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Episode 109: A Look Inside The Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF)

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In this week’s NothingWasted! Podcast, we revisit a recent chat with Bryan Staley, President & CEO, EREF. We spoke with Bryan about the annual EREF auction at WasteExpo, sustainability, the organization’s new mission and more.

Here’s a sneak peek into the discussion:

Waste360: It feels like things are opening up a bit, which bodes well for an in-person event like WasteExpo. What are you looking forward to at WasteExpo this year?

Staley: Yes, a lot of folks seem to be feeling more comfortable about the direction of the pandemic. Still an interesting year, but excited to get back to business as usual.

Waste360: Everyone always looks forward to the EREF Auction at WasteExpo, and I’m curious to hear what it looks like this year and what attendees can expect.

Staley: It’s a little different this year, but we plan to have a presence on the show floor — so we’ll be there. We will be conducting the auction virtually, but we’ll have the elements of the auction in the booth, and people can place bids in the booth. We just won’t have the live auctioneer but plan to have that back in 2022 in full force. We’ve had great participation from our donors already.

Waste360: Can you remind everyone of the importance of the auction to EREF and its mission?

Staley: Yes, the auction is critical as it covers just about 60% of our annual revenue, so it’s extraordinarily important. And we leverage those funds in ways that are really impactful for the industry and broader sustainability space. It fuels the research that helps provide innovation; it fuels scholarships that help students develop professional skill sets; it fuels data that we are pulling together on an ongoing basis and informs decision-making, policy-making, etc.

Waste360: I know you are supporting our new initiative called Sustainability Talks, which is all about having bold talk and real action around sustainability — and our industry’s role within it. I would love your thoughts on sustainability and where it fits within the industry.

Staley: I think the conversation has shifted to where there is a much stronger connectivity between the overall supply chain and how it works — the lifecycle of products, for example. And certainly when you picture that lifecycle image, the last stage before the circle begins again is waste management. But that’s not the only group that influences that particular phase. Consumers make the first decision about where the waste is going to go, which dictates how the waste-management industry deals with it. And of course the product manufacturers’ decisions can create challenges for the waste industry too. But this all puts our industry in the spotlight, and we can play a critical role.

Waste360: Can you tell us about some of the projects you have in the hopper?

Staley: We have a lot happening. We recently finished two targeted RFPs on research around PFAS and around landfill gas emissions. These are both key areas, and getting more research on them is so important, and can drive critical advances. We also recently launched a PFAS resources website that contains really all of the scientific research that has occurred around the PFAS topic. Other things we’re working on include an update to our waste generation study, which aims to understand how much waste is generated across the U.S. and where it goes. We’re also looking at how many waste trucks are on the road, what companies own them, the average age of the trucks, and other such data. We also have a sustainability effort in motion, looking at waste streams by industry, and more.

And, to learn more about EREF’s Annual Charitable Auction & Silent Auction at WasteExpo 2021, visit here. (It’s not too late to register for in-person attendance.)

#NothingWastedPodcast

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