With WasteExpo set to kick off next week, National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) President and CEO Sharon Kneiss took a few minutes to update Waste360 on the association’s plans for the event.
The education track, as always, will be a major focus for NWRA. In addition, the annual awards breakfast, taking place Tuesday morning, will be one of the highlights of WasteExpo. Four new Hall of Famers will be inducted and nine drivers will receive accolades as part of the Driver of the Year awards.
Waste360: Walk us through some of the association’s plans for the show.
Sharon Kneiss: Our Board of Governors and Board of Trustees meeting are the first events out of the box for us. It will be an opportunity to check the progress and provide updates on our strategic plan.
A big component of that is we will be going through what kind of progress we’ve made in implementing our new communications strategy. We have two new staff members—Christopher Doherty and Jessica Mayorga—who have hit the ground running. We have been able to generate some targeted, focused and positive coverage for the industry already.
Of course we also have the President’s Reception on Monday night. That will be a very nice event at the Wynn Attending that will be our award winners, our Hall of Famers, our Board of Trustees and many others that have done tremendous work for our industry.
On Tuesday morning is the awards breakfast. It is always a great event. It is the highlight of what we do at WasteExpo. We have opportunity to induct four Hall of Famers this year. And we are honoring nine drivers for their safe driving. We have had over 1,000 applications for those nine awards this year. We really are very pleased to be honoring these drivers. When you look at their bios, you can see they are devoted to the industry and safety and delivering good customer service. One driver is even from Anchorage, Alaska. That’s something new for us.
In terms of education, we’ve really stepped up our game. Sheila Alkire has really taken our education even to new levels. We have something like 40 sessions in our education event. I’m told that attendance is looking really good for it. And I’m really pleased to be partnering with Penton on all of it.
Some of the highlights include a session on handling organics and will look at it from all different aspects. We’re going to get an East Coast perspective, a West Coast perspective, a regulator and a private equity investor. We also have a panel on how to handle glass, which is a real issue for the industry.
We have a session on sustainability and what customers of this industry need to meet their goals. We have speakers from Caesars Entertainment Group, Zappos and MillerCoors.
Waste360: What about on the show floor itself?
Sharon Kneiss: We will have several events at the booth. I encourage everyone to stop by. We’re having an event to honor our Hall of Fame inductees. We’re having a Future Industry Leaders Association (FILA) event, a Women’s Council event and more. There’s a lot that will going on in the booth.
In addition, as we are preparing for the development of 2016-2018 strategic plan, we have a survey that we’re inviting any member to take. We have a facilitator working on the strategic plan there. That will be tremendously helpful as we develop our plan.
And we’re having a chapter event. All of the leaders of chapters will be there. They will be talking about what they do and how they operate
Waste360: We’re nearing the halfway point of 2015. What are some highlights so far for this year?
Sharon Kneiss: Our chapters are just ending a lot of state legislative sessions. And there has been a focus at the state level to pass “Slow Down to Get Around” legislation. We’ve been very successful. Going into this year we had five states that had passed legislation. This year we got four more passed—Indiana, North Carolina Georgia and Virginia. We’re wrapping that up. There will be some signing ceremonies on those bills. We salute the regional managers and the chapter members for all of their hard work on this. And something we’re looking at now is how do we benchmark what’s been passed and what’s working so other states can benefit.
The other broad area we’re stepping up on is the communications side. We have developed a new strategy. It’s a more focused strategy and it’s more disciplined. It really takes on the issues of greatest impact of our members. We took on “Slow Down to Get Around.” And we were able to really reinforce what the chapters were trying to communicate.
And the current initiative is talking about the costs of recycling and the importance of recycling correctly. We will be looking at that and we can learn from that experience. We’ve really been able to amplify our messages by being much more disciplined. We’ve also seen the benefits of having experienced professionals like Chris and Jessica on board.
Also important was our recent partnership with the Insurance Office of America. They are a broker of all kinds of insurance, including workman’s compensation. We signed that agreement in early April. And we will have Nathan Brainard (vice president of IOA’s Environmental Division) at our reception and will be encouraging members to talk to him.
One thing we are energized about in regards to our agreement is that they will encourage their insurance carriers to consider some kind of incentive for companies that have certified drivers. There are no guarantees, but it’s something they will be encouraging carriers to consider. It ties back to safety. And it ties back with our certification programs.
We’re also very pleased with our change in our business plan for education generally and our partnership with Penton is really reaping fruit as we offer webinars. The last three we have gotten more than 300 live attendees, and the most recent got more than 400. I think we have found a business model that really works and we’re looking forward to continuing to develop Waste360 University.
Waste360: You’ve mentioned communications several times. How is the new strategy paying dividends?
Sharon Kneiss: We are increasing the visibility of the association. For example, we participated in a roundtable at the White House with the National Security Council. In terms of Ebola and other infectious incidences, we were vocal about what the government needs to do to and communicate about safety and handling processes and what it means for the employees of our industries. We have assets out there. The industry is not going to jeopardize its assets.
The government also has an important role in communicating what the requirements are. The process needs to be safe for handling, treatment, transporting and safe for employees doing the final disposal. We were quite candid and are looking forward to next steps.
In the broader media, we have participated in interview that will be on American Public Media’s Marketplace.org. That’s all about the cost of recycling. Overall, we think focusing on key messages and really leveraging those opportunities is really serving us well.
Waste360: We’re not that far removed from the rebranding of the association. How has that process gone?
Sharon Kneiss: We finished the rebranding at the end of 2013 and then we worked with the chapters especially to give them tools to let legislators know about the new name. That went smoothly.
What we’ve now learned is we need to make sure we keep the “formerly known as …” language active in some places. Some individual member systems have kept the old name going. So it’s a learning process, but by and large it’s gone very well. It’s mostly done and the new name has paid dividends for us. And we’re getting a lot more media calls than in the past. People are searching for and finding us and that’s because of the new name.