Over 6,600 attendees came to Nashville from all over the world to make ISRI2023 the biggest ISRI convention and exposition ever! As the closing general session began, it was clear that conference had something for everyone. There were sessions covering a variety of topics including electric vehicles and batteries, environmental justice, networking opportunities including an after-hours event, fun runs and yoga.
ISRI Chair-Elect Colin Kelly summed up one of the themes of ISRI2023 during the closing general session, “Does your neighbor understand what you do?” It’s no secret that a lot of people are unaware of the impact recycled materials have on their lives. These materials are found in everyday items like cars, laptops and t-shirts. Recycled materials are sustainable, help protect natural resources and reduce emissions. Recycled materials also drive innovation — the facilities we run, the standards we set ripple out into the broader community as a whole.
ISRI2023 showed that the industry is not changing what it does. We’re changing our focus and focusing on outputs. Kelly mentioned that outputs resonate with lawmakers, the media and the communities our facilities do business in. Historically the recycled materials industry stayed in the background. It’s time to change that.
Kelly also touched on the fact that this shift in focus and community outreach is not something you have to do alone. ISRI can help create partnerships with law enforcement so they understand what you do. Safety and education trainings are available to train your employees and let your community know you’re being proactive about the things they care about.
It’s this kind of support that Bruce Blue highlighted when he accepted the ISRI Lifetime Achievement Award. Blue started in the industry when he was 9 years old, helping out at his family’s facility. Once he was older, Blue started with one facility, one truck and one philosophy, “hire the best people and stay out of the way.” His business grew and eventually Blue had 200 plants. He told the packed audience that the support he received from ISRI was a big part of why his business prospered. “I cannot express in words how I feel…deeply humbled…I wish this moment would never end.” Blue thanked Robin Weiner, ISRI president, for all she had done during his tenure at ISRI and the staff. “God bless ISRI, its staff and its members.”
Also during the closing general session, Sean Daoud took the stage to accept the Young Executive of the Year Award and thanked Blue for “paving the way for a new generation.” Daoud also expressed gratitude for the support ISRI provided him and the industry, “Once I got a taste of what ISRI does, I was hooked.” Daoud cited the experience, knowledge and lifelong relationships he has made so far as being crucial to his success.
CNN Global Analyst Rana Foroohar rounded out the closing general session with her predictions on what the future looks like in a post-globalization world and what that means for the recycled materials industry. Globalization is based on cheap capitol, labor and energy — all things that are no longer cheap or as Foroohar put it “cheap was never as cheap as we thought.” She believes economies are moving not towards an efficiency model but a resiliency model as people want to minimize supply chain disruptions, want jobs that are part of the community and place a greater emphasis on sustainability — a resiliency model the recycled materials industry has always had at its core.
ISRI2023 showed what we’re made of. Thank you to all who made this a successful convention!