In our latest episode of NothingWasted! Podcast, we chat with Ron McCracken, director emeritus of the Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF). EREF’s mission is to fund and direct scientific research and educational initiatives for waste management practices to benefit industry participants and the communities they serve.
We got to speak with McCracken about EREF’s impressive mission, the industry’s rising stars, how far the industry has come over the past decades and more. Here’s a sneak peek into the discussion:
Waste360: Can you tell us a bit about the origin of EREF and why it has such a special place in your heart?
Ron McCracken: The idea for EREF began with a number of industry icons who had the desire to give back to the industry after having successful careers—and wanted to do it in a meaningful and lasting way. So, EREF was founded in 1992 to create an organization that would devote energy and money to marry science with policy. I can’t overstate how much of a disconnect there was in the industry at that time.
Waste360: It seems like a major part of EREF’s mission has been scholarships and supporting young academics and other young people in the industry. Is this what you’ve seen?
Ron McCracken: Absolutely. Since inception, our total for scholarships have been almost $2 million and almost 90 scholars over that time—so it’s been an incredibly robust program that’s expanded and gotten a lot of traction. The agenda at the beginning was to seed academia with people who are knowledgeable about our industry—to have a positive effect on the regulatory environment, and this has worked.
Waste360: What surprises you most about the industry now versus when you started in 1988?
Ron McCracken: One thing has been the embracing of technology. It hasn’t been that long since the highest level of technology used in the industry was a rear-view camera. Now, the technology on a modern garbage truck has done so much for the safety and productivity of the industry and drivers. Plus, today’s tech and analytics, which provide real insights, is something we couldn’t have predicted in 1988.