Off to Vegas

Features - Conferences & Events

The U.S. recycling industry’s largest national convention and exposition promises a dynamic speaker lineup in a favorite destination.

January 28, 2014
Lisa McKenna

The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) Convention and Exposition returns to Las Vegas this year, a city that has hosted the event five times over the last decade.

Always one of the favorite destinations for ISRI members, the Las Vegas venue promises to offer both familiar and re-imagined experiences designed to draw the attention of newcomers and veterans alike.

Helping to ensure that happens has been the role of ISRI Convention Chair Stephen Moss, who is vice president of the nonferrous metals broker Stanton A. Moss Inc., based in Bryn Mawr, Pa. Moss says the association’s continued growth, along with this annual event’s expanding industry reach, means that the 2014 Convention & Exposition will again post near-record attendance.

And Chuck Carr, vice president of member services for ISRI, observes that it’s not out of the realm of possibility to top ISRI’s 2012 record attendance figure of more than 6,400 attendees.

“ISRI attendance is always strong in Las Vegas,” observes Carr, referring to healthy registration numbers so far. “We’ll be prepared for a big crowd somewhere just above or below our record.”

Carr also explains that the event’s status as a must-attend annual industry gathering is a function of both the size of the exhibition and the quality and quantity of its workshops. It is also drawing a wider international audience.

“The addition of simultaneous translation in a select number of our workshops is apparently increasing participation from Spanish-, Portuguese- and Mandarin-speaking populations, based on the increase in attendance we have seen,” Carr points out.

Moss tends to agree, adding that attendance levels have been on an upward trajectory. “Our numbers keep trending positively on an annual basis, and our exhibit hall square footage keeps growing.” On that point, Moss says this year’s trade show is likely to draw more than 300 exhibiting companies that will set up shop on some 362,000 net square feet, the largest exhibit space the association has reserved to date in Las Vegas.

The convention kicks off Sunday, April 6, with governance meetings for ISRI members followed by the opening of the exhibit hall on Monday. Activities run through Thursday, April 10, all taking place at the Mandalay Bay Resort.

Speaker lineup

The show officially begins with the Gala Opening of the exhibit hall, a reception set for Monday evening. That’s when attendees have the first of many opportunities to network and visit with the hundreds of companies or organizations that have products or services on exhibition on the trade show floor.

This year ISRI officers and staff once again have put forth a keynote agenda that is both dynamic and relevant, with two high-profile speakers whose work directly or indirectly affects the international recycling industry.

Moss says the keynote speakers are historically selected by the ISRI chair, currently Jerry Simms of Denver-based Atlas Metal & Iron Corp., in consultation with select ISRI members and staff.

Tuesday’s General Session promises a keynote with Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple Computer. This icon of Silicon Valley helped to dramatically reshape modern computing with his contributions at Apple, and he continues to influence the industry today. Wozniak currently serves as chief scientist for Fusion-IO and authored the best-selling autobiography, iWoz: From Computer Geek to Cult Icon.

On Thursday afternoon, attendees will be treated to an appearance by former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who delivers the Closing Keynote Address as the ISRI Distinguished Speaker.

Clinton served as the 67th U.S. secretary of state from 2009 until 2013, after nearly four decades in public service. Among her most influential and well-documented achievements included her work toward carrying out sanctions on Iran and North Korea, responding to the Arab Awakening and negotiating a cease-fire in the Middle East. Earlier, as first lady and a New York senator, Clinton championed causes for human rights, democracy and opportunities for women and girls. Clinton also worked to provide health care for children, create jobs and support first responders at Ground Zero.

“I think we have two dynamic and interesting speakers; one of whom will have some direct impact to our recycling industry, and one of whom is an experienced political figure and who has had an amazing life in public service,” observes Moss.

A key schedule change for this year’s convention, Moss points out, is that Clinton’s address has been scheduled for Thursday afternoon, not Thursday morning, as has been the usual time slot for the Distinguished Speaker’s presentation on the final day of convention proceedings. Therefore, Moss adds, attendees should consider this later presentation time in their travel plans so as not to miss this special event.

Following Clinton’s keynote presentation is the ISRI Board of Directors Elections meeting, during which board members will vote on board officer positions for the upcoming two-year terms. Completing their two-year terms in 2014 are Chairman Jerry Simms, Chair-Elect Doug Kramer, Vice Chair Mark Lewon and Secretary Treasurer Brian Shine. New officers will be announced Thursday evening during the Grand Closing event, Moss says.

Trade show details

ISRI’s 2014 Convention & Exposition continues with the expanded show schedule adopted in 2013, with the exhibit hall open from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 8, and from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, in addition to the Gala Opening Monday evening.

Meanwhile, Moss notes, this year ISRI has tightened its workshop schedule slightly for attendees’ convenience, shortening each workshop to one hour in length instead of 75 minutes. “We’ve tightened our workshop sessions this year to create sessions that are harder-hitting and more meaningful and to free up other time for attendees,” Moss explains.

Workshops begin Monday, April 7, with the day-long, two-part electronics recycling training and strategy primer, an educational panel examining certification information as well as the financial aspects of the business. This newer electronics recycling series was introduced in recent years and has at times drawn a standing-room-only crowd.

The next three days of the event bring close to 50 additional workshops and Commodity Spotlight presentations, analyzing a wide range of technical, business, operational and trading topics.

The highly attended Commodity Spotlight series analyzes business conditions and forecasts for the demand, supply and pricing of key industry commodities. This year ISRI again presents six Commodity Spotlight sessions: ferrous, copper, aluminum, nickel/stainless, tires and paper. These 75-minute sessions are scheduled at various times on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Some of the other trending topics that ISRI has worked into the schedule this year include sessions on the Affordable Care Act, social media marketing techniques, global trade and plastics recycling.

“Our goal is to cover topics that are important and current to the industry,” says Moss, “so we try to add whatever new hot-button topics are coming in each year and also add back some topics that continue to be of interest to attendees.”

Information on the conference workshop and spotlight schedule has been posted on the convention website,, a bit earlier this year, Moss notes. “We’ve tried hard to get out information early about our different programs and sessions, and now all of that is on our website, well in advance of how it has been the last couple of years,” he says.

Making connections

Facilitating networking opportunities continues to be a main driver of many of the schedule’s offerings, and Moss says year after year it’s the quality of the show’s networking opportunities that keeps attendees coming back.

“It’s not whether or not your company should come to ISRI,” observes Moss, “it’s how many people from your company need to attend.”

In addition to the many exhibit hall hours that foster networking, the Consumer’s Night Reception, set for Wednesday evening at 6 p.m., is designed to bring a special focus to the consuming sector of the scrap recycling industry, Moss explains. “It’s one of our largest cocktail parties, other than the opening event, and its purpose is to put the focus on them and create a networking event where attendees can find the various companies that consume different commodities.”

When all is said and done, Moss adds, the quality of the convention’s networking opportunities is usually among the top takeaways attendees value most about the event. “Our attendees say one of the most important things they get out of the ISRI convention is the networking, and it is the largest annual networking function for the recycling industry as a whole.”

Along with that, Moss adds, is the ability of attendees to learn about the latest equipment offerings, being able to purchase new equipment and having exposure to new industry technologies. After more than three days of what can be an insightful, and at times information-packed schedule, ISRI’s tradition is to reward attendees with a memorable and fun Closing Event. This year will be no different, even though the party will be one of the more unique closing celebrations ISRI has planned in recent years, Moss says.

“This year’s event will be a beach party, outside, on the Mandalay Bay Beach, with food, music and entertainment,” says Moss. “It’s something ISRI has never done before, but we’re excited to create something that will hopefully be memorable for the attendees and fun.” Moss explains that the beach party is intended to be a casual event where attendees can enjoy themselves with friends and colleagues after the three or more days of making connections and learning about new business strategies and techniques.

Moss, who completes his two-year term as conference chair this year, says planning the event has been rewarding. “I’m proud of helping to continue the tradition of ISRI putting on a convention that gives a lot of value back to its members and the industry,” he says. “We do our best to try to please everyone who attends the convention, providing networking venues, wonderful food, entertainment and knowledge.”

Moss also points out that ISRI members will be in able hands for the next two years, noting, “it’s something I’ve enjoyed doing and a wonderful experience working with Jerry Simms as ISRI Chair, the other members of ISRI’s leadership and the ISRI staff. I want to thank the ISRI staff for their tireless work to make the convention so successful.”


The author is an editor with the Recycling Today Media Group and can be reached at