The “Getting Credit for Green Initiatives” session on Monday afternoon featured three speakers from Georgia-based waste companies that had real-world experience in helping companies “green” their image or had earned their own reputation as green firms. The session kicked off with William “Dolph” Winders of Atlanta-based Balch & Bingham, a legal firm specializing in environmental issues. Winders set the tone, pointing out that “going green” improves public perception and is just good business. Citing Dupont, WalMart, and Hewlett-Packard as part of the 10 percent of Fortune 500 companies that understand this metric, he emphasized that green is not a color that is going to go out of style.
“He who controls the youth controls the future,” said Winders, pointing out that schools and universities are the greenest places in the United States. “Green is cool in school. And in 10 to 15 years, those students are going to be your customers.”
Among the ways Winders suggested waste companies could go green were:
• creating conservation easements and wetlands
• earning LEED certification for buildings
• converting fleets to biodiesel
• pursuing landfill-gas-to-energy projects
• redeveloping brown fields
• food waste composting
• purchasing carbon offsets
Winders also added that “new ideas get the most green press,” citing as examples bioreactors, plasma arc technology and the Valero project, which will produce gasoline from municipal solid waste (MSW).
Timothy Lesko of Greenco, Norcross, Ga., the leading organic recycling company in the Southeast, talked about sustainability and the challenges of establishing organics recycling programs. After pointing out that organics are far and away the biggest component of MSW, he said successful composting programs will handle not only traditional organics (paper, cardboard) but also nontraditional organics, like yard waste and food waste (food waste being the largest portion of MSW entering landfills).
Lesko said composting is a compelling green initiative because it fits “the three ‘R’s.” It REDUCES the amount of waste going to landfills, REUSES organic waste as compost and RECYCLES waste into new products.
Speaking more broadly, he advised waste companies to adhere to “the three ‘C’s” for getting credit:
• CLARITY in advertising green efforts.
• CREDIBILITY when making claims of green initiatives.
• CONSISTENCY in building a story with facts and stimulating repetitions to make them memorable.
The final speaker, Ernest Kaufman of Greenfirst, Canton, Ga., detailed the ongoing development of the Turkey Run Landfill, which will be the closest landfill to downtown Atlanta. It’s the first landfill project to be permitted in Georgia in almost 10 years. Understandably, the project features several innovative green aspects, including substantial mitigation of the Blue Creek Basin, which involves restoring and relocating large sections of a stream that runs through the site and supplies a nearby town with water. Additionally, half-mile green buffer zones and an on-site industrial park will ensure that no residential development occurs adjacent to the landfill.
The completed facility will accept 3,000 tons per day and total permitted volume is 31,189,847 cubic yards. Notably, the site will accept no out-of-state waste (a first in Georgia), nor will it accept sewage sludge.
“Green development of landfills is NOT a ‘dead cost,’” concluded Kaufman.