery on the top floor, on the roof of the building with a setup or with a delivery area there, and you work out some deal with the concierge or management to pick up the packages. I just have trouble seeing it on my street, trees overhead wires, and a lot of people who might just be annoyed by the noise. We shall see.

[00:35:14] Liz: That's true. Another interesting thing to watch.

[00:35:19] Chaz: Yes.

[00:35:20] Liz: I said earlier you're good at making predictions, and we're almost halfway through 21.

[laughter]

[00:35:27] Liz: Can you dare to share what you think lies ahead? [laughs]

[00:35:30] Chaz: Yes. I think what you're going to see in 2021 is potentially an EPR bill being passed, potentially not. There really is a thousand devils in the detail, and I'm not sure how aware of the legislators pushing EPR understand those devils. First, they just want to push them off to their regulators, and into the packaging companies.

Secondly, I think markets are looking great. I think markets for people are going to increase a bit more when you have some of the buyers predicting higher prices, I think that tells you something. I think that that's going to be very good for recycling programs across the company, we're finally starting to see some better revenue flows. It's hard to say about markets for plastics. I don't believe the current prices for HDPE and polypropylene are sustainable, but I'm happy to be wrong on that, and frankly, I'm happy if they go down just as long as they don't go down where they were before. They can lose a quarter of 25%, they'll still be really strong. The irony with markets is, I have to say I call them goldilocks markets. You want markets that aren't too hot and that aren't too cold. You want markets that everybody benefits.

Buyers make money, sellers make money, and nobody is stealing the recyclables from the dock or the curbside, because that's what happens when markets get overheated. I think we're getting close to that for corrugated and residential mixed paper. We're getting close at least for a while, because markets are not eternal, but I think we're getting close for a while to markets that we're going to be happy with. Not quite there yet, but I think we're on the way. I'm bullish on that. Beyond that, do I see any people recycling any better or differently? Not necessarily, we just haven't cracked that nut yet, and I think we have to pay a lot more attention to it.

[00:37:41] Liz: So true. Any thoughts on these emerging contaminants PFAS, PFOA?

[00:37:48] Chaz: PFAS is one issue I have had the good luck to avoid. It was not an issue when I worked at NWRA, it's really only become a serious issue in the last three years or so. It is an issue stunning in its complexity, and it takes up a lot of bandwidth, because those chemicals are so extraordinarily prevalent.

I'm not sure what the solid waste industry can do about PFAS, got to still run the disposal facilities and react to what other requirements are put in, but garbage guys don't control what people put in their trash. It's hard enough trying to control what people put in their recycling bins, it's got to be a more carefully thought out strategy on PFAS and just saying, "I'll let the garbage industry figure it out." That one won't fly.

[00:38:41] Liz: No, it definitely won't. Before I let you go, ESG sustainability is all the rage. When I first started everyone referred to the waste industry as the first environmentalist, what are your thoughts about how this has evolved, and changed over the years?

[00:39:00] Chaz: That is a great question, because I think you have two contradictory things going on. One is the desire to green companies including in their spending and in the goals they reach versus the reality that companies have to make a profit. Where is that line between ESG goals, and still making a profit? I don't think we know the answer to that. I think that ESG goals are easiest for companies that are limited in the kinds of products they put out. For instance, a company that's strictly paper, or strictly plastic versus a company that deals in a wide range of products, and industries.

There's nothing particularly new about green investing, it's been around for at least 20 or 30 years. ESG is just the most visible, and it just seems to have got the most legs of all the different ones with the biggest firms looking to push it on Wall Street, and in investment groups. I think the investment group sooner or later will have to come to a decision, what is their point in life? Is it making a profit? Is it ESG? If ESG affects the bottom line, where do they draw the line on ESG? I just don't think that's been figured out yet.

[00:40:26] Liz: I think you're right. Chaz, is there anything else you want to share before I let you go about your day?

[00:40:32] Chaz: No, it's a gorgeous day, and I'm looking forward to being on a panel out at WasteExpo.

[00:40:38] Liz: Me too. I'm so glad you can be-

[00:40:40] Chaz: That will be great fun.

[00:40:42] Liz: Me too. I think a lot of people are ready to be in person again.

[00:40:49] Chaz: Totally. I am so tired of Zoom.

[laughter]

[00:40:54] Liz: I know, I think we all are. It'll be so nice to be back together and connect in person. We'll probably all come back even more exhausted than we normally are, but it will be worth it [laughs].

[00:41:06] Chaz: It'll be a good exhaustion.

[00:41:08] Liz: Yes, exactly. Well, thank you so much. I'm so glad we finally did this, your insights are amazing. I could talk to you all day, but I need to let you do your thing.

[00:41:17] Chaz: No, you don't want to do that.

[laughter]

[00:41:20] Chaz: [inaudible 00:41:20]. You'll think to yourself, "I can never get this guy to shut up".

[00:41:25] Liz: [laughs] Never. It's great to hear you being so optimistic about the markets, and just for all of us to focus on some of the good that's coming our way.

[00:41:37] Chaz: Good to talk to you. Thank you for the opportunity.

[00:41:40] Liz: Thank you, and we'll chat soon.

[00:41:42] Chaz: Take care, bye.

[00:41:43] Liz: Okay, you too. Bye, Chaz. Thank you for listening, it would mean the world if you would take a moment to rate or review this podcast, and if you share it with us on one of our social networks, we are giving out some fun NothingWasted! Podcast swag, just tag us and see what you get. Thanks so much.

[music]

 

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