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In this episode of Trash Magic, we uncover the power of proper recycling and the future of innovation with waste management wizard Derek Ruckman; Derek is the Chief Executive Officer and Partner at WasteXperts, a company that does on-site waste sorting and training. Their reputation lives up to the name; the expertise and industry knowledge found in the WasteXperts team helps customers save money while improving recycling and environmental performance.

Changing the Cycle of Take, Make, Waste

With over a decade of experience in the waste and recycling industry, Derek shared his passion for the industry by dedicating his career to creating a circular economy and keeping waste out of landfills.

As a true WasteXpert, Derek shared some unknown trash facts about our society. One startling statistic: only 50% of Americans participate in curbside recycling – and this does not include food waste. Derek describes the problems with the lack of recycling, including resources being lost and also, food ending up in a landfill to later turn into methane (a potent greenhouse gas).

Fortunately, many places in the United States are beginning to mandate recycling and compost regulations (and creating hefty fines for contamination) – however, this is only part of the solution.

Derek shared his WasteXpert perspective on the differences between a linear and circular economy; the former is a process of extracting resources from the planet, making a product, and then putting it back into the ground. This take, make, waste economy is unsustainable and does not reflect the triple bottom line, which means accounting for the true cost of a product. Instead, communities and the environment hold the true cost; they experience the long-term pain of these short-term gains. The key is to shift into a circular economy where businesses are able to articulate a triple-bottom-line value for their product. A circular economy also aims to keep resources within the supply chain as long as possible.

Derek shared with Trash Magic his perspective of what is standing in the way of a circular economy growing in the United States, making the point that our current infrastructure in the United States is predominantly linear. We lack “a mindset of what a good, healthy business model”; this is the barrier to going from a linear economy to a circular economy.

While consumer advocacy is critical, the major changes will come from a better policy that supports circular infrastructure. Although our current system of unregulated capitalism neglects the long-term perspective, Trash Magic reminds us that policies can help push humans to change their behavior. In fact, California enacted Senate Bill 1383, which requires recycling of all food waste, is a glimpse of how our future will be; these are the policies found within a circular economy.

The Power of Proper Recycling

The role of companies like Smart Waste and WasteXperts is so important because waste management is becoming more granular; there are separate bins for different recycling materials and now, for composting food waste; this type of circular infrastructure is now mandated in many parts of the United States.

The benefit of operating a business within waste management is that it is good for the planet and good for a facility’s budget—WasteXperts services impact communities, specifically within the multi-family residential space. The team performs on-site waste sorting and training to save customers money while improving waste management. In addition, their team educates and evolves on-site waste management programs by working with multi-family residential properties.

Companies who perform waste management consulting help support the transition into a future that supports a healthy business model and the environment; these companies help find the right size containers, they show up before the garbage hauler to maximize volume, they perform trash recycling management on-site, they help with maintenance support. In addition, they often perform environmental auditing and reporting, which helps to prevent contamination.

Education is another critical factor; we need to know what can go into each bin. The deeper we dive into the waste management industry, the more empowered we become to disrupt it. Companies like Smart Waste and WasteXperts change the way the industry works because they intimately know the individual benefit action has on a larger scale.

Mini MRF Facility

If you force yourself to not throw things away, innovation will come.

The practices of compost and recycling are two innovations that have been around for a very long time. But on a commercial scale, we are just beginning to see the effects in our society. It is becoming increasingly important to manage individual waste in the home so that the ripple effect extends through neighborhoods, cities, all the way to the landfill.

Fortunately, our future is bright because we have technology on our side. Derek predicts that WasteXperts will integrate technology in the form of a mini MRF (Material Recovery Facility); this will help support the trash sorting process for larger commercial buildings. In addition, with the use of innovation, they would be able to create a broader impact on multi-family and commercial.

In every episode of Trash Magic, hosts Oakley J-Fast and Sara Fuentes invite waste management experts to demystify the industry and ignite the listeners’ curiosity to take individual action. Education is alchemy (or a catalyst) for change. As guest speaker Derek stated, it is important to “ know the industry well enough to change it.”


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