The Big Easy was alive this week with Jazz Fest entertainment and brass bands on Bourbon, all setting a festive scene for one of the industry's largest trade shows: WasteExpo 2017.
Approximately 13,000 attendees and 600 exhibitors gathered at the city's convention center, an enormous hall that was buzzing with conversation on the industry's hottest topics. After sitting in dozens of educational sessions and speaking with a range of high-level executives, the Waste Dive team picked up on these conversations and collected a wealth of insights and hot takes on everything from CNG to the Trump administration.
Here are the week's top quotes from CEOs, managers and consultants.
"I don't think we're going to get to an autonomous point. I think your investment in your organization, in successful organizations, comes back to your people."
— Tony Romano, a consultant with 3rd Eye, on the importance of driver and technician training during a session on smart trucks.
"[Mardi Gras] is a synchronized ballet of waste management."
—City of New Orleans Fleet Manager Christopher Melton explaining how the city deals with post-Mardi Gras maintenance during a fleet management session.
"Looking at mobile fueling solutions and having something that's economically viable, I think that's the next step required in order for us to go all the way to 100%."
— Waste Management CEO Jim Fish in an interview with Waste Dive on the push for CNG across the company's entire fleet.
"We have these roving data centers. The garbage truck. The only city vehicle that goes up and down every single street of every single city every week, and we haven’t tapped it at all."
—Michael Allegretti, director of public policy at Rubicon Global, on the potential for data capture using technology on collection vehicles during a session on digitalization in the industry.
"At first they're uptight about it. I mean it's a little Big Brother — I wouldn't like it either — but it's really the culture and how you use it. If you use it to play 'gotcha,' then you play right into what we don't want ... Your words are one thing but it's really the actions and how you interact with your front line employees and use the data."
—Advanced Disposal CEO Richard Burke in an interview with Waste Dive on installing DriveCam technology across the company's fleet.
"The private sector should please stop lecturing us about monopolies when the best thing that could ever happen to them is they could rule the world."
—Attorney Barry Shanoff, during a session about flow control, on common concerns raised by large private companies regarding local regulations and the idea that complaints are more common if a contract loss is involved.
"Whether someone is a 'sore loser' or not that doesn’t affect the underlying legal merit to their claim. If it’s unconstitutional to pass an ordinance, however the parties got there shouldn’t really matter."
—Elizabeth Rothenberg, partner at McGuireWoods during a session on flow control.
"If you're talking productivity over safety, you're missing it. You're absolutely missing it."
— Advanced Disposal CEO Richard Burke during the CEO panel at the investor summit.
"Response time is the difference between control and chaos."
— David Devito, general manager of ReEnergy's New Hampshire facilities, during a session fire safety.
Recycling and diversion
"[Customers get] a $35 bill for residential service. A 4.4% fee on that is really nothing. People pay $200 for a cable bill for crying out loud."
— Casella Waste Systems CEO John Casella, during an interview with Waste Dive, on getting customers to accept a new recycling fee.
"I think the jury's still out on how long it would take a city, or any company or country, to get to 'zero waste.' I think that's an aggressive goal, but you know from a societal standpoint that's a good goal to have."
—Covanta CEO Stephen Jones, during an interview with Waste Dive, on staying competitive as cities set new diversion goals.
"There seems to be this irrational exuberance moving away from recycling as a way to solve a lot our issues here...If we can’t deal with it’s still going to go in the landfill."
— Steve Alexander, executive director of the Association of Plastic Recyclers, on the new trend toward lightweight packaging during a session on the "limits of recycling."
"There's a very big interest in what's happening in the U.S. with regards to technology, waste diversion and recycling. Many developing countries want to move to the next step of closing dumps and creating solid waste infrastructure that's sustainable and they're interested in what's working in America. So I think we're going to see a lot of change in the next five to seven years in some of the wealthier developing world countries. Places like Brazil and Argentina, and Latin America certainly."
— SWANA CEO David Biderman on takeaways from his recent international travels and potential opportunities for U.S. industry professionals to share their expertise.
"Europe is facing a new era of more stability — politically speaking, financially speaking — and here in the U.S. as well it seems that these potential new regulations are going to be in favor of any kind of industry to have a better time. So I hope and I believe that the [coming months] will be better."
-FCC Environmental Services CEO Inigo Sanz on the economic and regulatory trends he is watching for the rest of the year, during a conversation with Waste Dive.