America, we have a problem

“Ok, Houston, we’ve had a problem here,” is the often-misquoted phrase astronaut John Swigert relayed back to NASA’s Mission Control Center upon discovery of an oxygen tank explosion that crippled the Apollo 13 spacecraft on April 13, 1970—two days after it launched from Florida’s Kennedy Space Center.

The Apollo mission, which was intended to be the third to land on the moon, quickly became a historic fight for survival, forcing crew, flight controllers and support personnel to battle against impossible odds to get the disabled craft home from 205,000 miles out in space on little more than wits and piecemeal fixes.

Of course, everyone with a sense of history (or at least a decent cable package) knows the rest.

In the movies, as in life, sometimes it takes a major problem to serve as the impetus for an innovative solution.

In this month’s cover story, Waste Today reached out to several industry stakeholders to discuss the state of the waste and recycling industry. Predictably, China’s National Sword was the proverbial elephant in the room that had everyone talking.

Since China announced that it would be tightening its restrictions on the quality of recyclables it accepts into the country, the import ban has drawn strong criticism from industry associations concerning how it figures to disrupt the balance of the waste and recycling sectors in the U.S. and abroad.

“SWANA is disappointed the Chinese government did not modify its waste import restrictions in response to the serious concerns raised by North American, European and Asian governmental authorities and associations,” David Biderman, executive director and CEO of the Silver Spring, Maryland-based Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), said in a Jan. 11 statement. “We support [China’s Ministry of Environmental Protection’s] efforts to improve the environment in China, but these extraordinary restrictions are already adversely impacting recycling programs throughout North America.”

While China’s ban signifies a major shakeup that guarantees to reverberate throughout the entire waste and recycling collection and processing industry, the full ramifications are still unclear. One thing is for certain, however, and that’s industry stakeholders are being forced to consider new, better ways of conducting business.

Check out “What’s next?” on Page 14 to see what industry leaders are saying about the need for new technologies, updated facilities and an overall more nuanced approach to how we think about waste management.

Disruption is never a comfortable thing, but it is often just the kind of motivator that’s needed to move things forward. At Waste Today, we look forward to bringing you the people and businesses who are doing just that.

January February 2018
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