Industry Experts Share 2017 Highlights, 2018 Predictions

The waste and recycling industry started 2017 off strong, with commodity prices up from the year prior and the solid waste index once again beating the market.

“China’s proposed waste import ban is the most important systemic issue the industry has dealt with this year, and I think it will be something that we continue to deal with in 2018 and years to follow,” says David Biderman, CEO and executive director of SWANA. It’s a very substantial change for our local governments and our industry partners to manage the material in the wake of these restrictions.” In preparation of China’s waste import ban, materials management facility operators and recyclers in North America are working to make their material cleaner and finding other markets to enter, such as Southeast Asia, India and Latin America. “We would like to work with China to develop a mutual satisfactory timeline for these waste restrictions, and I am hopeful that the comments that we continue to file will either influence or have an impact on China’s waste import policy.” While many questions are left unanswered right now regarding the waste import ban and the challenges and opportunities that may come along with that ban, industry leaders are working with China and each other to try to reach a common ground. We’re hoping that China will work with us as partners to keep this very important market open.” Smarter Technology Comes Online This year was a groundbreaking year for technology in the waste and recycling industry, with new advancements being adapted in the truck and in recycling facilities. “There’s certainly been more automation and data collection at facilities and more management for collection this year, which has helped those in the industry make better business decisions.” Technology has also played a role in improving safety, which is important to those in the industry because the waste and recycling industry is on the top 10 most dangerous jobs in the U.S. “This industry is not a one-size-fits-all industry, and it’s exciting to see how these technologies, especially driverless vehicles, are impacting various areas of the industry.” Over the past couple of years, the industry, along with many other industries, has experienced a driver shortage.

Industry Associations Reach Milestones Three of the leading industry associations, SWANA, NWRA and EREF, reported positive growth and highlights for 2017.

“Many people I’ve spoken with in the industry are pleased that the tax reform bill is being enacted, as it reduces corporate tax rates, allows full expensing of certain capital investments for the next five years and increases the cap on such expensing from $500,000 to $1 million,” says Biderman.

In addition to government policy, development of food waste reduction strategies, the use of smart technologies, the exploration of new performance metrics, finding new markets for the exportation of materials and the implementation of plastic bag bans round out the initial predictions for the new year.

As far as the state of solid waste goes, Hoffman predicts that the 2018 core solid waste organic growth should be 3 percent to 5 percent, the recycling growth should be 0.5 percent to 1.0 percent depending on the sales ratio and the topline growth should track at 1.0 percent to 6 percent.

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