WasteExpo 2023 in New Orleans took place from May 1 to 4 and brought together professionals from all sectors of the waste and recycling industry. The event, hosted by Waste360 and the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA), is the largest conference and tradeshow in North America for the industry, and this year was exceptionally well attended, with over 15,000 people passing through the doors over four days.
Our Experience at WasteExpo
The Viably (formerly Komtpech Americas) team enjoyed the event, exhibiting in our state-of-the-art booth, attending various sessions, and connecting with many waste and recycling professionals. Hundreds of people chatted with our sales team and learned how Komptech equipment technologies could solve many of their businesses’ challenges and ultimately help them increase profitability. The team was incredibly excited when Ryan from Ryan’s Recycling stopped by the booth. This inspiring young man is passionate about recycling and cleaning up the environment. He has been featured on various media platforms to raise awareness of protecting the planet through recycling.
Another highlight for Viably (formerly Komptech Americas) was receiving second place in the NWRA Women’s Council “Carts on Display” art competition. The theme of our cart was “Smell Ya Later Alligator.” By reusing waste materials found around our office, we created a trash-eating alligator as an ode to Louisiana, which has the largest population of alligators in the United States. And, of course, the alligator was dressed to impress in Mardi Gras beads and colors in honor of the famous celebration of our fabulous host city.
WasteExpo 2023 featured a robust exhibit hall where attendees could visit booths showcasing the latest waste management equipment, from compactors and shredders to electric garbage trucks. Many exhibitors provided live demonstrations of their products, like optical sorting systems (a hot topic at the event), allowing attendees to see them in action and learn more about their features and capabilities.
Viably’s (formerly Komptech Americas) partner equipment brand, Scott Equipment Company, also exhibited at WasteExpo this year. They are the manufacturer of Gypstream, which separates drywall gypsum from the paper backing to be further recycled, and the TurboSeparator, which recovers organic food waste materials from packaging via separation. It is always great to see our partners at events and learn about their newest waste and recycling solutions!
What We Learned
The 2023 WasteExpo conference’s theme was advancing the waste and recycling industry. Over 75 unique sessions were encapsulated in seven tracks, including Tech & Innovation, Business Insights & Policy, Recycling and Landfill, Food Recovery Forum, Sustainability Talks, Organics Management, and Ops, Fleet & Safety.
Sustainability was at the forefront of the conference, from sessions focused on reducing food waste to discussions on the circular economy. Viably’s (formerly Komptech Americas) Senior Area Sales Manager, Todd Dunderdale, CCP™, addressed the topic of organics sustainability through his presentation “How to Create a Sellable Compost Product for Agriculture Food Production.” He shared that 56% of all food waste is going to landfills when it could be recycled into compost, creating a healthier and more marketable end product. He demonstrated what it takes to make contamination- free, nutrient-rich compost product and how combining Komptech technologies and Scott Equipment’s TurboSeparator could be leveraged as a complete system to do the job. He also shared insights into how commercial composters can sell their finished products to various agricultural food producers and farmers.
Another important topic at the conference was the increasing demand for new or retrofitted material recovery facilities (MRFs). These operations receive, separate, and prepare recyclable materials for marketing to end-user manufacturers. In recent years, there have been many new technological developments that can help increase the productivity of MRFs. For instance, AI and optical sorting systems and facilities nationwide are making significant investments in recycling more material, generating higher-quality end commodities, and ultimately supporting the future of this sector. Furthermore, private investment firms are showing piqued interest in MRF upgrades, indicating a focus on the future of the recycling industry. Sessions like “Seizing an Opportunity: The Rise of MRF Investments” and “How to Plan and Execute a Successful MRF Retrofit” had industry leaders address topics like MRF design efficiency, working with vendors, and planning for downtime while maintaining operations. The Stationary Plant Systems team found these sessions especially valuable and will incorporate what they learned into their designs of Komptech MRFs.
The WasteExpo conference also allowed attendees to learn about the latest legislative and regulatory developments impacting the waste and recycling industry. Several sessions focused on topics like Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR), California’s SB1383, and other state-level organics waste bans. In “The Rise of EPR: Unpacking the Details,” representatives from states and provinces that have passed EPR bills (including Colorado, California, Oregon, and British Columbia) discussed the implementation and challenges of the new legislation. They agreed that the common goal of EPR is to hold large brands and producers accountable for sustainable packaging practices and landfill diversion. However, there are variations in laws between states, and a gap exists between producers and legislators regarding realistic outcomes. Disappointing results from previous EPR initiatives have made other states hesitant about passing bills related to recycling and reducing environmental impact.
The “Successful Food Waste Reduction and Diversion Programs; State Food Waste Legislation and Best Practices; Food System Planning” session featured a diverse group of presenters sharing how their organizations address food waste recovery. From school systems introducing student-led initiatives to community composting meetups and partnerships between for-profit and non-profit organizations, the grassroots action taken across the nation on food waste diversion and recovery is undoubtedly impressive.
A highlight of this session was the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic presentation, which created “The State Food Waste Reduction Toolkit.” This multi-chapter toolkit focuses on advancing federal, state, and local policies that reduce food waste and loss. The toolkit includes draft legislation for organic food waste bans that can be introduced at state levels and insights on tax incentives versus tax credits to support smaller businesses entering the food waste diversion conversation. After many years of development, the “The State Food Waste Reduction Toolkit” is being released in mid-May 2023 and can be accessed on the Harvard Law School Food Law and Policy Clinic website.
Looking to WasteExpo 2024
WasteExpo 2023 was a tremendous success and provided attendees with copious opportunities to learn about industry trends and innovations, network with their peers, and explore new business opportunities. The event showcased the waste management industry’s ongoing commitment to sustainability and highlighted how technology innovations are helping waste management companies operate more efficiently and sustainably. We had a wonderful time exhibiting and attending the conference, and the team is already looking forward to next year’s WasteExpo in fabulous Las Vegas!