5 Reasons to Knuckle Down on Your Recycling in 2021

5 reasons to knuckle down on your recycling


Do you want to save the world? You don’t have to be an Avenger to make a difference. When you recycle, and recycle right, you help make the world a cleaner, greener place. Below we outline 5 reasons to knuckle down so you can start improving your recycling in 2021.

Contamination costs money (and even other recyclables).

Although you might feel good tossing something into the recycling bin, that good feeling could be short-lived if your discard doesn’t belong there. When you place something in the bin that shouldn’t be there, you create contamination. What does this mean? Often, contamination can lead to increased recycling facility downtime, equipment damage and low-quality or rejected bales. All these consequences of contamination cost operators time and money – a cost passed down to you.

Recycling incorrectly can lead to worker injury.

When incorrect items enter a materials recovery facility (MRF; i.e. a recycling facility), they can create unsafe conditions for workers. Think about the plastic film bags you get at the grocery store. While you may wish that those could be recycled, when they go through the sorter they become tangled, leading to a halt in operations and requiring workers to climb onto equipment to untangle the bags. According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, MRF worker injuries and illnesses occur at a rate of 3.6 per 100 full-time employees.

Certain items can cause fires in facilities and collection vehicles.

When your batteries die or your laptop finally gives out, where do you put them? Although a number of products are recyclable, they don’t belong in your recycling bin. In part, this is due to the dangerous conditions they create in a collection vehicle or at a facility. For example, research demonstrates that batteries can cause fires at recycling facilities. In fact, preliminary results from an EREF research survey indicate that 68% of respondents have experienced at least one fire at their facility in the past year.

Forgoing recycling can contribute to greenhouse gases.

The latest data from the EPA indicates that gross U.S. greenhouse gas emissions totaled 6,677 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent – a 2.9% increase from the previous year. However, participation in curbside recycling can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 38% compared to landfilling with energy recovery.

Recycling availability is not an invitation to be wasteful.

A study by Catlin and Wang, 2012, published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology, evaluated waste generation when a recycling bin was available. In an office setting, researchers found that the availability of recycling bin resulted in an 82% increase in paper usage. Before grabbing a handful of paper, remember that not all materials can be recycled forever. Each time paper goes through the recycling process, it loses quality and integrity. In fact, paper can only be recycled 5 – 7 times.

There is good news! Now that you know the 5 reasons to knuckle down on your recycling, you can take the steps to start improving your recycling in 2021. Take a moment to educate yourself. Your state and county waste management websites are great resources for more information. See what items belong in your recycling bin and where to recycle items, such as batteries.

Join the Over 250 Respondents Providing Data Related to Scrap and Materials Recovery Facility Fires

Raleigh, NC (November 12, 2020) – The Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF), in partnership with the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), the National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) and the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), requests responses to a survey aiming to understand the frequency and causes of fires at scrap facilities, materials recovery facilities (MRFs) and other facilities.

Currently, EREF has received more than 250 responses from a number of companies, including responses from top waste management companies. EREF seeks to double this response by December 31 and encourages anyone who has not participated in this effort to ensure your facility is counted by contributing data. Data will be presented in a compiled form and individual facility names, addresses and contact information will not be shared.

What do the preliminary findings of this study indicate?

  • 68% of facilities that responded experienced at least one fire within the past year.
  • 97% of respondents have a fire plan and offer training for employees.
  • The most common types of fire prevention strategies implemented by MRFs and scrap facilities include using a portable fire extinguisher, 24-hour remote monitoring and automatic sprinkler systems.

To complete the survey, or for more information, please click here. The survey will close December 31, 2020.

EREF is a 501(c)3 class charity that funds and directs scientific research and educational initiatives for waste management practices to benefit industry participants and the communities they serve. For more complete information on EREF funded research, its scholarship program and how to donate to this great cause, visit



Media Contact:
Catherine Ardoin, Communications Manager
Phone: 919.861.6876 ext. 109

EREF Awards Two Grants for Solid Waste Research

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Raleigh, NC (October 29, 2020) – The Board of Directors of the Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF) are pleased to announce the award of 2 new research grants.

The following projects have been funded in 2020:

Non-Recyclable Plastics to Pavements
Investigator: University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Award Amount: $161,075

This research seeks to create high-value and high-volume products from plastic waste for bitumen (asphalt binder) replacement in pavements. The bitumen replacement market is a potential repurposing for large quantities of waste plastics. It addresses an urgent economic and environmental need for plastic recycling as well as the transportation industry. With 4-5% replacement of bitumen, this market has the potential to consume 1 million tons of waste plastics out of the 26 million tons that go to landfills in the US. Also, the study goal is aligned with the global emphasis on enhancing transportation infrastructure sustainability. Moreover, asphalt pavements are 100% recyclable; therefore, plastic waste will remain in a recycling circular loop. Plastic waste that would typically be landfilled will be formulated for incorporation in bitumen that meets performance specifications for durability. Through manipulation of the chemical and molecular composition of waste plastics, current challenges, including sorting and processing of different plastics, storage instability and compatibility between bitumen and various plastics will be addressed.

The objectives of this study are as follows:

  1. Develop compatibility and blending methodology of various plastic waste plastic for bitumen modification.
  2. Investigate the suitability of plastic types and mixed plastics for modifying bitumen.
  3. Determine the storage stability of plastic waste modified bitumen.
  4. Perform chemical and rheological characterization of plastic-modified bitumen.
  5. Quantify environmental benefits using life cycle assessment (LCA) for plastic-modified bitumen.

Techno-Economic Evaluation of Supercritical Water Oxidation
for Landfill Leachate and Condensate Management

Investigator: Duke University
Award Amount: $152,000

Landfill leachate and condensate management can be a major cost of operating a landfill and they are an important contingent liability. For example, per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are now found in many landfills and cause great concerns to owners and operators. Supercritical water oxidation (SCWO) is a game-changing treatment technology that could provide superior treatment with better economics. Deshusses’ lab is leading the U.S. in SCWO technology research.

The objectives of this project are to demonstrate the technical and economic feasibility of using SCWO at landfills by:

  1. Demonstrating treatment of representative landfill leachates, condensates and concentrated liquids, such as leachate reverse osmosis (RO) concentrate, in our pilot 1 ton/day SCWO system with specific focus on PFAS and emerging contaminants.
  2. Conducting a detailed economic analysis of using SCWO at landfills at a larger scale. This will include an early assessment of scale and SCWO system throughout. If this assessment indicates that concentration of leachates and condensates (e.g., using reverse osmosis) followed by SCWO is the preferred route for treatment, the project will focus on treatment of concentrated liquids such as RO leachate concentrates.
  3. Exploring treatment synergies (e.g., hazardous wastes, PFAS contaminated sludge, selected organic wastes) that may be co-treated with leachate/condensate or RO concentrates and that may affect the economic outcome.

Pre-proposals are required prior to submitting a full proposal. EREF invites investigators to submit pre-proposals pertaining to the topics outlined on the “How to Apply for a Grant” page on EREF’s website. The next pre-proposal deadline is December 1, 2020. For more information regarding EREF’s Research Grants Program, please visit or e-mail

EREF is a 501(c)3 class charity that funds and directs scientific research and educational initiatives for waste management practices to benefit industry participants and the communities they serve. For more complete information on EREF funded research, its scholarship program and how to donate to this great cause, visit


Media Contact:
Catherine Ardoin, Communications Manager
Phone: 919.861.6876 ext. 109

NWRA, EREF Publish ‘Waste & Recycling For Dummies’

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The Book Serves as a Professional and Educational Resource for All.

Raleigh, NC (October 27, 2020) – The National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) and the Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF) have partnered to produce Waste & Recycling For Dummies, an informative and educational book for industry professionals, government officials, students and consumers.

While many have a basic understanding (or some assumptions) about the waste and recycling industry, NWRA and EREF unveil a clearer picture of how the entire industry works in Waste & Recycling For Dummies, hoping that readers take a look at their own actions and see what they can do to leave the world in a better place than they found it.

As readers turn the pages of the book, they will learn the importance of the industry and how managing waste properly can help protect human health and the environment. Without proper waste management, our air, land and water can become polluted, and our climate can change for the worse. Recycling helps preserve our natural resources for future generations.

“It was important to us to tell the right story about the waste and recycling industry,” said NWRA President and CEO Darrell Smith. “There is a lot of inaccurate information out there, and this book helps address those misunderstandings and provide a detailed look inside the inner workings of our industry. Our industry goes way beyond the curb.”

“The nuances of waste management concepts in many ways are unknown by most and are often overlooked by those not intimately familiar with this industry,” said EREF President and CEO Bryan Staley. “Our hope is to build an interest and understanding of solid waste that encourages consideration of waste that’s produced and discarded.”

This book also includes insights from many industry subject matter experts (SME). NWRA and EREF express their gratitude for the SMEs’ help putting this book together for publication.

Waste & Recycling For Dummies comes in both a digital and print version (note: print copies are limited). To download the e-book, click here. To request a print copy, please contact Mallory Szczepanski at or Catherine Ardoin at


About NWRA
The National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) is the largest trade association representing the private sector waste and recycling services industry. Association members conduct business in all 50 states, and include companies that manage waste, recycling and medical waste, equipment manufacturers and distributors, and a variety of other service providers. For more information about NWRA, please visit

Media Contact:
Brandon Wright, Vice President, Communications and Media Relations


About EREF
EREF is a 501(c)3 class charity that funds and directs scientific research and educational initiatives for waste management practices to benefit industry participants and the communities they serve. For more complete information on EREF funded research, its scholarship program and how to donate to this great cause, visit

Media Contact:
Catherine Ardoin, Communications Manager
919.861.6876 ext. 109


EREF Awards Nine Master’s and Doctoral Scholarships for 2020

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Raleigh, NC (October 22, 2020) – The Board of Directors of the Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF) are pleased to announce the award of nine scholarships to Master’s and Doctoral students pursuing education and research in solid waste management.

Congratulations to the 2020 EREF Scholars:

Ryan Anderson
Colorado State University, Ph.D.
EREF Scholar 2020
Advancing a Novel Anaerobic Digestion Process for Producing Fatty Acids from Solid Wastes

When solid waste undergoes anaerobic digestion methane is generated, which can be used for energy. However, Anderson’s work investigates a potentially more valuable anaerobic digestion product than methane. When operating an anaerobic digester at a low pH, methane production is inhibited, leaving fatty acids in the reactor. These fatty acids can be used to make useful chemicals, bioproducts and even plastics.

Seth Kane
Montana State University, Ph.D.
EREF Scholar 2020
Treatment of Plastic Waste for Concrete Reinforcement to Increase Viability of Plastic Recycling in Rural Areas

A potential use for lower value plastic waste is to employ it as an aggregate in concrete. However, a limitation in doing this is that a decrease in the strength of the concrete has been observed. To address this problem, Kane’s research aims to develop methods to reinforce concrete with plastics that improve the strength, resist fracture and decrease damage from freeze-thaw cycles when compared to non-reinforced cement. In addition, as concrete is most often produced locally, this can provide a local option for plastic waste reuse in remote and rural areas where high transportation costs can make plastic recycling costly. Additionally, this provides options to reuse mixed plastic type, contaminated and otherwise hard to recycle plastic waste at a lower cost than traditional recycling.

Kameron King
Old Dominion University, Ph.D.
EREF Scholar 2020
Co-Digestion of Food Waste and the Aqueous Phase from Hydrothermal Carbonization of Mixed MSW

In 2017, the United States Environmental Protection Agency reported that Americans generated over 268 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW); with 44 million tons of food waste each year – which can be a key source of energy via the methane generation potential this waste holds. A potential strategy to utilize waste as a resource is the integration of two processes – hydrothermal carbonization (HTC) and anaerobic digestion (AD). When the waste is broken down through HTC, hydrochar, gas and an aqueous waste are produced. Both the hydrochar and gas can be recovered, but the aqueous waste must still be treated. King’s research investigates the use of AD to convert the aqueous waste to recoverable, methane-rich biogas.

Vanessa Maldonado
Michigan State University, Ph.D.
EREF Scholar 2020
Destructive Technologies for the Degradation of Per- and Polyfluroalkyl
Substances (PFAS)

PFAS are a group of synthetic chemicals widely used in multiple consumer products (e.g. textiles, non-stick cookware) and industrial processes (e.g. fire-fighting foams, electronics) due to their unique properties and high chemical/thermal stability. Many of these products are disposed of in landfills, and PFAS has been detected in landfill leachates. Most landfill leachate is treated, which depending on the technology can generate a concentrate solution containing PFAS or saturated granular activated carbon (GAC). Currently, a number of destructive technologies are being evaluated as alternatives to sending the concentrate or saturated GAC back to a landfill, which might contribute to higher PFAS concentrations over time. Electrochemical Oxidation (EO) and Plasma Treatment (PT) are some of the destructive technologies that have the potential to degrade PFAS. In this research, Maldonado targets both technologies, EO and PT to destroy PFAS present in landfill leachates and saturated GAC containing PFAS, respectively.

Brooke Marten
University of Colorado, Boulder, Ph.D.
Tom J. Fatjo Scholar 2020
Organic Waste Management Systems – A Comparative Environmental Impact Assessment

There are a number of approaches to organics waste management. Marten’s research uses life cycle assessment (LCA) to compare the environmental impacts of various organic waste disposal options (i.e. conventional disposal in an engineered landfill with a landfill gas energy recovery system, anaerobic digestion, incineration and pyrolysis). One unique avenue that she is modeling is the pyrolysis (destruction of material under pressure at high temperatures, but that does not constitute burning of the waste) of organic waste to produce renewable energy and biochar, a material that can be used as an adsorbent to treat wastewaters, such as landfill leachate. The overall goal of her research is to quantify the environmental implications of each disposal route (e.g. conventional landfilling with energy generation, anaerobic digestion, incineration, pyrolysis) and encourage a shift to more sustainable organic waste management.

Marcos Miranda
Ohio State University, Ph.D.
EREF Scholar 2020
Changing the Narrative Around Industrial Solid Waste By-Products

When fossil fuel is burned to create energy, it releases an array of different gases, one of which is sulfur dioxide (SO2). Before being released into the atmosphere as flue gas, the SO2 must be removed using a process called flue gas desulfurization (FGD). Miranda’s project addresses several issues related to the FGD material that is produced, a material which is often landfilled, and acid mine drainage (AMD). AMD is a byproduct of mining activities where ore materials react to form sulfuric acid and dissolved iron, which can create pollution if not addressed. The research team has designed a treatment system that removes harmful pollutants from the AMD waters without the need for external inputs (i.e. energy or chemicals) and mixes the AMD with the FGD material. This incorporation of FGD material the causes the ore materials within the liquid to coalesce and form a precipitate that is concentrated with rare earth elements that can later be extracted. This material, after the extraction of valuable minerals, also has the potential to be used to backfill abandoned mines to prevent future generation of AMD.

Kelsey Rodriguez
University of Central Florida, MS
EREF Scholar 2020
Electrochemical-based Degradation Technology for the Treatment of Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) in Landfill Leachates

Per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) are man-made chemicals linked to potentially adverse human health effects. However, due to PFAS’s strong chemical structure, they represent a class of environmentally persistent chemicals that make removal difficult with conventional treatment technologies (e.g. biological treatment), particularly in landfill leachate. This research seeks to use a newly created nanotechnology that utilizes electrochemistry for PFAS removal in landfill leachates. The electrochemistry provides the needed energy to break the strong chemical bonds inherent of in PFAS and overcome the traditional barriers of conventional advanced oxidation processes.

Angel Villarruel-Moore
University of Central Florida, MS
DCA Scholar 2020
MSW Incinerator Ash Co-Disposal with Unburned Waste: Implications for Elevated Temperatures

In recent years, there have been several landfills which have reported landfill gas temperatures in exceedance of their permitted limits set forth by the new source performance standards (NSPS) – these heightened gas temperatures are indicative of elevated temperatures in the waste itself. Previous research has shown a correlation between landfills with elevated temperatures and those which accept various combustion ashes as either daily cover or as waste itself. Villarruel-Moore’s research is focused on investigating various combustion ashes with the goal of identifying key compounds responsible for the observed exothermic activity that leads to elevated temperatures.

Anna Yip
University of California, Berkeley, MS
EREF Scholar 2020
UC Berkeley Plastics System Analysis

Single-use plastics have come under scrutiny with many cities and states initiating policies and goals to reduce or prohibit single-use plastics. The plastics narrative typically revolves around encouraging recycling; however, Yip’s work aims to flip this narrative, asking not how can we encourage recycling, but how can we reduce plastic waste altogether. Yip’s research project can be separated into two parts: (1) to offer a more in-depth, responsible and transparent look at UC-Berkeley’s plastic consumption and waste, and (2) to calculate the impacts of the newly proposed policy to “eliminate all non-essential single-use plastics for which there are viable alternatives by end of calendar year 2030”.

EREF scholarships recognize graduate students pursuing excellence in solid waste management research and education. Recipients are chosen based on credentials and potential contributions to the solid waste industry and its scientific community.

EREF scholarship applications for the 2021-2022 school year are due late Spring 2021. At the time of application, students must be, or will be in 2021, a full-time master’s or doctoral student, and have a clearly demonstrated interest in solid waste management research.

For more information on the EREF Scholarship Program or to access the application, please visit

EREF is a 501(c)3 class charity that funds and directs scientific research and educational initiatives for waste management practices to benefit industry participants and the communities they serve. For more complete information on EREF funded research, its scholarship program and how to donate to this great cause, visit


Media Contact:

Catherine Ardoin, Communications Manager
Phone: 919.861.6876 ext. 109

Higher-res images are available upon request

EREF’s Socially-Distanced 2020 Fall Classic & Networking Event Brings Industry Together for Charity

Raleigh, NC (Aug. 25, 2020) – The Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF) announced it will hold its 2020 Fall Classic & Networking Event in-person on September 30 – October 1 at the Pinehurst Resort in Pinehurst, NC. The event, one of the few in-person industry events this year, brings the industry back together with the support of GFL Environmental, the event’s overall sponsor, as well as over 20 additional sponsors thus far. All proceeds from the tournament will support EREF’s charitable mission to fund and direct scientific research and educational initiatives to establish sustainable waste management practices.

While EREF is working closely with Pinehurst staff to ensure the safety of guests, attendees can still expect the fun and quality networking opportunities that the Fall Classic has become synonymous with.

On Wednesday, September 30, the event will begin with an outside (weather permitting) putting contest and networking reception featuring hors d’oeuvres stations and open bars. Following a boxed grab-n’-go-style breakfast, the golf tournament tees off at 8:30 am on Course No. 3 and No. 5 on Thursday, October 1. The tournament will conclude with a contactless Awards Luncheon at 2:00 pm.

The format for the tournament will be four-person scramble with a shotgun start. Players on the first and second place teams will receive trophies and a framed team photo. Hole-in-one prizes will be given at all par threes, including the chance to win $50,000 cash. There will also be other prize winning opportunities, including the chance to win a $10,000 putting contest.

Get the Most Out of Your Time at Pinehurst!
Don’t miss playing the short, 9-hole course that the Golf Channel calls, “the most fun 10 acres in all of golf.” The Cradle Short Course is only $50 per person!

Special Golf Fees – available 3 days pre- and post-event (upon availability):

  • Course No. 1, No. 3, No. 5: $90 per person, per round (30% savings)
  • Course No. 2: $450 per person, per round (9% savings)
  • Course No. 4: $350 per person, per round (11% savings)
  • Course No. 6, No. 7, No. 8, No. 9: $240 per person, per round (15% savings)

Fall Classic registration, COVID-19 safety measures and other Pinehurst information is available at

COVID-19 Safety Measures in Place
Below are measures EREF and Pinehurst are collaborating on for a safe experience:

  • Socially distanced activities (e.g. outside as much as possible) and increased spacing between seats and tables
  • Providing a mask to each attendee
  • Sanitizing carts and other equipment
  • Meals will be served by Pinehurst wait staff or packaged
  • No-contact awards ceremony
  • Temperature checks upon arrival

For the specific measures Pinehurst has implemented, click here for the “Pinehurst Promise”.

Schedule of Events

Wednesday, September 30

  • Welcome Reception and Putting Contest: 6:00 pm (Resort Club Veranda)

Thursday, October 1

  • Breakfast/Registration: 6:30 am (Donald Ross Room at the Clubhouse)
  • Shotgun Start: 8:30 am (Courses No. 3 and No. 5)
  • Lunch: 2:00 pm (Donald Ross Room at the Clubhouse)

This year’s Fall Classic sponsors – confirmed as of August 25, 2020 – include:

Overall Tournament Sponsor
GFL Environmental, Inc.
Major Giveaway Welcome Reception &
Bloody Mary Bars
Golf Ball & Tee Markers
Wastequip Big Truck Rental Caterpillar
Shirts Golf Carts Hats
Volvo Construction Equipment Environmental Solutions Group Covanta
Goody Bags &
Hole-in-One Insurance
Putting Contest Golf Towels
McNeilus Machinex Rush/Peterbilt
Beverage Carts Golf Contest Package Mulligans

Risk Strategies

InagenAE/Blue Flame Crew LaBella
Longest Marshmallow
Drive Contest
Holes Super Silent Mobile Bidding
Civil & Environmental Consultants, Inc. Card Payment Services, PTR Baler, Rehrig Pacific Company, Waste Advantage Magazine, Waste Management, Weaver Michelin
Face Masks Staff Shirts
Meritor Sierra Container Group


Additional sponsorship opportunities are available. Please send an e-mail to for more information.

EREF is a 501(c)3 class charity that funds and directs scientific research and educational initiatives for waste management practices to benefit industry participants and the communities they serve. For more complete information on EREF funded research, its scholarship program and how to donate to this great cause, visit


Media Contact:
Catherine Ardoin, Communications Manager
Phone: 919.861.6876 ext. 109

Click here for a PDF of the release.

EREF to Host Virtual Annual Charitable Auction in 2020 Due to COVID-19

Raleigh, NC (June 4, 2020) – In response to the COVID-19 crisis, the Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF) will host its 2020 Annual Charitable Auction online in multiple phases.

EREF’s Auction, held each year at WasteExpo, accounts for a large portion of the Foundation’s annual revenue. Given WasteExpo’s virtual transition and ongoing uncertainties related to COVID-19, the EREF Board of Directors determined that the best way to minimize risk to the Foundation’s financial health would be to keep the event in the first half of 2020, which resulted in hosting the event virtually.

“The waste industry is an essential service during these difficult times; therefore, solid waste science remains essential. While we enjoy having the Auction at WasteExpo, I want to ensure that the Foundation is positioned to continue its mission, funding the research that still effects our everyday operations and lives,” said Pat Carroll, President of Environmental Solutions Group and EREF Board Chairman. “I encourage those who are able to contribute to the Auction, or EREF itself, to do so.”

When bidding opens June 15, Auction items will be available for bidding online through the Ritchie Bros. online bidding platform, IronPlanet.

EREF’s Silent Auction, which has been held online since 2016, will once again take place online, featuring must-haves and rare finds such as iPads and autographed images. Stay tuned for more bidding information.

New this year – in an effort to provide additional relationship-building opportunities, EREF has added a new element called the Super Silent Auction. This will consist of outings with key industry executives (e.g. procurement managers). The Super Silent Auction will take place during EREF’s Fall Classic & Networking Event from September 30th – October 1st in Pinehurst, NC.

“This was a difficult decision for the Foundation to make. Each year, we enjoy bringing together various facets of the waste industry into our WasteExpo booth to network and support solid waste science,” said Bryan Staley, EREF CEO and President. “However, EREF fully understands that safety and health are of the utmost importance in these unprecedented times. Hosting the elements of the charitable auction online will provide donors and bidders the opportunity to still support EREF. We hope to be back together again at WasteExpo in 2021.”

EREF will release more information as it becomes available. In the meantime, please contact with any questions.

EREF is a 501(c)3 class charity that funds and directs scientific research and educational initiatives for waste management practices to benefit industry participants and the communities they serve. For more complete information on EREF funded research, its scholarship program and how to donate to this great cause, visit

Click here to view a PDF of this release.

Survey Issued to Assess the Frequency and Causes of Fires at Scrap & Recycling Facilities

Raleigh, NC (May 12, 2020) – For years, the public has considered recycling to be one of the best methods of preserving the environment and preventing valuable materials from going to the landfill. Coupled with this is the misconception that landfills are actually harmful to the environment.

As a result of this misunderstanding, consumers, driven to do their sustainable part by avoiding the trash can, discard their items in the recycling bin with little regard or understanding of what does and does not belong in that bin. Thanks to this wish-cycling and confusion, consumers unknowingly create more contamination, rendering some of the material un-recyclable, as well as dangerous conditions for solid waste and scrap recycling facilities.

With these stressors already weighing on facilities, fires at material recovery facilities are on the rise, with records set in July, August and September of 2019 for reported fires.

Despite the recent increase in MRF fires, there is little data and evidence to explain how and why these fires spark. To fill in this data gap, the Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF), in collaboration with the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI), National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) and the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) have partnered on a study to determine the causes and frequency of MRF fires in the U.S.

The primary objective of this effort is to compile information that summarizes the following information about fires at MRFs and scrap recycling facilities and in collection vehicles:

  • Frequency of MRF and scrap recycling fires annually (i.e. % of facilities)
  • Frequency of collection vehicles fires
  • Suspected cause(s) of these fires
  • Strategies/technologies used to fight the fire
  • Damage caused by the fire (e.g. property, personnel injury/death, lost operating revenue)
  • Preventative measures taken to minimize the potential for fires
  • Likelihood that lithium ion batteries disposed of at MRFs or scrap yards caused a fire

Key industry organizations have rallied around the issue, with the project stakeholders representing a significant portion of the scrap and recycling industry. “These fires present a major risk to worker safety. For years, NWRA has fought to improve worker safety in the waste industry,” said Darrell Smith, President and CEO of NWRA. “This study will better inform our efforts.”

“The recycling industry is taking a proactive approach to addressing the growing concern of fires at scrap facilities,” said Robin Wiener, President of ISRI. “While this includes the implementation of new technologies, workforce safety initiatives, and public outreach on proper recycling, identifying the causes of fires is the first step to finding a solution to prevent them. The survey will help identify the root causes which we can then use to better direct resources to prevent future fires.”

“The information gleaned from this study has the potential to save facility owners money, reduce material loss and, more importantly, increase worker safety,” said David Biderman, Executive Director and CEO of SWANA. “We’re excited about the impact this research can have on the industry.”

A critical component of the study is a survey of recycling and scrap facilities, which recently went live. “Such information is critical and benefits the entire industry, as fires serve to further financial pressure on an already strained industry,” noted Bryan Staley, President and CEO of EREF. To participate in the survey, please visit the project website.

Project sponsorships are available! To sponsor this project, please contact Bryan Staley at

EREF is a 501(c)3 class charity that funds and directs scientific research and educational initiatives for waste management practices to benefit industry participants and the communities they serve. For more complete information on EREF funded research, its scholarship program and how to donate to this great cause, visit


Click here to view a PDF of this release.

EREF Elects 2020 – 2021 Board of Directors Executive Officers

Raleigh, NC (March 10, 2020) – The Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF) is beginning the new decade with a change in leadership on its Board of Directors. The Board is pleased to announce the election of its 2020 – 2021 Officers:

Pat Carroll
President, Environmental Solutions Group

Vice Chairman
Ven Poole
Member of the Board of Directors, GFL Environmental, Inc.

James Little
Executive Vice President, Engineering and Disposal, Waste Connections, Inc.

Immediate Past Chair
Jim Dowland

Pat Carroll has been President of the Environmental Solutions Group (ESG) since 2010. ESG, whose corporate headquarters is in Chattanooga, TN, is a combination of Heil Environmental, Marathon Equipment Company, 3rd Eye, Soft-Pak Software Solutions, Curotto-Can Company, Parts Central and Bayne. Prior to this role, Pat was the President of DE-STA-CO (a Dover Company) for 5 years. DESTA-CO is a global company focused on industrial automation components with manufacturing locations in 9 different countries in the U.S., Europe, Asia and South America.

Prior to his role at DE-STA-CO, Pat was with Terex Corporation for five years, four years as President of the Telelect Utilities business and one year in business development at the corporate headquarters. Prior to his role at Terex, he spent twelve years with Ingersoll-Rand in their construction and mining business where he held a number of positions with increasing global responsibility in sales, marketing, new product development and business unit management.

Pat holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering Science from Montana Tech and an MBA from the University of Texas in Austin.

“This is an exciting time to serve as EREF’s Board Chairman. With its recent growth, both from a programmatic and staffing perspective, the Foundation is in a prime position to lead scientific discussions surrounding all aspects of solid waste,” said Carroll. “Expect to see a lot of crucial data and information coming from EREF this year.”

Ven Poole currently serves on the Board of Directors of GFL Environmental Inc. Prior to its merger with GFL in 2018, Ven served as Chairman and CEO of Waste Industries for 10 years. Prior to becoming CEO, Ven served as Vice President, Corporate Development for seven years, Director of Support Services for 5 years and Director of Risk Management for 6 years. Prior to joining Waste Industries, Ven was a Senior Engineer with Martin Marietta Orlando Aerospace. Ven holds a B.S. in Aerospace Engineering from North Carolina State University (’85). Ven has more than 28 years of experience in the solid waste industry. In addition to being on the Board of EREF, Ven also serves on the NC State University Board of Trustees and the St. David’s School Board of Trustees. In 2019, Ven was inducted into the NWRA Hall of Fame.

James Little has been Executive Vice President – Engineering and Disposal of Waste Connections since July 2019. From February 2009 to that date, he served as Senior Vice President – Engineering and Disposal of Waste Connections. Mr. Little served as Vice President – Engineering of Waste Connections from September 1999 to February 2009. Mr. Little held various management positions with Waste Management, Inc. (formerly USA Waste Services, Inc., which acquired Waste Management, Inc. and Chambers Development Co. Inc.) from April 1990 to September 1999, including Regional Environmental Manager and Regional Landfill Manager, and most recently Division Manager in Ohio, where he was responsible for the operations of ten operating companies in the Northern Ohio area. Mr. Little is a certified professional geologist and holds a B.S. degree in Geology from Slippery Rock University.

Jim Dowland is a registered Professional Engineer and has spent the last 40 years in the solid waste industry, 19 with BFI followed by 18 with Waste Management, Inc. During his last 10 years with Waste Management, Jim served as Corporate Vice President of Disposal Operations, retiring from this role in 2018. He has a B.S. and M.S. from the University of Illinois, an MBA from the University of Houston, and has been elected Fellow of the American Society of Civil Engineers.

Further, Jim has served on EREF’s Board of Director’s for nearly 13 years and during his tenure has chaired the Projects Committee, which is quite active and serves a critical role that drives EREF’s research program.

“EREF is fortunate to have a Board comprised of remarkable individuals who are passionate about the work we do and who take a hands-on approach to ensure our success,” said EREF President and CEO, Bryan Staley.

For a complete list of the 2020 – 2021 EREF Board of Directors, or to learn more about the Foundation and its mission, visit

EREF is a 501(c)3 class charity that funds and directs scientific research and educational initiatives for waste management practices to benefit industry participants and the communities they serve. For more complete information on EREF funded research, its scholarship program and how to donate to this great cause, visit


Media Contact:

Catherine Ardoin
Communications Manager
919-861-6876 ext. 109


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New EREF Named Scholarship Honors Tom J. Fatjo Jr.

The Environmental Research & Education Foundation’s (EREF) Scholarship Program has provided financial support to over 80 students since its inception in 1998. A number of the scholarships offered were established in memory of those who have played a vital role in the waste industry. This year, donations from companies and individuals from the waste industry have funded a named scholarship honoring Tom J. Fatjo Jr., who passed away earlier this year. The first Tom J. Fatjo Jr. scholar will be named in 2020.

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