Waste Expo 2023 Recap: 6 Takeaways to Jumpstart Your Company’s Sustainability Efforts
– May 18, 2023 –
Waste Expo 2023 closed the curtain on another exciting event. On May 1-4 in New Orleans, North America’s largest solid waste, recycling, organics and sustainability trade show occurred. It allowed attendees to engage with some of the most inspiring creatives and thinkers while exploring a massive exhibit hall featuring the latest, innovative tech.
For ideas to jumpstart or shake up your sustainability efforts, review the below six great learnings from this year’s Waste Expo!
#1 – Waste is a Resource
Rather than view waste as a problem and a burden, see it as a valuable resource. It can be managed to produce sustainable benefits for a wide range of actions, taking the two ends of a product life cycle (namely resource sourcing at the start and disposal at the end) and linking them together into a closed loop. The materials in end-of-life products can be extracted and used as resource inputs to make new products, like beautiful artwork.
For example, during the Waste Expo session “Trash is Treasure,” speakers Billy Dufala (Recycled Artist in Residency, or RAIR) and Fern Gookin (Revolution Recovery) revealed a surprising and beneficial relationship between waste and art. Through their partnership, Dufala and Gookin give artists free access to discarded materials from construction and demolition sites. Rather than add to the landfill and the demand for new materials, the waste is used to support art projects.
💡 It’s true: one person’s trash can be another person’s treasure. This organization’s work highlights the potential of waste and how art can inspire others to think more deeply about waste’s impact on our world. Consider the second life your discarded materials can have!
#2 – Manufacturing Products for Continuous Use
The “Scope 3 Emissions” session highlighted the importance of design, organization and right-sizing products. One story about a sports tournament especially kicked up intrigue.
At the tournament, reusable cups were made of polypropylene that could be cleaned, sanitized and used again. The cups had a color that matched the clearly labeled bins that were scattered around the event space. Even the bin liners were the same color as the cups to see that every step of the cycle was fulfilled.
💡A perfect marriage of circularity can be achieved through design and organization. Partner up with those whose values and goals align with yours!
#3 – Don’t Waste Opportunities
A theme across the Waste Expo talks was how much opportunity exists to be more sustainable. This was well exemplified during the “Technologies for Optimizing Organics Processing” session, a discussion centered on achieving carbon neutrality, with solar panels being a prominent topic among the four speakers.
During the final speaker’s presentation, it was noted how Alaska, a state known for its daylight patterns, isn’t taking complete advantage of solar farms to power its cities, like the other states and countries discussed.
💡Solar panels can help mitigate some of the nation’s highest energy costs and even allow people to sell excess solar energy back to the grid in exchange for credits. So, whether you’re under Alaska’s midnight sun or not, ask yourself: Are you seizing all the opportunities with your energy and waste?
#4 – Dethrone Convenience
Our decisions and behaviors are often based on convenience and situations. For example, at the “Recoverable Materials” session, speaker Bryan Staley (Environmental Research & Education Foundation) told a relatable story about a family vacation. When we’re at gas stations, we don’t see recycle bins. As passionate as we may be about being sustainable and recycling, we’re forced to have a car full of trash or put the items in the trash to go to the landfill.
💡 As it relates to a business, some may find it logistically complex to access recycling facilities. Maybe the facilities are too far away and pushing forward could drive up costs and carbon emissions. This is why a proper waste analysis is critical. Maybe the solution is on the front end and not the back. Discover your path toward sustainability and efficiency, and don’t let convenience stay king.
#5 – Allow Sustainability to Steer
During a panel focused on how to utilize excess food and existing infrastructures and resources to address food waste and insecurity, LaToya Meaders (Collective Fare) spoke about how it’s important to look at things from a sustainability model and not so much from a profit margin.
💡 “If you focus on creating a more sustainable restaurant model rather than driving profits, you can start to tackle other issues around food waste. You’ll find the clientele because they’ll want to be a part of something that’s much larger than them,” Meaders said.
#6 – Be Honest About Your Vision
During another panel about how to scale the reuse economy, Mike Newman (Returnity) spoke about the importance of honesty in our visions.
“We need to be very direct with ourselves. If we lose sight of that, that’s when a utopian vision comes up. [Companies] assume with some better marketing, [they’ll] get there. But the evidence doesn’t completely support that. We need to be open and honest about what works and what doesn’t to address the challenges productively.”
💡There are many factors to consider when handling waste, packaging materials and products, and what to communicate to consumers. Don’t be afraid to get the help you need to be more efficient!
If you found this information useful, be sure to follow Quest’s social media channels (LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook) to stay current with our articles and posts. And save the date for Waste Expo 2024 on May 6-9 in Las Vegas, NV!
Quest Resource Management Group (NASDAQ:QRHC) is a national provider of waste and recycling services that uses deep expertise to build single-source, client-specific solutions to address a wide variety of waste streams and recyclables across multiple industry sectors. Quest also provides information and data that tracks and reports the environmental results of Quest’s services and provides actionable data to improve business operations.