In late September, I attended Wastecon/ISWA World Congress in Baltimore. It was the first time the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), Silver Spring, Maryland, and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA), Wien, Austria, combined their conferences; by all accounts, it was a worthwhile endeavor.

The combined event brought together waste industry professionals from all over the globe. I have been to many Wastecons in my career, but this event was much bigger and broader. It really emphasized global issues, such as climate change, marine litter and illegal dumpsites, and how the industry plays a major role in addressing these problems.

I am sure these discussions, which took center stage for a few days, opened many eyes to the bigger picture of why proper waste management practices are so important. Solid waste officials from major cities ranging from Shanghai to Rio de Janeiro were sharing information alongside officials from Toronto and New York City, and it was informative. A hauler from Iowa or a solid waste director from California don’t often get to hear how other countries are addressing disposal. This exchange may have made them realize how important it is to incorporate environmentally sound practices into their programs or businesses.

“Coming together as a global industry certainly makes it obvious that the decisions you make, the processes you follow and the waste you manage have huge ramifications for future generations.”

Attendees also heard about how proper waste disposal and the use of gases from landfills and organics actually can have a major impact on countries and companies in meeting the requirements of the Paris Agreement. If they were like me, they were amazed to learn their lunch one day was made entirely of what many would have considered food scraps. The idea was to show that many of the food items we consider waste actually can be eaten. It certainly got me to think about food waste differently.

Overall, I felt the event did a great job bringing global issues to the forefront. If you’ve ever thought that working in the solid waste industry was dull or unimportant, I hope you are rethinking that notion after attending Wastecon/ISWA World Congress.

Coming together as a global industry certainly makes it obvious that the decisions you make, the processes you follow and the waste you manage have huge ramifications for future generations. Sometimes it takes a conference such as this to really open your eyes and remind you of just how important waste management is. I hope you had the same takeaways, whether you were there in person or reading our coverage from the event.