NWRA announces Hall of Fame inductees

The National Waste and Recycling Association (NWRA), Arlington, Virginia, has announced the 2019 inductees into its Hall of Fame. They are Clean Energy Vice President of Solid Waste Ray Burke; Macquarie Infrastructure and Real Assets Inc. (MIRA) Senior Vice President/Managing Director Paul Mitchener; Waste Industries CEO and Chairman Ven Poole; Advanced Disposal COO John Spegal; and retired Republic Services Senior Vice President Jim VanWeelden.

The NWRA board of trustees selected the hall inductees from a list of distinguished finalists submitted by the NWRA awards committee.

“We had many well-qualified nominees this year, and that is a testament to the men and women in our industry. The NWRA board of trustees did not have an easy assignment. I congratulate our 2019 inductees on their achievement,” NWRA President and CEO Darrell Smith says.

These industry leaders were selected based on scores in five categories: recognition in the industry as a founder, pioneer, visionary or icon; enduring legacy and impact of contributions to the industry for a minimum of 25 years; steadfast values such as integrity, respect, courage, mentorship, volunteerism and inclusiveness; inspirational leadership as a service provider or supplier, or on issues important to the association; and active industry engagement and indisputable reputation as an ambassador of the industry.

“This was a challenging task. We had so many incredible candidates to choose from, all of whom are dedicated to our industry and have given so much of themselves to it. These five that we selected represent the very best in our industry. I offer my sincerest congratulations on their selection to the 2019 Hall of Fame,” says Ben Harvey, chairman of the NWRA board of trustees.

The hall inductees will be recognized May 7 at WasteExpo 2019 in Las Vegas during an awards breakfast.

About the inductees

Ray Burke: Burke is the vice president of solid waste at Clean Energy, Costa Mesa, California, and a member of the board of directors of Clean Energy Renewal Fuels. Burke also co-founded the Garbageman's Invitational Charity Golf Tournament. Burke has been a leader in the expansion of natural gas in the waste and recycling industry, NWRA says. In the 1990s, Burke installed the first natural gas fueling station in the country. Burke and his family actively support several charitable organizations in their community, including the Alzheimer’s Foundation and the Susan G. Komen Foundation for Breast Cancer Research.

Paul Mitchener: Mitchener is the senior vice president and managing director of MIRA of New York City. Mitchener has been active and supportive of the NWRA safety committee and American National Standards Institute (ANSI) committees. NWRA says he has been an innovative leader for almost 40 years, supporting the next generation of industry leaders. Mitchener started in the industry in 1982 in the United Kingdom, and since then, has worked on projects or managed operations in over 50 countries.

Ven Poole: Poole is the chairman and CEO of Waste Industries, Raleigh, North Carolina. Poole joined Waste Industries for the first time at age 12 painting dumpsters and washing trucks. He returned to Waste Industries in 1990 as the risk management director after working in the aerospace industry as an engineer. From 2001 to 2009, he helped lead the acquisition of 150 companies as vice president of corporate development. Poole also co-founded the Waste Industries Full Circle Project, a charitable giving effort through which Waste Industries engages in its corporate philanthropy efforts.

John Spegal: Spegal is the COO at Advanced Disposal, Ponte Vedra, Florida. He is a recognized leader in the industry by his peers, personally engaging in many important industry initiatives, NWRA says. Spegal currently serves on the NWRA board of trustees and has been actively involved in issues that impact the association and industry. In the mid-1990s, Spegal was instrumental in the development of a strategy for the privatization of one of the largest cities in North Carolina, which has become a model for the industry. Spegal is also a leader in his community, founding and supporting literacy programs for solid waste drivers and volunteering with local organizations, including the Humane Society, Habitat for Humanity and K9s for Warriors.

Jim VanWeelden: VanWeelden retired this year from Republic Services, Phoenix, as senior vice president. He is considered one of the architects of the modern waste disposal business, entering the industry at a young age helping his father with the family disposal business. He was the original champion for being a good neighbor, according to the NWRA, as it was important for landfill operators to be responsible members of the community. VanWeelden was active in his community, dedicating time to the Boys Club, coaching AAU basketball teams and being actively involved in his church.

SWANA collaborates to bring safety decals to waste trucks

The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), Silver Spring, Maryland, announced it is collaborating with Marietta, Georgia-based BrandArmor to include new safety decals on the back of waste and recycling collection trucks. BrandArmor has created large SafetyFirst Prismatic Reflective caution decals, which include the familiar warning to “Slow Down to Get Around.” The reflective decals will be visible from up to 1,800 feet at night and can help warn drivers to reduce their speed when approaching these vehicles.

“I am very excited about these new stickers, which are much larger and more visible than most of the ones currently in use,” SWANA Executive Director and CEO David Biderman says. “Motorists continue to drive into the back of industry trucks or strike collection workers with disturbing frequency. The added visibility will make it virtually impossible for a motorist to legitimately claim he or she did not see the truck in the event of a collision. I urge fleet operators to purchase these safety stickers.”

Slow Down to Get Around (SDTGA) is a national safety campaign that reminds motorists to drive more carefully when near waste and recycling collection vehicles. Being struck by a motorist is a leading cause of death for waste and recycling collection employees and, with proper awareness, can be preventable.

SDTGA is also the name commonly applied to legislation that requires motorists to slow down or move over when passing waste and recycling vehicles in the process of collection. Twenty-two states have enacted some type of SDTGA law to help protect solid waste workers out on the route, and several others are considering similar bills.

With a number of recent industry fatalities, SWANA has been emphasizing safety at the chapter and national levels in both the U.S. and Canada. SWANA hopes these decals will help reduce the number of incidents in which motorists collide with industry vehicles or employees.

The stickers carry a five-year replacement warranty, which will make it possible to track and compare accident rates with vehicles that do not have the decals. SWANA members will be able to purchase the decals at a discounted price online.