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Episode 137: How ESG, Emerging Pollutants & New Regulations are Changing the Face of Landfills

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In this week’s NothingWasted! episode, we chat with Jim Little, EVP of Engineering & Disposal, at Waste Connections—and keynote speaker at this year’s Global Waste Management Symposium (GWMS).

We spoke with Little about the past and present of the industry, the regulatory environment, evolving technology and more.

Here is a sneak peek into the discussion:

Waste360: I know you have a degree in Geology; how has that helped you in the waste industry?

Little: I think the hard sciences make you a little more skeptical about answers, approaches, results, and I think that’s served me pretty well over the years.  

Waste360: Can you share a bit about what your GWMS keynote will cover, and some takeaways attendees can expect?

Little: [It’s great to] look at megatrends and how the younger generation and all these influences—ESG and climate change—are influencing our industry and our outlook about how we need to position ourselves. Also, what our duty is to develop infrastructure and facilities that are going to meet the needs of the next 20, 30, 50 years. I sit here having done this for 35 years, and it’s almost like the blink of an eye. I think what the audience could expect is that it’s going to be a blue-collar type discussion at the site, planning, and development level. I’ll also remind people why we have landfills. It’s interesting, over the past couple of years, with a renewed interest from investors with a focus on ESG, to remind them that’s we’re in the “E” business—we’re an environmental company. The reason we have landfills is to sequester hazards, pollutants, and things we don’t want in our environment.

Waste360: How is the renewed interest in ESG driving your work at Waste Connections and for everybody?

Little: It’s a rate-of-change thing that is happening right now. Some investors want you to disclose in one fashion and other prefer another way. So we’re navigating right now what we think is the most important thing to do and be responsible in doing it. It’s imperative now—part of our everyday, and it impacts both our capital planning and our tactical operations.

Waste360: What would you tell young people entering the industry today?

Little: When I entered it, you had a lot of very old-school managers that ran landfills and operations…most of them were very smart and resourceful, and they worked very hard. But the industry now, I see what I would see a much more professional management of the industry. So, for young folks getting in…it gets in your blood, and it’s very hard to get out once you get in. There are so many challenges and ways of doing what we do that it’s a different adventure every week, every month. I would say you’ve probably chosen well and you probably won’t get out, which is a wonderful thing.

Waste360: I’ve always been impressed with the way your whole company embraces servant leadership. Is that part of the ethos that you see and try to put out to your team?

Little: Absolutely. The most important thing we can do people-wise right now is retain good people, and it’s hard to do in this environment. Young people in particular have a lot of options available to them. So the culture and having them come and feel like they’re part of something bigger is very valuable and very important. Finding drivers, finding folks to do virtually any job is difficult, so we really put an emphasis on culture, an open-door policy, and treating others like you want to be treated.

Listen to the full episode above.

Read the transcript here.

Then, check out the agenda and register for this year’s Global Waste Management Symposium happening Feb. 14-17 in Indian Wells, CA.     

#NothingWastedPodcast

TAGS: Landfill
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