Sustainable Business Waste Management

In this episode of The Faces of Business, Heather Johnson (formerly Heather Dody), CEO, Ingenium discusses the current landscape for sustainable business waste management.

In this episode of The Faces of Business, Heather Johnson (formerly Heather Dody), CEO, Ingenium discusses the current landscape for sustainable business waste management.

With over 25 years in hazardous waste management, Heather’s expertise has been pivotal in advancing sustainable waste solutions for many organizations.

Heather’s revolutionary approach to waste-to-energy programs and zero-waste initiatives has redefined sustainability in waste management, earning INGENIUM its status as an industry leader.

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This episode delves into Heather’s innovative strategies and how they can be applied to various business models to improve sustainability and profits.

As a dynamic speaker and advocate for women in leadership roles, Heather’s journey is filled with inspiring lessons on navigating and excelling in a male-dominated industry.

Her commitment to community service, including her role as the past president of BioNet, reflects her dedication to making a good impact beyond the corporate world.

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Get ready as Heather sheds light on sustainable industrial trash disposal and shares invaluable insights on sustainable strategies organizations can implement. This is a unique opportunity for business owners seeking to align their operations with sustainable practices and enhance their performance.

Damon starts the show with remarkable energy. He inquires about Heather’s background and introduction, requesting her to share her journey.

Heather reflects on the changes in waste management over the past 20-30 years, noting its evolving considerations and environmental impacts. Having worked in the industry for 28 years, she discusses the transformation in the last 10 to 15 years, focusing on reducing, recycling, and minimizing waste. Heather traces her entry into waste management back to her college years, initially working to support herself. Despite pursuing a degree in Accounting, she found herself drawn to opportunities within the waste management company where she started, which ultimately led her to her current role.

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Damon asks Heather about the typical situations her company encounters while assisting businesses.
Heather responds that companies may seek assistance in waste management for two main reasons. Unaware of compliance regulations, some businesses reach out only after inspections or violations. Similarly, startups and smaller companies face greater challenges as they lack dedicated personnel for waste management.

Relating his experience in the aerospace industry and its struggles to manage trash effectively, Damon asks Heather to discuss common aspects or considerations that companies might overlook in their waste management processes.

Heather discusses the evolving opportunities in recycling hazardous waste, noting that businesses often focus on waste reduction initiatives in various areas but might overlook hazardous waste. There are current technological advancements for treating materials and the increased potential for reusing chemicals before they become waste.

She points out that something must be managed accordingly once it is classified as waste. However, delaying that classification allows for exploring better uses or continued use of materials, avoiding stringent regulatory requirements.

Meanwhile, Damon appreciates the guest on the things she talked about earlier. He asks Heather about the positive changes she has observed in waste management over the past decade.

Heather observes that the shift in waste management has become more of a corporate initiative over the past decade. She mentions that sustainability, not considered in waste management around 2008, has become a buzzword.

Despite the increased cost associated with being greener, businesses are more willing to invest in sustainability, especially with the rise of initiatives like ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance). These initiatives, driven by shareholder expectations, are compelling corporations to prioritize environmental responsibility.

Damon asks Heather about exciting developments in waste management, particularly instances where materials that once went to landfills are now being diverted elsewhere.

Heather discusses the evolving approach to waste management, mentioning a significant shift away from landfills and incineration. She explains that capacity challenges with incinerators have necessitated a new perspective.

Historically, businesses often over-classified waste, leading to unnecessary regulatory oversight. There’s a growing need for creativity and accuracy in waste characterization to optimize treatment options. By reevaluating constituents and eliminating irrelevant classifications, more treatment opportunities emerge.

Damon acknowledges the challenge of managing a variety of chemicals in an incineration facility. He invites Heather’s views about the industries where her services are most frequently required.

Heather says that Ingenium frequently works with industries like Pharmaceutical Research and Development and Biotech, where various chemicals are used extensively in scientific processes. They assist these companies by managing materials when they are no longer needed or have expired. Ingenium has found cost-effective ways to repurpose some of these chemicals, extending their life cycle and reducing waste for pharmaceutical and biotech companies.

Similarly, the guest discusses two key strategies businesses employ to reduce waste generation. Firstly, they pressure their suppliers to minimize packaging waste by opting for recyclable or reusable materials. Secondly, companies focus on process reengineering to address waste generation at the source. By implementing new processes and using less toxic chemicals, they aim to minimize hazardous and solid waste output.

Damon asks Heather about the availability of environmentally friendly materials in the manufacturing sector.
Heather conveys that while more environmentally friendly materials are available now than before, they remain limited. She maintains that some alternatives may not perform as effectively as their less eco-friendly counterparts.

The guest recounts a shocking incident involving a laboratory worker secretly taking chemicals home for many years. Upon his passing, it was discovered that his entire house was filled with chemicals, including radioactive materials and explosive substances. The cleanup job was extensive, involving coordination with the fire department to manage the hazardous materials safely. The situation was so extreme that even the worker’s car was filled with chemicals, except for the driver’s seat.

“So what are the wildest chemicals you guys have handled?” asks Damon.

Heather has handled many chemicals that develop crystallization around their lids, making them potentially explosive. She reveals apart from specialty, equipment is also required to stabilize such chemicals before transporting them for disposal, citing an example of picric acid.

Damon reflects on past and present practices in industries like uranium mining and gold refining, which pose unintended consequences and long-term challenges. He seeks the guest’s insight into aspects of her job she finds most engaging and promising today.

Heather expresses optimism about the direction of her industry, noting a trend among younger generations to expect employers to prioritize environmental and safety concerns. Education and continuous improvement in operational practices may mitigate ecological and health hazards associated with their work.

Damon then shifts the conversation to inquire about upcoming developments for Ingenium in the current year.
Heather reveals that Ingenium’s focus for the current year is on recalibration rather than taking on new initiatives. After several years of significant changes and challenges, they prioritize ensuring their processes are optimized and aligned for sustained growth.

The guest stresses the room for training in their line of work, ensuring that employees are well-informed about the hazards they encounter. Moreover, Heather discusses the challenges of obtaining various federal, state, and local permits and regulations from different regulatory agencies.

At Damon’s request, Heather explains how Ingenium is driving change in waste management by introducing a zero-waste certification program. They assist businesses, particularly small and midsize ones, in understanding their waste generation by conducting “dumpster dives” and providing data reports.

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37:43
SUMMARY KEYWORDS
chemicals, waste, businesses, recycling, work, packaging, landfill, trash, company, sustainability, talked, good, processes, incineration, material, hazardous waste, years, heather, today, more environmentally friendly
SPEAKERS
Damon Pistulka, Heather Johnson

Damon Pistulka 00:03
All right, everyone, welcome once again in the faces of business. I’m your host, Damon Pistulka. And I am excited for our guests today. Because we have Heather Johnson here from Ingenium. We’re going to be talking about sustainable business waste management. And Heather, welcome. Thank

Heather Johnson 00:22
you. I’m happy to be here.

Damon Pistulka 00:25
I’m glad to have you today, Heather, because I think we’re going to have plenty to talk about when we talk about business waste management, because, you know, for many years, if we roll the clock back 20 or 30 years, we wouldn’t be talking about these kinds of things. Unless there was some, you know, if you dispose of it, it’s going to be a huge EPA problem, right. But I really me knowing a little bit I do about manufacturing and other industries. It seems like people are really looking at this differently over the last 10 or 15 years.

Heather Johnson 01:02
I would agree that is an absolute true statement.

Damon Pistulka 01:04
Yeah, yeah. So Heather, tell us a little bit about yourself. Because what your your background how you got into this, because you went to Cal State Business Administration? Yeah. Waste Management. It’s kinda cool. Before

Heather Johnson 01:23
I do that you said, I think you said 2030 years ago, waste was not the same thing. And it’s interesting, because I’m dating myself now. But I’ve been doing this for 28 years. And I think, you know, it was, it was a newer consideration, but it wasn’t brand new. When I started in the industry and TierPoint in the last 10 to 15 years, it has really evolved in terms of the environmental impacts of hazardous waste, and how can we manage waste, look at it differently and ultimately, reduce it, recycle it and and dumb it down to nothing? And maybe one day, we can’t get to that. But to answer your question, yes, I was going to college, I was pursuing a degree in Accounting, Business Administration, concentration in accounting, and I had to get a job to support myself while I was going to school. So in the beginning, I started with a company in waste management, answering phones, it was a really simple job, I didn’t have to work real hard. And along the way, I just kind of pursued opportunities within the organization that led me to where I am today, not anything specific, but just taking initiative. And ultimately, I finished my degree, but never chose to be an accountant. And I can tell you this much. I don’t know what I would do. If I was an accountant, it would be quite different from the path that I’ve otherwise taken to get here today.

Damon Pistulka 02:51
No doubt, no doubt. So if people are people are wondering, now maybe what are the typical situations where you’re going in and helping a company or somebody? What are the kinds of things that you’re working on day in and day out? Or your company has? Okay?

Heather Johnson 03:10
Yeah, so specifically, many businesses in their processes generate chemical waste, hazardous toxic materials that cannot go into their solid waste trash bins. And so they’ll contact a company like Ingenium, to come in and help them understand the regulatory aspects of what they’re working with. So most of our customers are regularly generating materials that they have to manage specially, as hazardous waste, and that’s our typical customer. Okay.

Damon Pistulka 03:43
So, when, when they’re doing this, what kind of I mean, what kind of situation do you run in? So run into in this? So? Do they usually even know they’ve got a problem? Or they’ve they’ve gotten in trouble for something? And then they call you how does this usually work?

Heather Johnson 04:06
That’s a good question. I haven’t considered it from that perspective. But the answer is both. Because there are companies still to this day, believe it or not, that don’t understand what they’re supposed to be doing to be in compliance with regulation. And when when they get inspected, and popped, they will call a company like us, then there’s, I think, more the majority of businesses that this has been around long enough that people within the organization are aware of, you know, the regulatory compliance aspects. And so they’ll call a company like Ingenium. And there are companies that have full time employees who understand hazardous waste or, or that they need to be managing it. Yeah, quietly. And then there are other companies that they’re small like startups, and they don’t necessarily have a single person dedicated to Waste, not even just waste, but their environmental compliance as an organization, and they’re wearing multiple hats as a startup, and this is one piece of it, which is actually those companies have more challenges, because they don’t understand it to the same extent, somebody who’s in in the field and does it on a full time basis.

Damon Pistulka 05:20
Yeah. Yeah, no doubt, because I’m sure there’s a lot of times that people get get, are not doing it to the, to the letter of the law, or however there should be and they don’t even realize it.

Heather Johnson 05:32
Yeah. And you know, to tell you the truth, it’s interesting, because a lot of businesses do try to do it properly, and they still don’t do everything right. And receive violations. And we we also can help with that kind of stuff, too. And I’m sure it’s frustrating for them when they’re thinking well, even like you and I, in our, in our general lives, right? If we don’t know, there’s regulation for something and we’re not doing it, it’s not deliberate, yet. We’re getting in trouble.

Damon Pistulka 05:58
Yeah, yeah, that’s for sure. Well, you know, I’ve I’ve had the pleasure of being able to, as we talked about before, on I’m I’m in the northwest, the aerospace industry, a lot of I’ve been in a lot of finishing places, CNC machining, assembly, places that using all different kinds of things. And I’m constantly amazed at the just the, just the vast amount of materials that are used, that are generated, and then they have to worry about disposing of. And, you know, literally, you’ll come into places that have, you know, the systems just to keep track of things. And I mean, online monitoring, I was in a paint production facility in in Seattle a few years ago. And I was like, Oh, my goodness, the the high tech things, they’ve got to make sure that nothing’s going out to make sure that everything’s getting collected. And it’s just amazing. It’s amazing. Yeah. So, as you’re going out and doing this stuff, what are some of the common things that you see that people may be overlooking, or that that they might want to consider, but they’re not considering?

Heather Johnson 07:18
I think what’s most current and not as current as it once was, is the opportunity to recycle hazardous waste. So a lot of businesses have these waste reduction initiatives or zero waste initiatives. And they’re looking at, you know, their office space, what’s going into their general trash, they’re looking at their food waste, and what might be composted, you know, to help meet their numbers. And hazardous waste also has a lot of opportunity more now than it ever did, for better technologies to treat material or, in some instances, more now than ever reusing a chemical, before it becomes a waste. So from a compliance standpoint, once you call something waste, you have to manage it as waste. But if you wait to call it a waste, and make sure there’s no better use for it, or continued use of it, then you’re not bound by the regulatory management of a material. So I think a lot of people don’t necessarily know that and helping them understand and ask the questions Can anyone else uses it may no longer be needed in my processes? So what is it one man’s junk is another man’s treasure? There is that possibility with hazardous materials that a company may no longer have a need for?

Damon Pistulka 08:40
Yeah, that’s a great point. That’s a great point. And Yvonne brings up a good thing we got thanks for the question. Ivana, how about inhaling the chemicals to? Yeah, that’s, that is a common thing in a lot of places. And, and something we all that you run into a lot, you have to worry about the vapors, that’s for sure. And there’s

Heather Johnson 09:00
a bunch of compliance surrounding them to protect employees more now than ever. And that shocks me when businesses still expect their employees to operate in a less than safe environment.

Damon Pistulka 09:13
Yeah, yeah. In that, yes. They should not be. That’s for sure. So as you been in this a little while, and you’re you’re going out now what are some of the things that you see that’s happening now, that didn’t happen 10 years ago, that really is encouraging about improving the way that we either reduce, reuse, recycle whatever.

Heather Johnson 09:42
It’s becoming more of a corporate initiative than it ever was. When we first started pushing sustainability. This was back in maybe oh eight. The thought of recycling maybe not recycling because that’s been a buzzword for a while but sustainability itself that’s now a buzzword wasn’t Not even a consideration when it came to waste. And it’s costly. In many instances, it will cost the business more money to be greener than it would to just traditionally waste things to the landfill or incineration. And now you’ve got more initiatives in the last probably five to 10 years that are ESG. I don’t know if you’ve heard that acronym. But that’s a that’s got a lot of buzz around it that’s forcing corporations on behalf of their shareholders to ensure that they’re doing everything they can for the environment, really. And so sustainability. They’re willing to pay a little bit more today than they were in the past. And more and more I see that becoming the norm.

Damon Pistulka 10:48
Yeah, yeah, that’s good. So do you also think that the waste disposal costs are helping to drive more sustainable efforts, because it’s just getting more and more expensive to dispose of this waste? It’s,

Heather Johnson 11:03
it is more and more expensive to dispose of the waste. And so yes, I guess from the standpoint of motivation to find better ways to manage material longer, before it becomes a waste? Yes, absolutely. Once it’s a waste, then doing, doing something more sustainable might be more costly than traditional disposal. So you’ve got a myriad of customer. Some customers are like, Absolutely, I can’t pay a dime more put in the landfill. And then you have other customers and like, I don’t care how much it costs. I’ve got these metrics that I’m bound to. And if I find I’ll meet them, I have other problems. So spectrum like that. Yeah.

Damon Pistulka 11:46
So what are some of the cool things you say you see happening now, you talked a little bit about recycling. But but you know, is there an example of Holy heck, I never thought we would see a day when this doesn’t go to the landfill anymore.

Heather Johnson 12:01
I don’t have a specific chemical to speak of, but more and more things are finding homes outside of the landfill. And I’ll tell you this, maybe even incineration. So historically, waste has gone for landfill, landfill, or incineration. And in recent years, there’s been capacity challenges with the incinerators that have forced us to think differently, more different than we ever have in the history, like I told you earlier, I’m 28 years into this. And historically, businesses have even over classed waste and found themselves to more regulatory oversight than might have been necessary. And now we’re having to become more creative and saying, okay, is this constituent really truly is this constituent truly part of your waste stream? Because if not, let’s not, let’s not state that it is, because everything that you declare to be part of your waste is irrelevant to how you can treat it. And so based on that, you may limit yourself to your treatment options, whereby if you’re like, well, we use that chemical 30 years ago, it’s no longer in our offices, let’s not, let’s not talk about it as if it’s relevant today. And it opens up more opportunities. So that’s, that’s trending in real time for us because we’re forced to present options to our customers. Yeah.

Damon Pistulka 13:23
Yeah. So you mentioned incineration. So is that is that a popular way to get rid of a lot of these chemicals?

Heather Johnson 13:35
Yes, it in the past, it was one of two ways only to get rid of chemicals. You either buried it or you burned it. And then there’s regulation around what you can bury. And if you can’t bury it, you’re forced to burn it. Even to the extent where you have inorganic materials that don’t have any burn value that you’re burning, because the regulation requires it. Okay.

Damon Pistulka 13:59
Okay, because I would think that’s, yeah, I don’t know enough about burning things. But I would almost think that burning things add some inherent other problems

Heather Johnson 14:09
100% It does.

Damon Pistulka 14:14
Well have to think I’m just gonna have to quit going down that path. I think because, you know, the mix of chemicals, right? You’re right. So I’m in an incineration place and I’m running the incineration place. Well, I have this chemical the day that chemical tomorrow, that chemical after that, how do I make sure that the what’s going out the stack because he’s got to go somewhere, is not the wrong thing. Because of the differences in the things that are going through. It’s got to be a challenge challenge.

Heather Johnson 14:38
I imagine I’ve never worked at an incinerator. I do know that they have waste acceptance protocol, and they have to be to the book to on what they do to ensure the best outcome for the people. Yeah,

Damon Pistulka 14:53
oh, yeah. Yeah, I’m sure. So what are the what are the industries? Where are you You go, okay. This is typically where where we would get called into I know we talked about manufacturing or something like that, but what are they typically doing where you’re where you’re going to need need to be your most beneficial.

Heather Johnson 15:17
So we do a lot of work in the Pharmaceutical Research and Development, space, biotech, they’re, they’re using lots of different chemicals in their science, and we come in on the back end, and take that material out when they no longer have a use for it, or it expires. And a lot of instances, chemicals have expiration dates, that bigger companies, their quality control, prevent them from continuing to use them. One good thing that Ingenium has done is we’ve found a way to repurpose some of those chemicals, meaning continuing the life of them before making them waste for the pharmaceutical and biotech space, because they may find that, you know, something that they’re using in their research doesn’t work for them. But it’s really good chemical that we can otherwise rehome and someone else can take advantage of the use of it. That’s beneficial to both parties, because to buy new chemicals is also costly. And then to waste is also costly. So it just, it helps out there as well. Yeah,

Damon Pistulka 16:20
yeah. So you talked about companies are, you know, they have the metrics now they need to be more sustainable. They’re trying to go to zero waste. What are some of the the innovative things that you see these companies doing to go okay, we’re gonna take this two steps farther, to really make sure we’re not just getting close, we’re really going all the way.

Heather Johnson 16:45
There’s a couple things that businesses are doing today. One of them is they’re pushing back on their suppliers, upstream on things even like packaging. So if they’re buying things that are coming in a bunch of packaging, okay, what kind of materials are we receiving in terms of packaging that can be changed so that it’s not wasted? Can it making sure that their suppliers are using materials that can be recycled, or even returned and reused? That one’s that one’s a little bit more challenging, but pushing back upstream to receive less potential waste that they become responsible for. And another thing I’m seeing is process reengineering. So finding ways to implement processes that change how the waste is generated, meaning if there’s a chemical that is problematic downstream, maybe they can change their engineering to not have that end up in that waste stream, it can go into its own vessel, or also using different chemicals that may be less toxic, and still work within their processes. So variety of things that they can do to affect change internally, and reduce the amount of waste that comes out the back end. And that would be both hazardous and solid trash.

Damon Pistulka 18:15
Very cool. Very cool. It is the first thing you said, I think is something that’s so common sense and practical, but it has been overlooked for many, many years. It’s just making sure that I’m not you know, don’t over package your stuff coming to me. Let’s make sure it’s packaged appropriately or even look at a bulk packaging option or something else to minimize or reduce that that what’s coming to us. Yeah,

Heather Johnson 18:44
I remember one Christmas Sorry to interrupt, you know, go go go. Never really I never paid attention probably. But I’m driving down the street from my house. And there’s I don’t know how many houses on the block. Let’s call it 50. And their trash cans are overflowing with packaging that all their kids toys. Were besides the wrapping for Christmas, but the actual plastic and I mean, it’s just an abundant amount of waste. And it dawned on me at that moment in time man we are just we are so wasteful as a society and do we really need pretty packaging to hold our Barbie doll upright on the store shelf? I don’t know. But it’ll be interesting to see if anything like that changes over time. Because yeah, it’s just so much.

Damon Pistulka 19:32
It really is and you make a great point and that’s that I thought that myself many times especially when you look at even inside the packaging things are double and triple and quadruple tied into the packaging inside the other packaging inside of that packaging. And then you know, it’s it really is. So that kind of gets me into the kids window. A little different thing. You know that one of the The things that I’ve thought about when we think about sustainability is how last mile delivery has changed. The waste streams in Elisa us. What? What are your comments on that? I mean, because we’re doing we’re delivering products to people a lot differently than we were five or 10 years ago.

Heather Johnson 20:23
What are you referring to specifically, I’m

Damon Pistulka 20:25
like the the fact that, okay? Say 10 years ago, I will go buy a pair of shoes at a store. And now, I haven’t been in a store and five years to buy a pair of shoes, because it comes to me. But when it comes to me, that single package comes to my house. And it’s not just the shoe box, it’s inside of another box with packaging around it. And and you know, when we look at sustainability, that to me, seems like we took a couple steps backwards, instead of going forward.

Heather Johnson 20:54
Yeah, I agree with that. And I think we have more waste than ever, as a result. Not only that, when you get your Amazon package, it’s a box that will fit 10 kids in it, as opposed to, you know, the small little USB device that you ordered for delivery. It’s crazy. I think I heard don’t quote me on this. But I thought Amazon was taking some of those boxes back for reuse. I felt like I heard that. But maybe I just jumped at that would be a good idea.

Damon Pistulka 21:22
Yeah. Well, it’s interesting, because you know, the one thing is good about corrugated does get recycled at a reasonable rate. And, and it is one of the easier things to recycle. But it always is, is is interesting to see how our changing consumer habits really affect the environment in ways that I think a lot of people I think, consider themselves environmentally friendly. But order from Amazon everyday may not consider that as much as they should. That’s I love Amazon. Yeah, I’m not Yeah, water bottles, too. That’s another one. I do have this.

Heather Johnson 22:05
But I know a lot of people that refuse to do that and buy, you know, the bottles of water? Yeah,

Damon Pistulka 22:11
yeah. Yeah. That’s another great thing. And so the, the different chemicals, are you? I mean, we saw some of this. And like I said, it’s been a number of years since I’ve actually been running a manufacturing company. Are you seeing that there’s a lot more environmentally friendly materials that are being developed? Or is it still limited?

Heather Johnson 22:36
I think there’s more than there used to be, but they’re still limited. And my experience is some of the more environmentally friendly chemicals don’t perform the same, or these businesses and stuff. When it’s outlawed. They have no choice. They can’t use it anymore. But otherwise, just to try. I remember years ago, in a laboratory, they use a lot of mercury thermometers. And Mercury is toxic, obviously. And anytime a thermometer would break, they would do what’s called a spill cleanup, which is containing the mercury. And then they would have a Mercury contaminated debris that had to go out as hazardous waste. And so different products came on the market that were more environmentally friendly, because mercury is not. And I remember hearing, but they don’t work the same, you know? So it’s, it’s like, you have to make a choice. Do you want the more environmentally friendly product, that doesn’t work as well. And I don’t know what that means to their respective businesses, or the one that’s highly toxic. That costs you a lot for disposal when it breaks and maybe forget the disposal costs. If you care about the environment, perhaps you shouldn’t be working more to not use that mercury. So that’s going to drum I think, with a lot of products.

Damon Pistulka 23:53
Yeah, it really is. It really is. So in your years of doing this, and if you can’t say dope, but what’s a while the situation you’ve come into, because I mean, I envision some some pretty doing pretty good doozies.

Heather Johnson 24:08
I actually have a pretty good doozy that let me see if I can sum it up easily. So because we work with a lot of laboratories, imagine just tons of can’t think of a chemistry lab when you were in high school or college, just all the little different chemicals. So these these labs are stackable of every type of chemical you can imagine, for research. And there was the crazy mad scientist guy that worked for one of these labs for over 50 years. He died. And unbeknownst to the company he worked for he had been slowly taking chemicals home from the lab over many, many, many years. So when he passed away, and he was discovered in his home a week later or something yeah, this is a gnarly story. Oh, wow. There was nowhere for this gentleman to sit in his house except one Lazy Boy chair. He had chemicals stacked floor to ceiling in his shower, in his kitchen sink, like it was just the crazy. And then he had radioactive materials he had. Like it’s called a scintillation counter. So he had not just the chemicals, but equipment. And we got the cleanup job. And he had so much he had so much explosive material that we had to work with the local fire department to detonate this stuff out in the desert where it can be safely managed. Yeah, he had chemicals under his house. He had one of those mobile, mobile home I guess you call it? Yeah. His house and every time we thought we had gotten everything, they found more in the nooks and crannies. There was some little like outdoor storage thing it was, it was a crazy his car. His car was full everywhere. But the driver’s seat.

Damon Pistulka 25:53
Yeah, well, that’s that’s hoarding at another level on another, you know, wow. I

Heather Johnson 25:59
said, Where does this guy shower? And they said, Well, you must have gone to his work to shower. Yeah. Crazy job.

Damon Pistulka 26:10
Well, in the things you’re talking about, too, they weren’t just like, easy, easy peasy. Get rid of it. And I have to assume identification was was a challenge as well.

Heather Johnson 26:21
Yeah. And a lot of the chemicals were the ones that aren’t even legal anymore, like stuff, peroxide forming things, and which is they present their own hazards and dangers, just from a stability standpoint. So yeah, it was it was quite the job. Yeah.

Damon Pistulka 26:36
So what’s the wildest chemicals, you guys have had a handle?

Heather Johnson 26:41
Um, there are some chemicals that we can’t even handle because they have crystallization around the lids that make them explosive. So you have to have specialty equipment to help stabilize it before it gets transported for disposal. Like picker ik acid, have you heard of that? Different things in the chemistry labs that are old? So if they don’t clear things out timely, and they age, they did start to present other hazards associated with them. Wow.

Damon Pistulka 27:14
Wow. It makes me think of of the, the place that I think in Washington state where I live, it’s the most interesting and terrifying is I had a pretty personal tour of the Hanford Nuclear facility in Central Washington. And when you go by those tanks, or as close as you want to be, it is very, very surreal to understand what they were doing there and the chemicals that are out there yet.

Heather Johnson 27:52
Scary, right? Oh, my,

Damon Pistulka 27:54
oh, my. Yeah, it’s it’s wild to think what they were trying to do. You know, when you we understand that even like, I grew up in the Dakotas, and they had the arsenic, mining and gold. Well, when you understand how they do that by just basically running the liquid over the it liquefies the gold and they somehow get it out of the end. That’s what they were trying to do with with uranium and making plutonium and some of that it to get it to refine it. And then the things that have happened over the years and the fact that they’re doing that now and then and then building the glass vitrification thing that they’re doing out there now, that’s, you know, $10 billion over budget, and the things are, so it just really is the some of the things we’ve done. And they they seem necessary at the time, and maybe they were are really causing us some some long term headaches. That’s for sure. That is true. Yeah, yeah. So what are you excited about? What are you What are you excited about what you do today?

Heather Johnson 29:00
I’m excited to see where the industry goes. I think I talked to a lot of people about this, we’re seeing a trend in the younger generations coming into the workforce, who have an expectation of their employer to do things better than historically they’ve been in what you’re talking about, even in the radiation plants is, you know, hopefully, we’re learning and through education, we’re making change in how we operate, to ultimately preserve our environment and the safety of people, right, because a lot of the things that we work with we’re learning are are posing, not just environmental hazards, but health hazards, people, you know, and these cancers and these health issues that result so so everybody being on board with the the environment and the sustainability, continuing to educate people and seeing the results of of that effort, I I mentioned earlier we’re seeing it more today than we were. But I think we still have a long way to go because of the cost of this stuff. Yeah, it’s a movement, I guess. Yeah.

Damon Pistulka 30:10
And that is that is good. I think that’s one of the one of the great things as generations come along, trying to do things better. And it’ll only help us in those regards. That’s for sure. And we learn more to honestly, because a lot of things happened. We didn’t even know. I mean, I go back to the Hanford thing that they were doing things with the best of their ability at that time, they didn’t have an idea what they were doing, or the long term effects of it. But that’s cool. That’s cool. So what’s new for Ingenium? This year?

Heather Johnson 30:41
This year, actually, I’m excited to say not a lot. Yeah, the last few years, we’ve taken on a lot of change. And it’s been challenging. And so this is kind of the year of recalibration. And, you know, make sure our processes are adequately dialed in, so that we can continue to grow. And that, that sounds simple, but it’s a big deal for us. Because we’ve been on this path of of growth, growth growth, it’s nice to slow down a little bit and make sure that we’re all moving in the right direction.

Damon Pistulka 31:11
Yes. And you’re in an industry where you can’t make mistakes. That’s the other thing, the process, the process is very critical.

Heather Johnson 31:23
The training, the training is critical, making sure people know the hazards they’re working with. And then the regulatory compliance side making sure that we don’t put our customers in a position where when they’re inspected, they’re, they’re receiving violations, because they’re relying on us to be the experts in a large way.

Damon Pistulka 31:41
Yeah, yeah, that’s, that’s, that’s for sure. And just to keep up with the regulations, and the training that you have to do on the new regulations has to be pretty daunting. We

Heather Johnson 31:52
have a pretty good team that does that for us and keeps us compliant, because we have our own compliance, as well, internally, that we’re bound by for ensuring that we’re doing things right.

Damon Pistulka 32:03
Yeah, you have to have special certifications,

Heather Johnson 32:08
we have to have a lot of permits, okay, the different regulatory agencies that have their hand in the situation, it’s it’s really challenging to keep up with all the changing regular and then the states, it doesn’t even stop and start from the federal level. It’s the states and the counties and the respective local authorities all have an idea of what they want you to be doing. And it’s different. I wish they would standardize more, it would be easier as a business depending on where we operate, to do things, right. Yeah.

Damon Pistulka 32:40
Yeah, that’s for sure I can, I can certainly imagine that where you’re at makes a huge difference in how you have to do the things you do. All right. Well, it’s it’s been awesome talking to you, Heather today. And we were talking about sustainable business waste management. What? What is new in the industry, that you go, I really think we talked about the people coming in and doing it. But there is what are some things that you see that really could change the way that it’s being done?

Heather Johnson 33:15
I can tell you what we’re doing to help force change more and bring visibility to people for what they’re currently generating, and get them going in the right direction for reduction is a zero waste certification. So we’re hoping by going into these businesses, when you ask a business, a smaller or midsize business, the larger ones might be a little bit further along with this effort. But you know, what are you guys throwing in your trash here? They don’t have a clue what you know, your your your staff that sits in a cubicle, their local trash to all the way up to the manufacturing debris? That’s not hazardous. Right? So just the regular trash bins that you know, waste management picks up? And they don’t know. And so how do you start reduction when you don’t even know what you’re working with? How do you determine where you have opportunity to do something different when you don’t know where you’re at? So, we we have a process that we’ve developed where we start with a dumpster dive. For all intents and purposes, we send our crew out and we get in the trash and we say, Here’s your data. This is a report that demonstrates for you what’s happening today. And then we work with them over time to reduce what goes into that trash either by redirecting it to a recycling situation, like you mentioned, the corrugated boxes, they’re one of the easiest, most businesses, although not all, have recycling for the cardboard boxes, but then what else is in there and can it be used somewhere else? Or can it be recycled and really helping them get on this path to reduce the amount of waste that goes into the landfill ultimately, and so it’s been pretty cool to watch that unfold. It’s starting to get a lot of traction and I think that’s going to be a game changer for Ingenium because we’re on the frontlines promoting this opportunity to businesses, and it’s being embraced really well right now.

Damon Pistulka 35:10
Nice. So the zero way certification. That is, that is super cool, because there are a lot of opportunities, I’m sure, just by taking a look at what you’re what you’re throwing out. And like you said, recycling or reusing somehow someplace else with almost any business.

Heather Johnson 35:30
You know, it’s funny, if you take a trash can out of somebody’s office, the trash goes down. I don’t know why. They have to walk further to throw,

Damon Pistulka 35:40
I love that. I love that, take the trash get out and then make less trash. That’s great. Well, I still, like I said, it’s been a while since I’ve been in a manufacturing facility running them. But I was running a wood retail fixture manufacturer, we had a couple of facilities on either side of the US. And when we started recycling the wood that the wood waste in different things it was it was I don’t know how many, you know, whatever the big containers on a truck were going to the to the landfill every week, it was it was nuts how much that was when we found people that would take it and recycle it and use it. And for us at that time, it was just, you can have it just because we didn’t want to pay to dispose of it. And this and, you know, you think about office buildings, you think about other things like a downtown office building, there are a lot of trash come on one of those on a daily basis. So, and

Heather Johnson 36:40
they all add up in aggregate.

Damon Pistulka 36:43
Good stuff. Well, I just want to thank you for being here today. Hi, there. Again, we had Heather Johnson here from Ingenium. They’re out there helping people, you know, talk about sustainability, reduce their business waste streams help these these companies that are producing waste in manufacturing and pharmaceutical and other places really understand how they can maybe use their their their chemicals and other things a little bit better. Recycle things a lot better to ultimately create a more sustainable business. Thanks for being here today, Heather.

Heather Johnson 37:19
Thank you, Damon.

Damon Pistulka 37:20
All right. Well, everyone else, Yvonne, thanks for the questions today. Great. Love it. Everyone else that was listening. Thanks for listening. And if you want to go back to the beginning of this, you can do that right there on the places where it’s live, or go on to YouTube. It’ll be there as well. We’ll be back again next week. Heather hang out just for a moment and we’ll finish up

37:40
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