2017 Session Descriptions

The agenda of 2017 Resource Recycling Conference provides two full days of critical information. The following is a listing of just some of the sessions and presentations. Please check back for a complete agenda.

Impactful ideas in actionThe opening plenary session of the Resource Recycling Conference will bring together three dynamic leaders who are shaping municipal materials recovery through influential organizations. Join this powerful conversation about connecting with residents, paying for infrastructure improvements and creating more efficient programs.

Ron Gonen, CEO of the Closed Loop Fund, will discuss how the group’s $100 million, industry-funded financing initiative is aiding local recycling business and government agencies. The Recycling Partnership has completed many exciting projects that are helping boost local collection and processing systems, and the organization’s CEO, Keefe Harrison, will provide a info-packed summary. Brenda Pulley, senior vice president at Keep America Beautiful, will outline how to better motivate consumers to take part in local materials recovery systems.

Market demandsPrices for a number of materials have seen increases of late, but fluctuating commodities markets remain a recycling reality. In this session, experienced analysts will discuss where demand and prices have been and will offer predictions on where they're going. Attendees will walk away with a deeper understanding of trends affecting recovered plastic, fiber and metals.

Joel Morales, a resin analyst at IHS, will cover the impact of new expansions in North America for polyethylene (PE), polypropylene and PET and then describe their effects on recycling markets. Where will these PE, PP and PET pounds go and when will additional new plants be built in North America to meet growing demand? This presentation will describe how these developments will change plastic recycling markets in the near-term.

D.J. VanDeusen, the senior vice president of WestRock’s recycling division, will discuss current global recovered fiber markets and the outlook on global supply and demand with a detailed focus on North America. The presentation will include a full look at North American OCC markets and the effect of global expansion and regulation on the U.S. market.

The session also includes Joe Pickard. As the chief economist and director of commodities at the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, Pickard has his eyes clearly on the key market trends for recovered metals in North America and elsewhere. Where is scrap metal demand and pricing headed? Are efforts by Chinese customs officials to stem the import of contaminated scrap shipments affecting global pricing? Those questions will be covered in assessments from one of the recycling industry’s premier market analysts.

Recycling policies in the new administration.  The conference closes with an important session organized by the National Recycling Coalition. With new leadership in the White House, shifts in federal policy – and resulting political rancor – have become the new norm. Though recycling decisions are typically made at the state and local level, the moves by the Trump Administration could still have substantial impact on the U.S. recycling industry. A panel of experts will discuss how changes in foreign trade priorities, U.S. EPA funding, domestic manufacturing initiatives and more may affect materials recovery in the years to come. NRC has invited Al Franken, senator of Minnesota; Amy Klobuchar, senator of Minnesota; and Keith Ellison, representative of Minnesota to take part.

Community resiliency through organics.  Each year we ask our friends at BioCycle magazine to organize a comprehensive session on the latest important trends in organics management. Similar to recycling, the end goal with organics recovery is to manufacture products from resources that would otherwise be disposed. In addition, the process of diverting these resources creates jobs and new enterprises. One distinction between the two materials recovery sectors, however, is that recycling organics fosters community resiliency: healthy people, healthy soils and locally produced renewable power and fuels.

Sustainable materials management: Moving from concept to action.  One state has legislatively adopted a sustainable materials management action plan. The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality has received new funding, added new experts and taken on a number of forward-thinking projects. So what does a true sustainable materials management strategy look like? What has been learned in this important move forward, and what are the key results? David Allaway or Shannon Davis from the DEQ will answer all your questions.

Making glass work for MRFs.  Inadequate technology and high contamination levels are making glass a costly commodity for materials recovery facilities. However, recent research from the Closed Loop Foundation shows a clear business case for investing in state-of-the-art glass cleaning technology. The results: significant savings for MRFs and municipalities, higher quality material and savings for downstream manufacturers – and a $25 million opportunity to create a healthier national system overall. Ellen Martin, Closed Loop’s director of impact and growth, will present the latest research in this realm.

Tools and tricks for your program.  This session, organized by The Recycling Partnership, shows how you can make your recycling-program dollars go further. How can you boost curbside tonnages without greatly expanding staff? What’s the best way to garner more support elected officials and department heads? This session will deliver best practices from an array of programs and give attendees tangible ideas to drive "more and better recycling" within local communities, states and regions.

10,000 lakes … and 1,500 programs.  The Resource Recycling Conference will again include a lightning session. Join us as 11 experts, chosen by the Recycling Association of Minnesota, tell you about their intriguing, informative and inspiring initiatives to boost materials recovery and lower waste volumes. During this fun and enthusiastic session, Minnesota recycling leaders will focus on a number of topics, including agricultural plastics recycling, modern MRF operations, recycling promotions and more.  What does it take to run a successful program?  Minnesota’s top talent will answer this question.

True MRF metrics.  How does your materials recovery facility (MRF) fare in comparison to others? Can you really say your processing facility is effective and efficient? Resource Recycling maintains an extensive database on more than 400 single-stream MRFs, and we’ve combined this resource with the thorough MRF database developed by Governmental Advisory Associates. Based on this information, Resource Recycling executive editor Jerry Powell will offer an exclusive analysis of all the vital MRF metrics, such as building size, labor requirements for different throughputs, capital costs per ton, and more. 

MRF technology:  robots and artificial intelligence. Many experts predict robots will become more prevalent in MRFs, thus lowering labor requirements, and we’re already seeing a number of pilot projects and equipment offerings. Some of these are leveraging potential game-changing technology in robotics that allow systems to “see” materials, opening up tantalizing opportunities in terms of stream characterization, sort-line optimization and more. Dan Leif, the editor of Resource Recycling, will provide a comprehensive update. 

Recycling markets and market development. A special session organized by the National Recycling Coalition will focus on where the industry could be headed when it comes to expanding the universe of end users of recovered material. The aim is to identify priorities for stakeholders in industry, government, trade associations and other realms. This dialogue will build on the NRC Markets Council Town Hall discussions and other presentations throughout the conference.

Getting smart on material choices.  As programs and facilities continue to look for paths toward economic sustainability, they constantly encounter choices about which type of recyclables should be included the waste stream. In this session, industry experts will discuss their research and experiences in trying to make that determination.

In one presentation, Alex Danovitch, Eureka Recycling’s vice president of policy and research, will lay out how the Minnesota-based company is developing and testing criteria to decide whether to add or drop recyclables within a broader zero waste context. Key factors that will be touched on include residual levels, bale audits, end market yield, toxicity, employee wages and benefits, resident education implications, and the evaluation of alternatives to recycling through reuse, reduction and product redesign.