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


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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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Definition Dilemma: A Look at the Varying Recycling Definitions

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Of the 49 states that have recycling definitions, EREF identified 18 DIFFERENT DEFINITIONS! States use these when creating their waste reduction goals and measuring to see if they met their goals.

Check out this infographic on the differences in state recycling definitions!

Recycle Right: Are you Falling for these Recycling Myths?

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When you hear phrases like “think green” or “environmental stewardship,” recycling is likely one of the first things that comes to mind. With all of the pseudo-science and myths out there, you might be confused on how to recycle and even the definition of recycling.

Check out this infographic in which EREF addresses common misconceptions associated with recycling!

EREF Moves in New Strategic Direction, Expanding into the Sustainable Materials Management Space

The Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF) has held a long history of funding innovative research that the industry needs to move forward and adapt to changes in policy and management. The Foundation will be taking this to the next level in the coming months, stepping further into the sustainable materials management space.

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Analysis of State Recycling Definitions

In an effort to document the various ways recycling may be defined, the Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF) identified and analyzed recycling definitions used by state agencies. Definitions for “recycle”, “recycling”, and/or similar terms were identified through a search of state codes. Definitions were identified for 49 of 50 states: a definition could not be found for North Dakota.

This article discusses the various ways states define recycling.

Click here for more information (PDF).

EREF Awards Six Master’s and Doctoral Scholarships for 2019

The Board of Directors of the Environmental Research & Education Foundation (EREF) are pleased to announce the award of six scholarships to Master’s and Doctoral students across North America pursuing education in solid waste management.

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Celebrating 25 Years of EREF

In 2019, EREF celebrates 25 years of funding and disseminating crucial solid waste data and educational initiatives to benefit the waste industry.

The videos below provide an inside look into the creation of EREF, how the Foundation has progressed over the last 25 years and the impact on the industry and individuals’ lives.

Advancing the Industry for 25 Years: How EREF Accomplishes Its Mission

Reflecting on the Creation of EREF

Benefiting from EREF: The Impact on the Industry and Lives

Supporting Canadian Solid Waste Research: EREF of Canada to Hold 2nd Silent Auction at the Canadian Waste & Recycling Expo

After the success of last year’s event, the Environmental Research & Education Foundation of Canada (EREF-CA) is excited to once again hold its Silent Auction October 9 and 10 at the Canadian Waste & Recycling Expo (CWRE) in Toronto, Ontario. Proceeds from this event, which is being held in partnership with the Ontario Waste Management Association (OWMA), support solid waste research needs in Canada.

EREF-CA’s Silent Auction affords donating companies greater visibility during the show and allows them to demonstrate their commitment to scientific research advancing the solid waste industry in Canada. Donations to the Auction consist of a variety of items, which could range from sporting event tickets to trips to electronics.

Click here for more information (PDF)