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Episode 64: Talking EREF & the Resilience of the Waste Industry (Transcript)

[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]

[00:00:27] Liz: Hi everyone, this is Liz Bothwell from Waste360 with Scott Dols founder and CEO of Big Truck Rental, and proud board member of EREF. Welcome, Scott, thanks for being on the show today.

[00:00:40] Scott Dols: You're welcome, I'm glad to be here.

[00:00:43] Liz: Scott, we usually start in the beginning, can you give us a little bit of your background in your journey, and into this wonderful industry?

[00:00:52] Scott: Absolutely. Gosh, it seems like yesterday, but it's been over 25 years. I started working with a company called Trucks and Parts in Tampa, they refurbished garbage trucks. The Goldenberg family. From there, a few years later we started Big Truck Rental, which is now my primary focus where we rent garbage trucks all over North America, the US, and Canada.

I've been involved with EREF for 20 plus years, I was very active with the National Waste and Recycling Association, I was a former chairman of the board for a few years there. I've been pretty active in the industry, it's an amazing place to spend your career.

[00:01:45] Liz: It really is. I know you've been lauded for building this Big Truck Rental from the ground up, and you still oversee day-to-day operations, right?

[00:01:57] Scott: Correct, yes. I oversee day-to-day operations. It's interesting, we started with six trucks in Texas, and our fleet now spans all of North America. It's been a lot of fun watching it grow, I've had great support from the industry as well.

[00:02:15] Liz: Amazing, we love a success story like that. Like we said, you're a board member and a huge supporter of EREF. Can you share from your experience, why you think EREF is so important to you, and the industry at large?

[00:02:30] Scott: Yes, sure. Back in the late '90s, early '2000s, EREF was coming out of their shell a little bit, I was fortunate enough to watch all this happen. As time has gone on, I've had the ability to meet a lot of our shareholders in the industry, as well as a lot of our students and graduates.

Probably, most importantly though some of the amazing work that they've done regards to different projects, whether it's something with landfill management, how to properly getting out of a truck, or what maintenance is good. It's really brought science to the industry. From people standing on the sidelines, and listening to EREF, I now see our industry leaders coming to EREF for guidance on projects, guidance on certain ways to do things, and it's been a 180 degree turn from where we were 20 plus years ago.

[00:03:40] Liz: Great. I know COVID-19 has changed many of our plans. At the top of that list is WasteExpo, and the EREF auction, among others. It's great to see that EREF has pivoted to an online auction, could you share with our listeners why folks should still bid online, and support EREF mission?

[00:04:02] Scott: Absolutely. One of the disappointing things of COVID-19 is the fact that we are not going to be able to come together as an industry in person this year at our annual show WasteExpo. WasteExpo has been an extremely important part of EREF growth over the years with their live auction where we have many manufacturers that donate bodies, like Heil, McNeilus, and New Way. We have Mack that donates international trucks, etcetera. It raises, literally, hundreds of thousands of dollars, actually, millions of dollars for the research, for the industry.

I've been around EREF for 20 plus years, it's been really amazing to watch it evolve from this pipeline, trying to figure out how science and waste go together to being a leader in that space. Instead of giving data, and facts all the time, there's now data in facts, you're actually seeing people come to them, and ask them to help them prove something right, or wrong, "What happens when I do this? How does this make sense?" It's not just the environment, it's everything that surrounds waste. Whether it's how you get on, and out of a truck properly, or how the leachate it's managed downstream, it's a pretty broad spectrum.

A few years back, we started what we called our silent auction, that's what's moving timeline this year. We've already had our equipment auction virtually as well as our CEO auction virtually, which was a huge success. A big shout out to all of the CEOs that participated in that, it's you guys that really helped make the difference in us to going to the next level. Again, thank you for your support on that, as chairman of the Development Committee it's good to see such great participation from our privately and publicly held companies. Again, thank you for that.

The online auction is extremely critical because it's going to put us over the top for the year. There's some great opportunities, whether it's having a whiskey tasting, getting some NFL sign memorabilia, or going to a football game. Hopefully, there will be football this year. If we don't have football, I'm not sure what's going to happen to America.

[laughter]

[00:06:46] Scott: With that, we've been able to use IronClad, a part of Ritchie Brothers really supporting us, and giving the format for the online auction, that really makes it easy and simple for you as the bidder to really bid up your products. We hope that everybody participates because it's a lot of fun.

[00:07:08] Liz: It's so great to see that they are getting so much support. Do you see more of the industry participating? Can you encourage them, even though it's maybe a tough year for some? Do the packages vary in price and things like that, Scott?

[00:07:24] Scott: Yes. There's things as simple as an iPad, all the way up to going to a football game, or like I said a whiskey tasting, even a couple of big dinners. I know that everybody is in a holding pattern, especially, with our current state of affairs, and in the US where we have a pandemic going on, but there's so many more reasons to participate than not.

We're not talking about tens of thousands of dollars here, we're talking about a few hundred bucks making the difference between whether we're able to give away five scholarships next year, or seven scholarships. That's really what this is for. I do understand that everybody is in a holding pattern, but every now and then, you got to step outside, and actually have a little fun.

This COVID will pass, we'll figure it out, we're slowly figuring that out. Definitely, as an industry, we've figured it out, we're getting better and better on it. I would really appreciate if everyone would participate, it's super easy to log on, there's a simple click, it's an easy process. By the way, when you get outbid, you get notified, you get to rebid. Rise those prices up, please.

[00:08:47] Liz: [laughs] I know, I'm a particular NFL game myself. I look forward to getting notified [laughs].

[00:08:54] Scott: I believe we went live yesterday, correct?

[00:08:57] Liz: Yes.

[00:08:58] Scott: From the 15th?

[00:08:59] Liz: Yes, it went live. Hopefully, the bids are already coming in, there's some great packages, in a biased way, there's also a WasteExpo package in there. I think there's a lot of variety in there too, a lot of the packages that people have come to appreciate and expect when they're in person at WasteExpo as well. It's still fun, and it gives people something to look forward to. Like you said, the pandemic will not last forever.

[00:09:26] Scott: Yes. That's the thing, there's some fun stuff on there. If you go out, and get it now, you have something to look forward to, whether it's two months from now, four months from now. Even, next WasteExpo. This industry has done such a great job of standing behind each other, it's going to be an amazing time next year when we're all together, and we're looking back at this thinking about all the success that we've had through this.

Again, I encourage everybody to get online, register, you'll be included, there's part of the process of actually being participant within the industry as opposed to just existing in the industry.

[00:10:15] Liz: Absolutely. I know you mentioned some of the scholarships, what have you seen on that front? EREF has been so amazing about the scholarships, and supporting all the young, intelligent people coming through this industry. What are your thoughts on that, Scott?

[00:10:35] Scott: It's quite amazing when you think about the people that work at EREF, and have worked at EREF. We've had a number of scholars that have, actually, come into EREF, have interned, stayed on, and done other things, and then, at some point it moved on to academia to further their career in learning, or to further their opportunity to teach what they've learned.

It's great to see these young minds coming through, I don't have the exact statistics, but I do know that when it comes to scholarship time we, as a board, have a group that vets the scholars. Once they figure out who they want back, they bring it to the board then, we do a full vote on it at the board.

It was amazing to me when we first started we just could do a couple here and there. Now, we're consistently raising our bar every year. Not only that, what's happened is that we're actually getting out to the universities, and into the university systems. Now, the quality of our students has become tremendous. Sometimes, it's literally a thousandth of a point that separates from one person getting a scholarship, and one person not. It's pretty amazing when you look at the backgrounds of these individuals, and what they're trying to study. It's quite amazing.

[00:12:08] Liz: It really is. They are taking the industry to the next level, it's wonderful that the support is there, and really encouraging people to get into the industry as well.

[00:12:18] Scott: Yes. If you think that it doesn't make a difference if you go ahead and bid on something from the auction, but it does. Sometimes, a hundred dollars, two hundred dollars, or whatever it is, really does make a difference. More importantly, why would you want somebody else to have something that you want?

[00:12:40] Liz: [laughs] So true. I know, Scott, we talked about COVID, its impact on live events, and the auction. How is it impacting your business? What have you seen?

[00:12:54] Scott: One of the things about the waste industry that I've seen over the years, we've been through a couple up and downs in the economy, we had the Great Recession that happened, we've had this pandemic now. Prior to that, we had the dot-com burst. One of the things about the waste industry is that it's extremely resilient. On this very short term because of the unknown, everybody took a pause. It wasn't till a few weeks into the shutdown that we saw the industry rally around, and figure out how to overcome this challenge.

The company saw a huge increase in residential volumes, and a big decrease in commercial volumes. They figured out how to handle the trash, how to keep all the streets clean, and everybody safe from everything that was surrounding them. They have done a great job with the personal protection gear, and making sure that their employees, their drivers, and everybody that works within the industry is safe.

It truly is an essential industry when you look at what's essential, and what's not essential. A big shout out to everybody that works so hard to keep the rest of us safe throughout this pandemic.

[00:14:21] Liz: Absolutely. They haven't missed a beat, it's really impressive. Most of them are doing it with a smile on their face, it's much appreciated.

[00:14:31] Scott: Yes, for sure. It's been a very interesting learning process for a lot of us, and a lot of the companies out there. It's the resilience of the industry that shows more and more every time something comes along.

[00:14:47] Liz: It really does. Like you said, we'll get through this like every other one that you mentioned.

[00:14:52] Scott: That is correct, yes.

[00:14:53] Liz: Scott, you have an entrepreneurial streak, what's next for you, and BTR?

[00:14:59] Scott: We keep doing what we're doing every day, providing quality products and services to our customers, continuing to expand our footprint across North America. We're very excited about, we've grown up from two employees to almost 30 in the last few years, it's been great. We have a great team. I think keeping everybody focused on what we're trying to accomplish is really where we want to go, and what we're trying to do. I'm getting old, it's time to maybe pass the torch at some point.

[00:15:40] Liz: [laughs] Good thinking, let's see if they let you go [laughs].

[00:15:46] Scott: [laughs] They'll probably close the door on me.

[00:15:52] Liz: [laughs] We'll see, they may beg to differ, but we will watch for sure [laughs]. Scott, what do you think is EREF lasting impact on the industry?

[00:16:03] Scott: I think EREF will continue to bring science to the industry, will help the companies do a better job of managing their processes, and what goes on with our waste and recycling throughout the country. EREF is expanded into Canada now, they're actually doing some things in Canada, that's pretty exciting as well.

I think there's so much more for them to continue to study, look at it, and see where things are going. It's a pretty exciting track for them. I don't see Bryan, his team, and the rest of the board slowing down at all, I think they're going to continue to hike that mountain, and make sure that they get to the top. As time goes on, I think we're going to see more and more technology, we're going to see more data, and we're going to see more science in how we do things as an industry.

[00:17:06] Liz: Absolutely. To your point, it makes EREF even more valuable.

[00:17:10] Scott: Absolutely. I think it's one of those opportunities where if you come along with us, you're going to have a very fun ride, you're going to learn, it's going to be a great opportunity whether you're a business owner, whether you're an employee, or whether you're part of a public company. There's a little bit of something for everybody there.

[00:17:32] Liz: That's great. Before you go, because I know you're a busy man, is there anything else you'd like to share about the EREF auction, or the organization itself?

[00:17:41] Scott: Yes. I'd have said it several times, but this is truly an opportunity for at the auction and the silent auction to getting online, it's truly the opportunity for you to get in at the ground level, and start to experience some of the stuff with EREF. It'll give you the opportunity to interact with the EREF staff as they call you to collect your dollars that you just spent on the auction. They'll call you to thank you, and see if there's anything else that you would like. It's an opportunity for people to get involved. I would encourage everybody to get involved, let's have some fun.

[00:18:18] Liz: Thank you so much, Scott. We look forward to bidding, seeing who bids, really supporting EREF, and their mission. They're lucky to have board members like you. Thank you for your time today.

[00:18:30] Scott: You're very welcome, thanks for your time as well. Everybody, please, be safe out there.

[00:18:35] Liz: You too, Scott. Thanks again. I'm with you, the NFL season has to happen, fingers crossed.

[laughter]

[00:18:42] Scott: Agreed.

[00:18:44] Liz: [laughs] All right, thanks, Scott. I'll talk to you soon.

[00:18:48] Scott: Thank you, have a great day. Bye-bye.

[music]  

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