Executive Q&A: GBB President Steve Simmons

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December 7, 2018

Gershman, Brickner & Bratton Inc. (GBB) announced on Nov. 1 that the McLean, Virginia-based solid waste management consulting firm would be getting a new president for the first time since Harvey Gershman assumed the role upon co-founding the company in 1980.

Gershman, who will serve the company as founder owner associate, is passing the reins of GBB president over to 35-year industry veteran Steve Simmons, effective Jan. 1.

Waste Today talked with Simmons about the new role, the direction he hopes to lead the company and where he sees the waste and recycling industry going in the future.

Waste Today (WT):What will be some of your top priorities as you take over as president of GBB?

Steve Simmons (SS): GBB will continue to provide its clients with objective, independent and actionable advice regarding solid waste and renewable energy policies, programs, technology and infrastructure. Our success will be driven in large part by the talent of our employees. Attracting and retaining the next generation of consultants and thought leaders will be a top priority for me. One of my favorite activities is mentoring new staff. I find it rewarding personally, and it helps our bottom line to have an agile, experienced and adaptable base of consultants who can tackle new challenges facing our industry as a team.

WT: What does it mean to you to be taking the baton as president from Harvey after nearly 40 years?

SS: I am both honored and humbled to be following in Harvey’s footsteps. Harvey has been an icon in our industry and, together with co-founders Tim Bratton and Robert Brickner, created GBB and helped it grow into a leading consulting resource for almost four decades. He will be a tough act to follow. But GBB has a great group of employees, and alongside our co-owners Chris Lund and Tom Reardon, we look forward to continuing GBB’s proud heritage of providing independent advice to our clients.

WT:Has he given you any advice on guiding the company into its next phase?

SS: Harvey’s advice has been simple: If you always do right for the client and the environment, GBB will continue to be valuable and a vital consulting resource for its clients and the industry for years to come.

WT: You’ve been in various roles in the industry for 35 years. How have the waste management needs of municipalities and businesses changed in that time?

SS: When I came into the industry, the big issues were disposal capacity and flow control. The unlined publicly owned dumps were closing. Urban communities were uncertain where their trash would go. There was great interest in adding significant recycling programs and employing waste-to-energy technologies to address waste, materials and energy issues. Today’s communities and businesses are retooling their waste management approach. There is still the primary driver of cost, which drives many communities to choose landfilling options with traditional waste diversion efforts. However, many companies and communities are putting more emphasis on social aspects of waste prevention, minimizing their carbon footprint, and have adopted zero-waste-to-landfill policies or policies geared to do more sustainable things with their waste streams. Those communities are implementing new policies, programs and infrastructure to meet their aspirational goals.

WT: What are some of the most important issues that you see facing the waste and recycling industries in the coming years, and how do you hope to position GBB to capitalize on these opportunities?

SS: As we all know, the recycling industry is under tremendous stress due to the pressures of international market constriction. Markets for low-quality recyclables have collapsed. How to revamp, or even to continue their recycling program, is the chief concern of many communities. A strength of GBB has always been the implementation of technology-driven programs and infrastructure. While I do not see a return of the combustion-based waste-to-energy option, emerging technologies such as mechanical biological treatment and biofuels have promise. GBB is positioned for these changes to help our clients not only with waste management, but with sustainable materials management.

WT: What projects are you most enthusiastic about right now?

SS: All our clients’ projects are important, and we cover a lot of ground in the solid waste management industry. Some of the projects I am most excited about include the work we are doing in the advanced waste processing and conversion sectors, as well as the circular economy waste management models we are helping advance domestically. Our municipal clients such as Prince William County in Virginia and Kent County in Michigan have leaders with long-term visions that take a multifaceted approach to waste management with a local focus. I believe that in the next five to 10 years, those leaders and projects will be seen as the early pioneers in the implementation of the new sustainable materials management economy.

The author is the editor for Waste Today and can be contacted at aredling@gie.net.