From Waste360, by Liz Bothwell.

You will learn from Will D. Goode, COO, Goode Companies of Florida; Terrill Haigler, CEO YaFavTrashman, LLC; Ryan Melsert, CEO/CTO, American Battery Technology Company; and Georgia Sherwin, communications and strategy director, Closed Loop Partners. These rising leaders shared their perspectives on where the waste industry is headed; how we can tackle some of the biggest challenges; the role of technology, social justice, and more.

In this episode of NothingWasted!, we bring you insights from some of our Waste360 40 Under 40 winners.

You will learn from Will D. Goode, COO, Goode Companies of Florida; Terrill Haigler, CEO YaFavTrashman, LLC; Ryan Melsert, CEO/CTO, American Battery Technology Company; and Georgia Sherwin, communications and strategy director, Closed Loop Partners. These rising leaders shared their perspectives on where the waste industry is headed; how we can tackle some of the biggest challenges; the role of technology, social justice, and more.

Here is a sneak peek into the conversation:

Bothwell: Do you have any advice for startups looking to attract capital?

Sherwin: Communication is one of the key things and for startups to really communicate their impact story effectively — and to be able to back that up with verifiable data. What we see is, there is an increasing number of circular-economy business models, more and more innovators, and so to be able to communicate effectively helps investors differentiate who is authentic from those who potentially could be greenwashing, for example. It’s also important to show market demand and market signal. And of course a great team is critical.

Bothwell: What are you most proud of the past couple of years and the work you have done around environmental justice?

Haigler: That’s a loaded question. I think the thing I’m most proud about is that there’s been a shift in Philadelphia around environmental justice and how we treat sanitation workers. But the main thing is that there’s been a shift in children. [Previously], my children were lying to their friends that I was a cop because they didn’t want them knowing I was a sanitation worker; they thought that was so un-cool. But now that they understand what sanitation workers do for a community, how important they are, and why we have to stop littering, my 10-year-old went to her school and started a recycling program. So it’s those things… We can start a wildfire of children that are ignited with positive relationships to trash.

Bothwell: How were you able to achieve success throughout the pandemic?

Goode: Obviously the pandemic was new to all of us, right? But our industry is an essential business. The biggest challenge was getting over the misinformation and lack of information over what was happening. Also, we were in a new market, in Florida—so, getting acclimated to that was critical. Just making sure that we are helping our people know they are safe to come to work, and giving those incentives—extra bonuses, because it’s a tough business without that extra X factor of Covid. Making sure they know we have their back, and are educating ourselves every day.

Melsert:  Up until recently, people who have electric vehicle batteries, laptop and cell phone batteries in their homes, they would have to pay to have it processed responsibly. And that put a disincentive on returning those materials back to the market but by now having this purpose-built system where we aren’t required to have them pay a fee and based on commodity metal prices there are even on cases where we can pay them to return a battery. It goes much more to the carrot side and gives people rewards for returning these elements back to the market. And unlike hydrogen carbons which are used once and then consumed, if there was a proper system and architecture in place these elemental metals can be used indefinitely as they are recovered and extracted and refined back to the battery grade quality and then sold right back to the domestic market.

So, I think changing the paradigm about how end-of-life batteries are treated really does help us make these in large quantities domestically which then brings total costs down, which then brings vehicle cost down and really ends up helping everybody in the full closed loop system.

Listen to the full episode here.