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SWANA 2022 report

This week I attended the SWANA (Solid Waste Association North America) 2022 conference in Banff. 

Over the past 9 years, I have attended a lot of conferences – some hits, some misses. This was definitely a hit as it was put together by professionals working in the field and the presentations were from boots on the ground workers as well academics and engineers creating the tech that will transform how we deal with solid waste. 

Apr. 5 sessions

1 – SETTING THE STAGE

Keynote Address: SPENCER SPEAKS “Turning Your Demons into Diamonds”

Motivational speaker Spencer Beach with an interesting story and an interesting message on safety and the culture of safety in the workplace 

2 – Learn the Ropes of the Circular Economy – Session 1A

 A – The Future of Recycling and Waste Diversion within a Circular Economy Framework (Manitoba)

B – Car Battery and other Recycling – Leading the Industrial Circular Economy (British Columbia)

C – Encouraging Reuse through Convenience and Accessibility (New Brunswick)

SWANA took a unique approach to the session format with 15-minute presentation tied by theme. This allowed more time for questions. 

Circular economies are an essential concept for the future of waste, and something both Roseridge’s long-term planning and the work of the EMRB’s Solid Waste Collaborative is working towards. It was interesting to note New Brunswick’s Reuse Expo was similar to our Reuse it Events in the area, but with a focus on the non-profit sector. 

3 – Trail Maps – Navigating and Communicating 

 A – How to Navigate the Negative on Social Media

B – Why are Oops Tags so Popular and do they work?

C – Letting Ideas go to Waste

D – Using Social Media to Communicate Change: Insights from the Edmonton Cart Rollout

Attended this block of sessions because I was one of three presenters on the session on engagement along with Roseridge Manager Susan Berry and our engagement consultant Tannis Topolnisky. We had previously presented this session to a conference of engagement professionals.

Although I work in communications, I found great value in the session on the oops tag (corrective behaviour notes on bins) in reducing contamination in the waste stream. The key takeaway was a simplistic message is of greater value than a complex one when letting people know what does and does not go in the different streams.

4 – Not at a Glacial Pace – Climate Change Impact on Solid Waste Systems 

A – So My Municipality has declared a Climate Emergency – How Solid Waste Departments are Stepping up to the Challenge

B – Solid Waste as an innovation collaborator in Climate Action Plans

C – Indigenous Climate Change Adaptation Planning

D – Short and Long Term Climate Change Impacts on Solid Waste Management Operations

Lots of graphs and charts and some speculation on the impacts of climate change, particularly severe weather on landfill operations. Found the greatest value in the indigenous presentation. They have developed a series of workbooks, which we plan to share with Alexander and Enoch First Nations.

Apr. 6 sessions

5 – Climbing a Mountain of Organics – How do we Move Forward?

 A – Large Scale Organics Processing (What in the Biogas world is going on?)

B – Closed Loop Organic Waste Processing

C – Better use of Municipal Compost and Biosolids in Agricultural

D – Local Action on Climate Change – Organics Diversion in BC

Hands down the best set of presentations relevant to what we are doing. As one presenter said, “the best thing you can do to help the environment is put food scraps in your organics bin.” The sessions stressed the importance of taking organics and processing them back into a product that can provide nutrients to gardens and farmland. We currently process 20,000 metric tons of organics that are grade A quality. The sessions also talked about organics in biogas. A big take-away for me is that we need to start looking at organic apart from solid waste as one is refuse and the other is a resource. 

6 – LOOKING TO THE FUTURE (Call to Action)

A – Carbon Credit Opportunities for Landfills and Waste Management

B – Emissions Reporting versus Claiming

C – Canadian Carbon Markets and the Future Valuation of Credits

D – Current Federal Policies Focused on Landfill Methane Emissions

An interesting collection of presentations talking about carbon credits. Carbon taxation is the side we all do not like, but carbon credits are an opportunity for landfills engaged in reducing greenhouse gases to turn those efforts into revenue. I found the first and last presentations to be a little general with respect to concepts and forthcoming regulations, but the others were excellent.

7 – Additional connections

One of the greatest values of conferences is the ability to connect and pick the brains of others in the industry. To that end, we were able to make a number of connections across the province and country that could bring value to what we are doing in the Sturgeon County region and beyond. 

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