Eric Nelson - Waste Reduction Manager at University of Kansas

Eric Nelson - Waste Reduction Manager at University of Kansas

Eric is the Waste Reduction manger at The University of Kansas. He handles administrative duties for KU Recycling as well as  other issues on campus related to municipal solid waste such as collection scheduling, vendor relations, market conditions, and community partnerships/outreach.

With almost 10 years in sustainable waste management, Eric focuses on a holistic approach to waste focusing on reduction, recycling, and fiscal responsibility. While at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park Kansas he oversaw the development and operation of the first in-vessel compost system at an educational institution in the state. Eric is certified as a Compost Site Manager from the University of Maine, a board member of the Kansas Organization of Recyclers and the YP Representative for the Sunflower Chapter of the Solid Waste Association of North America. Eric attended Johnson County Community College and The University of Kansas.

Eric Joins Sustainable Nation to Discuss:

  • Leading waste reduction in large organizations

  • Recycling is not the answer

  • What is need to move towards a circular economy

  • Advice and recommendations for sustainability leaders

Eric's Final Five Responses:

What is one piece of advice you would give other sustainability professionals that might help them in their careers?

I would say keep a good attitude and keep a sense of humor. Sense of humor would be the most important thing. I think it's very easy to get bogged down when you do this work day after day and see the challenges that we're up against, but I think it's important to keep your eye on the prize so to speak, or you just not get bogged down by the work we do.

What are you most excited about right now in the world of sustainability?

I'm really excited about the push to more of a circular economy and seeing how the manufacturers are going to come up with ways to maybe use some of the new commodities that we're trying to find homes for here in the United States. I think there's a big opportunity right now for innovation, so looking forward to seeing that in the next decade or so.

What is one book you would recommend sustainability leaders read?

I would say my favorite is Junkyard Planet by Adam Minter. It's almost outdated now with China in the last two years, but it kind of broke down where your aluminum can goes after it goes into the recycling bin and its journey across the sea and into a container ship. So it's a great background on waste management.

What are some of your favorite resources or tools that really help you in the work that you do?

I'm a big fan of the CURC webinar series, so that's College and University Recycling Coalition. About every month they do a new one when the school starts back up. I try to stay on those, to kind of see what colleagues are doing across the country. Lots of great ideas. Solid Waste Association of North America is kind of an industry trade group for waste management. They have a lot of of great resources and learning opportunities as well. I'd say those are my two main ones and then I try to network as much as possible with colleagues

Where can our listeners go to learn more about you and the work you're leading at the University of Kansas.

We're at recycle.ku.udu. KU Recycling is also on Instagram, even though I'm still learning how to use it effectively as a recycling guy. We are on Twitter as well. I'm on Linkedin if anybody wants to be professional and reach out on Linkedin, I'm there too. That's probably where our social media outreach is right now. We're not on Snapchat. We're not that hip.