CDRA Member Spotlight: Becky Caldwell

Becky Caldwell, Incoming CDRA Executive Director

Becky Caldwell

How did you get started in the business?

My first exposure to the waste and recycling industry was serving my local community in the utility billing and customer service department. In addition, I worked in finance/budgeting, fleet management, and served as the first Assistant Solid Waste Director. I spent 18 years with the City of Franklin, Tennessee, 10 of which were served as the Director of Sanitation and Environmental Services where I was responsible for a multi-million-dollar budget, planning, operations, and safety for four residential collection divisions, commercial collection services, special events, transfer station operation, and disposal planning.

What are the biggest challenges in your market and C&D recycling?

Growth and development in Middle Tennessee continue without any sign of slowing down. As local C&D landfills reach capacity, these materials are mixed with MSW and landfilled in Class I (MSW) landfills. Furthermore, as the largest MSW landfill in the state, located in the Middle Tennessee region, reaches capacity, other options are needed to responsibly manage all waste streams, including C&D materials, in this area.

Where are the biggest opportunities for the CDRA?

There are many benefits of being a CDRA member, including access to industry research, news, and networking, as well as the opportunity to take advantage of educational events like the Shingle Recycling Forum and C&D World. As we look toward the future, I see opportunities for expanding our membership base to include representatives from various manufacturing and end marketing functions. The more we diversify our membership, the more opportunities we will have to promote and grow our collective expertise. If there is a company you think would make a great addition to the CDRA, please send me your recommendation and we will reach out.

How long have you been a member of the CDRA?

Three years.

What inspired you to join the CDRA?

I served as the Regional Solid Waste Planning Manager at the Greater Nashville Regional Council (GNRC). In this role, I was responsible for finding and facilitating resources for managing solid waste and recycling related challenges across a diverse thirteen-county region that included high density urban, suburban, and rural constituents. After leading the team that wrote the first ever Middle Tennessee Solid Waste Master Plan, and subsequent Regional Needs Assessment, it was evident we needed more responsible solutions for managing different waste streams. Local market needs for finding alternative solutions to responsibly manage construction and demolition materials inspired me to join the CDRA. 

What do you find most rewarding about working in this industry?

Responsible decision making requires using the best information available. The challenge of matching resources with needs and creating a win-win once the pieces are connected is rewarding. Someone truly makes a positive difference for someone else, every day.

What challenges have you faced over the years and how have you overcome them? 

When I first started working in fleet management, I quickly realized I had landed in a male-dominated work environment. The challenges were all around me and in my determination to overcome them I found the more I learned, the more confident I became, and the more passionate I was about all things waste and recycling. I am a lifelong learner and took advantage of every opportunity I had to meet new people, attend conferences, tour facilities, ask questions, earn industry certifications, and connect new information to the knowledge I had at the time. I continue to ask “why” and don’t stop until I understand how things are connected and how they work together for the good of all.

What’s something about you (a fun fact) that not many people know?

I was born and raised in Eastern Kentucky, the daughter of a seventh son, and the granddaughter of a coal miner. The summer I was 15 years old I volunteered at the state psychiatric hospital in Lexington, Kentucky. For two summers in college, I was a camp counselor teaching underprivileged kids how to canoe, build treehouses, play horseshoes, and plant community gardens.

How do you think the industry is changing and what trends do you see coming up on the horizon?

We must continue working to identify materials that can be recycled, and innovative processes for recycling. Ensuring feedstock meets the standards for end users is critical to success. Considering alternatives to trucking, for transportation, will resolve issues for some parts of the country. Several trends the CDRA is currently following include environmental justice (EJ), available end markets, extended producer responsibility (EPR), and risk management, all of which directly affect the industry. Risk management is and always will be critical to the success of any waste and recycling business.

What advice would you give to someone interested in this industry?

Managing recycling and waste disposal will always be essential to the protection of public health and quality of life. Regardless of interest, this industry has something for everyone. Hard work, determination, and perseverance will lead you to success.

Best piece of business advice you’ve gotten or learned over the years?

Don’t be afraid to try something new. If you focus on solving the problem, and work on an integrated solution, there is a win-win at the end of the adventure.

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