Conference Update: Taking Recycling and Solid Waste Diversion to the Next Level

June 7, 2024

Over 300 attendees from New England and beyond attended the recycling nonprofit Northeast Resource Recovery Association’s (NRRA) Annual Recycling Conference & Expo on June 3rd and 4th.

Operators, town administrators, select board members, business owners, leaders and more came together for two jam-packed days of talking trash and taking recycling to the next level!

The Grappone Conference Center in Concord, NH buzzed with connections as attendees, speakers, and exhibitors networked between the 21 workshops and two breakfast plenary panel presentations over the course of the conference.

This year, we were joined by State Senator Howard Pearl, Democratic Leader Pro Tempore Representative Karen Ebel, and Representative Judy Aron (pictured), who updated attendees on the state of trash affairs in NH. After years of solid waste flying under the radar, it is now enjoying its moment in the sun as Granite Staters increasingly understand the importance of proper, effective, and thoughtful solid waste management, diversion, and reduction. 

In a change to past practice and to allow for more time to connect, we held two plenary panels in the morning while attendees enjoyed a light breakfast in lieu of a midday Keynote presentation. This allowed more time for attendees to visit exhibitors and chat with each other over lunch.

On Monday, we were joined byTiffany Carlson of the Housatonic Resources Recovery Authority, Rhonda Whittier of Pelham, NH, and Andrea Folsom of NRRA. The panel was focused on food waste diversion and was moderated by NRRA's executive director, Reagan Bissonnette.

In Connecticut, Tiffany has helped set up on-site composting programs at several transfer stations serving communities of a few hundred to several thousand residents. Rhonda shared Pelham's experience collecting food waste at their transfer station and then diverting it off site to an anaerobic digester. Finally, Andrea shared NRRA's recent food waste diversion work, which is supported by a grant through the USDA Rural Utilities Service. This work includes a two-day food waste diversion workshop series held in April 2024 in partnership with NHDES and Mark King of the Maine Compost School; an upcoming food waste diversion story map designed for residents to find municipalities or other organizations that accept food waste in their area; and the upcoming and incredibly popular fall bus tour this year focused on food waste diversion. She also shared that $500,000 in grant funds earmarked for food waste diversion will soon be available through NHDES; NRRA will share more information about this grant opportunity once details are released. 


On Tuesday, we were joined by Meghan Theriault of Gilford, NH Public Works, Joan Cudworth of Hollis, NH Public Works, and Brian Patnoe of NRRA. Tuesday's panel focused on the many benefits and importance of Full Cost Accounting, again moderated by NRRA's Reagan Bissonnette. Full Cost Accounting was introduced decades ago, but remains one of the best tools available to transfer stations and municipalities to understand the true costs of managing municipal solid waste (MSW), recycling, composting, and construction and demolition debris (C&D).

In Gilford, Meghan spoke to her experience using data to justify purchasing a truck scale and increasing staffing at the Gilford transfer station. After the new Gilford Transfer Station opened, in the first two years Meghan's data showed that they missed out on tens of thousands of dollars of C&D fees simply because it is so difficult to estimate the weight of a load. In fact, they missed out on enough fees to cover the cost of a truck scale! Joan and Brian shared how the towns of Hollis, Lancaster, and Littleton had different perspectives on transfer station funding, making full cost accounting an important educational tool to help show their Select Boards the impact of different management tools, including scales, fees, and staff. Brian also shared some of NRRA's recent Full Cost Accounting work - which is also supported by a grant through the USDA Rural Utilities Service - including work with towns to both create individual Full Cost Accounting (FCA) models, followed by a Solid Waste Advisory Team (SWAT) visit to help brainstorm potential changes based on the data. 

In addition to the keynotes and exhibitor booths, attendees had their pick of workshops, including NHDES Inspections, Regional Landscape for Glass Recycling, Battery and Fire Safety for Transfer Stations, a Virtual Tour of ecomaine, Rebuilding Confidence in Recycling, Household Hazardous Waste Recycling, Navigating the Benefits of Mattress Recycling and Best Practices, and much more. Dozens of operators joined daily Operator Roundtables to discuss problems and crowdsource solutions for issues that many transfer stations face.

While she wasn't able to join us in person, US Senator Jeanne Shaheen sent along a special message for our attendees and members, stating in part:

"I’ve long been a fan of the NRRA and its mission to cultivate a network of capable local leaders who promote municipal recycling and solid waste reduction in their communities. I salute each of you for taking the initiative to participate in this year’s recycling conference and contribute to its breakout sessions. The skills you have refined and relationships you have built through NRRA will not only strengthen your own local operations, but also better position the region as a whole to capitalize on recycling and solid waste management innovations together. I am sure you will learn so much from this experience and from each other as well."

Attendees expressed appreciation for the opportunity to network with conference speakers, attendees, and organizations participating in the exhibit hall.  Said one transfer station manager and attendee, “I learn something new every time I attend this conference. I like the ability to network and find out what other municipalities are doing."

Another noted, “I especially enjoyed networking, as nobody works alone in this business! I like hearing different experiences and points of view for inspiration and change.”

NRRA’s conference was supported by the commitment and generosity of nearly thirty sponsors, including Platinum Sponsors: Apparel Impact, Glass Packaging Institute, Interstate Refrigerant Recovery, Inc. and NH the Beautiful!

NRRA is already looking forward to next year’s Recycling Conference & Expo to be held at the Grappone Center in Concord, NH on May  19th and 20th!

Join us again - May 19th and 20th, 2025 - we hope to see you there!


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This material is based upon work supported under a grant by the Rural Utilities Service, United States Department of Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of the Rural Utilities Service. Rural Community Assistance Partnership, Inc., is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

Northeast Resource Recovery Association complies with applicable Federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, disability, or sex (including pregnancy, sexual orientation, and gender identity).