The Solid Waste Association of North America’s (SWANA) largest event, WASTECON, kicked off Monday night in Indianapolis with a state fair-themed opening reception.
On Tuesday, the conference began with SWANA’s Annual Business Meeting and Celebration of Excellence Awards ceremony. After the awards ceremony, attendees flocked to the exhibition hall and various education sessions, which covered food waste, organics recycling, safety culture, waste diversion rates, waste-to-energy, falconry and more.
Here are some key takeaways from the first day of WASTECON:
1. WASTECON kicked off Monday night in Indianapolis with a state-fair themed reception, which included deep-fried foods, a build-your-own ice cream bar, a selection of games and more.
2. SWANA’s Excellence Awards Program recognizes outstanding solid waste programs and facilities with environmentally and economically sound solid waste management practices. This year, the awards honored 31 programs and facilities in 12 different categories. The full list of 2016 winners can be viewed here.
3. Nora Goldstein, editor of BioCycle, was the keynote speaker of the first mega session. Goldstein’s session focused on food waste in organics recycling. Below are some informative quotes from the session:
“Wasted food is edible, but it's seen as cosmetically imperfect.”
“Feeding scraps to swine is an old-fashioned solution to recycling food waste.”
“In 1998, the first food recovery hierarchy was born.”
“We are not starting at the bottom of the learning curve; there are more tires to kick when it comes to food waste.”
“The biggest stumbling block of managing food waste is contamination.”
“As an industry, we have a critical role to play in building resilience.”
“There is always going to be food waste in solid waste because at the end of the day you can only scrape so hard.”
“There is a need for compost, but there is not a widespread demand for compost.”
4. In the “The Elephant in the Room: Calculating a Waste Diversion Rate” session, Scott Pasternak of Burns & McDonnell, Barnes Johnson of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Bryan Staley of the Environmental Research and Education Foundation (EREF) kicked off a conversation on one of the industry’s current debates.
The “elephant” was conceived in 2015, when NYC Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia suggested that there needs to be a uniform way or standard of how diversion rates are collected. Garcia and some members of the industry feel that a uniform standard would be a great benefit to the solid waste industry, while some members of the industry disagree.
Staley began his presentation with the basis for state diversion goals. He claims that when setting solid waste policy, state agencies cite many reasons like increasing sustainability, protecting environmental quality, increasing recycling participation, reducing carbon footprint, protecting public health, maximizing beneficial use of materials and reducing materials sent to unfavorable endpoint.
He also named the four areas of state goals: waste reduction, diversion, composting and recycling.
Johnson touched on how the EPA is combating this issue. “The EPA is working to identify and develop a common data framework underlying the various definitions,” says Johnson. “The EPA also encourages stakeholders to be transparent in their terminology.”
Pasternak ended the presentation with some strong advice for attendees by listing John Hassis’ final four:
- Do not reinvent the wheel in developing the policy; collaborate with EPA and EREF.
- It may be a challenge for governmental entities to change methodology due to existing laws and policies.
- There is a need for much greater transparency. The industry needs to develop “scorecards” for what is included and excluded.
- For states with flexibility, utilize a consistent methodology.
5. Stephen Bucciarelli of Predator Bird Services says the biggest technique that wild birds use on people is leapfrogging and the best way to deal with leapfrogging is to surprise the birds. Predator Bird Services also uses paintball guns to tag vultures and according to Bucciarelli, using drones in landfills with a bird attached to it is like parting the seas like Moses.