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WasteExpo Together Online 2021 Day One Recap and Day Two Preview


Day One of WasteExpo Together Online was filled with rich discussion and knowledge about the past, present and future of the industry.

The event kicked off with keynote session titled, "Towards a Circular Economy." Tom Chi, founder of Prototype Thinking, former lead at Google X and Lab Director, the Planet, shared foundational ideas and explained four shifts we must engage with to transform our materials economy based on a first-principles approach. What does the waste industry need to accomplish to be more circular? Find out more in our session recap.

Keysha Burton, community program manager, The Recycling Partnership spoke about best management practices and the 11 essential elements in MRF contracts in "How Does Your Program Measure Up? Utilizing Data to Negotiate Your Next MRF Contract." Read more about the session here.

Matt Karmel, Attorney, Riker Danzig Scherer Hyland & Perretti LLP, dove into New Jersey’s groundbreaking environmental justice law, explaining how leaders of the waste industry are navigating the new law as the impact of it shows throughout operation, development and acquisition of waste infrastructure. Watch "Practical Justice – Preparing to Comply with NJ’s Environmental Justice Law" on demand to learn more.

Goodr and the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport have an established partnership to drive zero waste at the Atlanta airport. In "Partnerships that Drive Zero Waste," attendees learned about how the collaboration began, how the relationship has grown and how the program has been executed successfully. Jasmine Crowe, CEO, Goodr and Andrew Jones, sustainability project manager, Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, spoke about best practices to drive zero waste and fight food insecurity.

The day ended with insight from John Hanselman, founder and CEO of Vanguard Renewables, who told attendees about "New Ways to Recycle Organics and Reduce Harmful Emissions from the Waste Stream," using anaerobic digestion.

The Wellesley, Ma.-based company was founded in 2014 to solve the issue of organic waste - utilize it as a recyclable material to generate renewable energy. The process of anaerobic digestion sounds simple when broken down into just a few words, but it is relatively unknown in the United States. Read more here.

What's in Store for Day Two

MRFs and Technology

Learn about the evolution process of material recovery facilities (MRF) in "MRF of the Future - Technology and Processes." Artificial intelligence and robotics are playing an integral role in the recycling process and the quest to improve United States' recycling rates. 

In this session, attendees will learn about how MRFs are constantly adjusting to recycling stream changes, utilizing new technologies to improve operations and planning for what the future may have in store for these facilities. 

Want to learn more about the data behind MRFs? In "MRF Data – The Proof is in the Numbers," Jagadeesh (JD) Ambati, founder & CEO, EverestLabs and Don Gambelin, head of business development, EverestLabs will tell attendees how counting material on the belt down to the object level provides powerful new insight into CO2 recovery and MRF profitability by assessing waste composition, equipment performance, packaging behavior and deployment of labor resources. 

AI and robotics are extending the life cycle of plastics consumers toss in their curbside recycling bins, increasing the purity of recycled feedstock so it can become new containers and packaging. In "AI-driven Advancements in Bottle-to-bottle Recycling," hear from Matanya Horowitz, CEO and founder, AMP Robotics; Megan Daum, VP of sustainability, American Beverage Association; Kate M. Krebs, director, Industry Affairs, Closed Loop Partners; and Greg Johnson, vice president of operations, Greenbridge as they explore how advanced technologies are transforming plastic recycling, and what the road ahead looks like for the future of AI-driven recycling.

Food Recovery

 “Taking a Bite Out of Climate Change through Food Waste Solutions” is a presentation by Emily Broad Leib, Director of the Food Law and Policy Clinic of the Center for Health Law and Policy Innovation at Harvard Law School.  

In the session, Broad Leib sets the stage by discussing how food loss/waste is a global problem (on the order of 1.3 billion tons per year) but that, naturally, “the solutions are going to be different from place to place.” She also acknowledges that, “this food waste has a real impact on climate change.” The bulk of her talk addresses the challenge that more than 820 million people are suffering from hunger (she notes that these numbers are pre-COVID and are known to have increased). Read the session preview here.

Speaking of food waste, you also can learn how a new app called MealConnect has evolved to become a single donation platform for all food businesses, and how you can reduce food waste by partnering with Feeding America’s national network of 200 food banks. Launched in 2014, Feeding America’s MealConnect food rescue app has facilitated over 3.0 billion pounds of donated food in communities across the country. Watch "National Food Recovery Evolution: MealConnect and Feeding America" to hear more.

Technology and Processes

In "Two Tales from One County – The Past, Present and Future of the Waste Industry," attendees will learn what processes have stood the test of time and where will we be in the future in terms of process, roles, regulations and compliance and more. 

There's no denying that advancements in technology have been the catalyst for operational efficiencies across virtually every industry. Just 25 years ago, a cacophony of sounds from clickers to papers was commonplace in waste collection. Michael Fernandez, director of Miami-Dade County Department of Solid Waste Management, describes the manual processes that kept operations afloat. For Kisha Murray, manager of Miami-Dade's Code Enforcement Division, the use of technology has aided in creating operational efficiencies and identifying problem areas in Miami-Dade County. where illegal dumping occurs. Read the session preview here.

In "The Google of Garbage – Creating an Ecosystem That Drives Change," TerraCycle CEO Tom Szaky discusses the theory of waste and how through business we eliminate the idea of it through reuse and recycling. With the launch of Loop in 2019, common household products that stymied eco packaging efforts now come in reusable options. Hear more about the partnerships that build this impressive ecosystem. Hear how one can find other areas of value, whether in packaging or products, beyond just the material value. Be inspired that our future can be a world where the concept of waste shifts and consumer products become more exciting, more convenient and better than ever.

A keynote session aptly titled, "Does Waste-to-Energy Have a Future in the US?" looks the future of waste to energy, the advancements to come and the shifting socioeconomic relationship of our industry. Derek Veenhof, executive vice president and COO, Covanta, speaks about how a modern process that utilizes advanced technology to divert waste from landfills, reduce climate-altering greenhouse gases and generate renewable energy to power communities and businesses.

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