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Idea of Partnership takes center stage at 2018 MRN/SWANA-MA Conference

Over 150 solid waste management and recycling professionals convened on Tuesday & Wednesday, June 19-20 at the Turf Valley Conference Center in Ellicott City, MD to learn about and discuss the hottest topics in the industry including changing waste management and recycling models, policy & regulation, commodities markets, new technologies & more.

The conference opened on Tuesday with a keynote by Horatio Tablada, Deputy Secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment (MDE). Tablada covered the history of MDE in the state of Maryland and its efforts to improve the Chesapeake Bay.  The presentation focused on the idea of partnership between the various administrations within MDE as well as our responsibilities as stakeholders.

This idea of partnership played its way throughout the conference.

In the following session, Contamination and the Markets, we discussed the changing face of recycling markets and the need for partnership again in managing the quality and quantity of recyclables. The session included discussions lead by Mark Reiter, VP of Government Relations, ‎Institute for Scrap Recycling Industries on the China Import Ban & the National Sword; Gary Hartmann, General Manager, Republic Services on U.S. Markets: Present & Future; and Brad Kelley, Senior Project Engineer, Gershman, Brickner & Bratton, Inc. on Smart Technologies for Contamination Management. The takeaway here was that even with the latest technology improving sortation at MRFs, we need to be educating the public on the right way and what to recycle.

The afternoon began with a Legislative/Regulatory Update by Delegate Andrew Cassilly and Pam Kasemeyer, managing partner of Schwartz, Metz & Wise, P.A. A review of the recent session’s bills was provided (mattress care, slow down to get around, etc.), as well as a forecast of future efforts. Again, the value of partnership was brought to the foreground, i.e., working with our legislators in Annapolis to develop meaningful and effective legislation to assist all of us in furthering the cause of managing resources for the betterment of the Chesapeake Bay.

The afternoon concurrent sessions afforded the opportunity for conference attendees to see how partnership plays out in various phases of materials management. In Global Solid Waste, attendees learned about the challenges and opportunities of solid waste management in developing countries. Presenters included Kristyn Oldendorf, Policy Analyst, Baltimore City Department of Public Works on Tanzania’s Waste Management System and Maggie Ostdahl, Conservation Operations Manager, National Aquarium on Marine Litter and Plastic Pollution: A “Glocal” Issue. Key was the building those partnerships where there is collaborative solution and a crosscurrent of learning between various stakeholder groups in the community.

In Food Waste Diversion, the discussion focused on food recovery for donation and the process of developing a strategic plan by municipalities. Presenters included Kathy Egan, RDN, LD MEd, Manager, Nutrition Programs and Adria Aceto, Director of Facilities, Maryland Food Bank on Food Recovery Initiatives in Maryland and Eileen Kao, Chief, Waste Reduction and Recycling Section, Montgomery County Department of Environmental Protection on Montgomery County’s Strategic Plan to Advance Composting, Compost Use, and Food Scraps Diversion. While nominally disparate topics, both presentations demonstrated the absolute need for partnership in proffering a solution.

The day wrapped with Safety: It’s Everybody’s Business. Lead by Scott Messier, Mid-Atlantic Market Area Manager, SCS Engineers and Deborah Buckles, Business Unit Safety Manager, ‎Republic Services, the session dealt with safety and the importance of a safety culture throughout all of our operations.  As has been noted by David Biderman, the Executive Director of SWANA, we work in a very dangerous industry and it takes partnerships within every organization, top to bottom, to ensure that the folks who show up to work in the morning can return safely home at the end of the day.

Day two of the conference opened on Wednesday, June 20, with Regional Update featuring two intriguing presentations on the Chesapeake Bay and the health of the waters that feed the bay.  Cassandra Carr, Assistant Section Head of the Environmental Services Section of Environmental Dredging and Restoration, Maryland Environmental Service presented Innovative Reuse of Dredged Material Program, a reuse effort undertaken by the Maryland Environmental Service under contract to the Maryland Port Administration (MPA). The Innovative Reuse Committee, or IRC, has worked on a great many projects throughout the course of several years to develop non-disposal means to support MPA dredging operations.  It was interesting to see how MPA projects, such as Poplar Island, are starting to come to fruition.

We also heard a very engaging presentation from Adam Lindquist, Director, Healthy Harbor Initiative, regarding the socially aware and very popular Trash Wheels in the Baltimore Inner Harbor. In this case we saw the value again of partnerships and how to use social media in ways that attendees may not have been accustomed to.

Attendees were then able to go to one of two concurrent sessions; Emerging Contaminants in Landfills, Leachate and Groundwater with Russell Abell, P.G. C.G., Sanborn | Head & Associates, Inc. and Matt Thurlow, Esq., Partner, Baker Hostetler or Recovery Park: The Power of Collaboration with Lori Scozzafava, Senior Vice President, Operations Officer, Gershman, Brickner & Bratton, Inc.

For the latter, the need for partnerships was once again emphasized, pointing out that while there is a need for government to provide solutions, it is often the private sector that can be brought in to make the ideas happen.

In the final panel session, Alternative Metrics and Methods for 21st Century Waste Management, the discussion focused on alternative metrics and methods of measuring waste. During the panel, we were able to interact with one of the national leaders of sustainable materials management, David Allaway, Senior Policy Analyst, Oregon Department of Environmental Quality, via online videoconferencing.  Other panelists included Ron Vance, Chief, Resource Conservation Branch, United States Environmental Protection Agency and Susan Robinson, Federal Public Affairs Director, Waste Management. The panel, moderated by Chaz Miller, Former Director Policy/Advocacy at National Waste & Recycling Association, reviewed how today's recyclables market has changed (very reflecting changes in today's waste streams due to changes in logistics demands and manufacturing technologies). All agreed the ton has evolved, the markets are dynamic, and the old way of measuring success needs to be updated.

Click here for a full program recap including pdfs of the presenters' slide decks.

Click here to see who attended.

A special thanks to Andrew Kays, Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority, for sharing his thoughts and takeaways on the conference.