I spent last week in Dallas at WasteExpo, and while the event doesn’t hold a candle to ConExpo in terms of size, it is in its own realm an indicator of its industry’s—and by association—the nation’s economic health.
Waste is a wonderful reflection not only of the economy in a broad sense, but how people feel about it, which is different and often a leading indicator of business cycles. Even before Wall Street sent clear-cut signals that we were in for tough times, waste receipts had begun to fall … particularly in the construction debris arena. Now there appears to be a turn-around, which though small and perhaps inconclusive at present, seems to have imparted a sense of optimism to the bulk of the attendees at WasteExpo.
For starters, this year’s event drew an all-time record number of exhibitors, itself a very good sign. But even more convincing to me was the positive attitude of attendees, many of whom came prepared to compare and buy equipment and services. I must have spoken with close to 1,000 people, finding but a handful evincing the “bah-humbug” mentality. Most were champing at the bit to stick things in a higher gear.
Similar to the situation you face in the resistance to increased charges for moving a yard of dirt, so too do waste operators run into a veritable wall of opposition when it comes to getting the public to accept rate increases.
Not surprisingly, the high cost of fuel was the biggest topic of conversation, along with what could be done to lower its impact on operational costs. As in construction, people were looking to technology for answers, and as at ConExpo, many of the exhibitors had come prepared to tackle the issue.
For what it’s worth, my takeaway from WasteExpo was that regardless of the stagnant economic indicators, there’s a mounting sense of optimism among not only those who collect waste, but create it in the first place.