As the lights twinkle, the nights grow long and chilly, and the year draws to a close, it’s natural to both think back over what transpired over the course of this year and look forward to what the next one will bring. The last few weeks alone have provided some pretty big news for waste industry folks, heralding big changes to come.

First we learned that longtime Environmental Industry Associations president and CEO Bruce Parker will be retiring at the end of 2012. Parker has helmed EIA since I began covering this industry in 2006, and held the post for 10 years before that, so it’s difficult for me and I’m sure for many others to imagine that organization and the industry at large without him. It will be interesting to see how his departure (and his successor) changes the game.

Days after that announcement, Veolia Environmental Services, the number three firm in our 2011 Waste Age 100 with $1.90 billion in revenue, announced it was putting the entirety of its U.S. solid waste operations on the auction block. Whether those assets are sold as a whole or in pieces, there is no question that the move will reshape the industry and shuffle the private hauler pecking order. For more background and analysis of this story, read our full report.

Other changes to the industry are subtler. Take for instance the gradual, almost imperceptible rise in the recycling of cartons — the plastic- (and sometimes foil) lined cardboard containers for liquids that many folks, including recyclers, still consider unrecyclable. In our cover story, “Thinking Inside the Box,” Allan Gerlat looks at how the recently formed Carton Council has made remarkable progress in helping to divert these unique containers from landfills.

As always, I’m eager to hear what you think these changes mean for our industry. Please share your thoughts by e-mailing me at saverett@wasteage.com or by commenting at waste360.com.

Despite all of the upheaval, I hope this holiday season finds you happy and healthy, surrounded by the ones you love. As we hear time and again from our readers, the waste industry is a family. Thank you for letting us be a part of yours. Happy Holidays and a prosperous New Year from the staff of Waste Age and waste360.com!