While these two conferences are distinctly different for a very wide range of reasons, there was one theme that permeated all of the discussions at both of these meetings – running a business in 2018 is more difficult than ever. Sure, commodity markets are higher than they were at this time two years ago, but that is trumped by a number of other factors that complicate day-to-day operations.

One of the loudest concerns that carried across events wasn’t affected by geography, or role within the company – that was that government continues to make it more challenging to run a business. From evolving employment law, to changes (kind of) in the status of marijuana as a legal drug, to changes in environmental regulation, all of these things have placed a very real burden on the companies operating both the United States and Canada.

Likewise, the immediate and impactful addition of social media to our culture has raised issues that businesses did not need to consider in the past. In the face of a fire, or other incident at the yard, senior management MUST consider the public relations aspects of social media messaging. The rise of environmental justice as a concept in the forefront of people’s minds forces recycling facilities to operate and communicate their efforts in such a way that they are a positive contributor to the community.

Finally, the consumer driven “throw-away society” and rapid expansion into the world of the Internet-of-Things has introduced so many new challenges. Plastic packaging is the new norm, batteries are everywhere, and the burden for responsible handling has landed on our industry. An industry that is in the throes of a changing international market, finding itself seeking new markets for many of these heavily packaging-based commodities.

There are a lot of questions, a lot of balls to juggle, and roll-off containers worth of “I’s” to dot and “T’s” to cross. Companies that continue to wing-it or fly by the seat of their pants are going to struggle to manage. This trend isn’t going to change, and while, non-compliance or cobbling together policies related to marijuana usage among employees (specifically where it is now legal) may work in the short-term, these are not long-term solutions. A comprehensive management system that includes evaluations of risks and impacts, creates auditable policies and procedures, and implements schedules for ensuring that all of these things are done regularly is the most efficient way to ensure that the company is regularly acting in its own best interest.