The Solid Waste Association of North America’s (SWANA) largest event, WASTECON, is being held in Nashville this week. Here are some key takeaways from the show.

The Solid Waste Association of North America’s (SWANA) largest event, WASTECON, is being held this week in Nashville.

The event began on Monday with site tours, hosted by companies like Aries Clean Energy, Second Harvest and Bulk Handling Systems (BHS).

The exhibit hall officially opened with a Welcome Reception on Monday evening, and seminars kicked off with a hands-on keynote workshop Tuesday morning.

Here are some highlights from the show on Tuesday:

  • The day kicked off with a highly interactive keynote workshop led by Nashville-based design firm Stoked. Stoked founders Parker Gates and Barbara Patchen showed attendees how to get creative when it comes to solving the most complex problems in their organizations.

  • Ed Renna, eastern regional sales manager at PRECO Inc., was onsite during the event’s Safety Summit to discuss the company’s collision mitigation technology. In addition to protecting businesses’ assets, Renna said the company’s “active safety system” was developed to detect humans and reduce fatalities in the municipal solid waste industry. Renna noted that 61 percent of the fatalities that occurred in the industry were civilians.

  • Designed for realism, responsiveness and driver training results, L3 Technologies showcased its Solid Waste Management Driving Simulator during the show. The training simulation is similar to a gamification-type program, where waste fleets could coach their drivers using “real world” obstacles on the road in a virtual setting. L3’s system, which is made possible with TranSim truck driving simulator, comprises a seat, steering wheel, brake and accelerator pedals to enhance application on the road. It also provides immediate, detailed performance feedback through 2D and 3D replay views. The purpose of simulator training like this is to prevent the main causes of fatalities and injuries in the solid waste industry. See the video below for an example of how the L3 system works.

  • During the Safety Summit, Wendylee Fisher, assistant administrator for the Tennessee Occupational Safety and Health Administration (TOSHA), explained that there are an average of 33 industry fatalities a year in the state. She discussed recognized hazards on the job—things like conveyors, tipping floors and the dangers of sanitation workers riding on the backs of garbage trucks—and stressed the importance of proper employee training and safety enforcement. She also referenced various fatalities the agency has investigated over the years. “You can have policies and procedures, but if you’re not going to enforce them, bad things can happen,” noted Fisher. “Make sure your state OSHA laws are up to date and be sure to identify the hazards that are specific to your business.”

  • A panel of five “Safety Ambassadors for Change” from various SWANA chapters across the U.S. and Canada also stressed the importance of safety in the workplace during the Safety Summit. The panel comprised safety managers, superintendents, project managers and company presidents who discussed what their organizations have been doing to make working environments safer for their employees. Panelists emphasized the importance of industry outreach and coaching to enhance an organization’s safety culture. Das Saligo, manager of solid waste services for the county of Wellington, and a member of the Ontario Chapter of SWANA, pointed out a program Canada started earlier this year. “This year, Ontario organized a safety summit focused on collections operations, and a good mix of public and private sector people attended,” he explained. “It will become an annual thing we do. It shouldn’t matter whether you’re in the public or private sector, when it comes to safety, we’re all on the same team.”

  • During an engaging keynote session, David Biderman, executive director and CEO of SWANA, sat down with Ron Mittelstaedt, CEO of Waste Connections, to discuss the current and future state of the industry. Mittelstaedt outlined how Waste Connections is responding to challenges like labor shortages and China's waste import ban and explained how the company has created and maintained a successful safety culture. He also shared that in 2017, the company handled about 2 million tons of recyclables in the U.S. and about 72 percent of that went to China prior to September 2017. Now, a little less than 2 percent is going to China. As of Q2 2018, the company is operating at about 85 percent domestic (U.S. and Canada) and about 15 percent international (India, Vietnam and Eastern Europe). "If we put out quality products, the markets will become available, and they will be domestic," stated Mittelstaedt.

  • Day one ended with an open forum hosted by SWANA and Women in Solid Waste and Recycling (WISR). Entitled "The Power Women in Waste," the forum brought together both men and women of the industry to network, learn more about WISR and gain some inspiration from speaker Nina Butler, CEO of More Recycling. Butler spoke about how she has made a successful career for herself in the waste and recycling industry and how she stays motivated. "I have a burning desire to spark process and empower others, and I had to stand in the light in order to do that," she said. "I truly believe you have to know what you are aiming for and have to develop a strategy based on data."

  • As part of the open forum, Rachel Oster, founder of WISR, current principal and cofounder of solid waste and recycling consulting firm Diversion Strategies and a 2018 Waste360 40 Under 40 award recipient , briefly spoke about WISR's mission of diversifying industry decision-makers in the waste and recycling industry by empowering women to take on leadership roles through networking, professional development and training. She also shared how interested members of the industry can start their own local WISR chapters.


About the Author(s)

Cristina Commendatore

Former Senior Editor, Waste360

Cristina Commendatore is the former Senior Editor for Waste360. She holds a master’s degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University and a bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Connecticut. Before joining the Waste360 team, Cristina spent several years covering the trucking and transportation industry.

Mallory Szczepanski

Vice President of Member Relations and Publications, NWRA

Mallory Szczepanski was previously the editorial director for Waste360. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Columbia College Chicago, where her research focused on magazine journalism. She also has previously worked for Contract magazine, Restaurant Business magazine, FoodService Director magazine and Concrete Construction magazine.

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