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Takeaways from Day Two of WASTECON 2017

Day two of WASTECON, the Solid Waste Association of North America’s (SWANA) biggest event, was filled with education sessions and keynote panels.

Day two of WASTECON, the Solid Waste Association of North America’s (SWANA) biggest event, taking place in Baltimore, was filled with education sessions and keynote panels that covered the topics of climate change, circular economy, closing dumpsites, energy recovery, marine litter, resource management, safety, smart technologies, waste management challenges and more.

Here are a few highlights from day two of WASTECON:

  • SWANA honored the recipients of its 2017 Excellence Awards during an awards ceremony. This year, SWANA expanded its Safety Awards program and selected winners based on SWANA’s seven technical divisions, as well as an overall winner.
  • “The recipients of the SWANA Excellence Awards represent the best solid waste management practices in North America today,” said David Biderman, SWANA executive director and CEO. “Community leaders should be very proud of the valuable contributions that these projects provide to their citizens.”
  • During the Megacities Solid Waste Leaders keynote session, Kathryn Garcia of the New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY), Jim McKay of the City of Toronto, Jose Henrique Penido Monteiro of the Rio de Janeiro Municipal Waste Management Company in Brazil, and Jinghao Liu of the China Urban Construction Design and Research Institute in China talked about how solid waste, recycling and organics are managed in cities around the globe.
  • Garcia shared that the DSNY is responsible for residential waste and recycling, cleaning and snow removal in New York City and its boroughs. Each day, about 10,000 tons of refuse and 2,000 tons of recycling are collected with mostly rear-load trucks. Garcia also stated that the DSNY is expanding its curbside organics collection to 3.3 million people by the end of October.
  • One of the biggest successes in Toronto is the multi-residential buildings that have replaced their garbage shoots with organics shoots. McKay also said that the city just installed telematics systems into its trucks, and it’s looking at how to better leverage data, collect data and use it to improve performance. 
  • The City of Toronto is working on pulling textiles out of the waste stream to reintroduce them as a valuable product. The city is also working on finding other uses for its 160 closed landfills.
  • In Rio de Janeiro, the Rio de Janeiro Municipal Waste Management Company does not contract services or pay by weight collected. Instead, it rents equipment and all waste is brought to one main sanitary landfill.
  • Rio de Janeiro is preparing to open up a materials recovery facility this year, which will help make curbside collection more efficient, according to Monteiro. The city is also opening a construction and demolition recovery plant this year, and it has a goal of turning its fleet fully electric by 2025.
  • One of the biggest trends in Beijing, is waste-to-energy plants. That is a growing trend for the city, and a trend that the city will continue to invest in for years to come, according to Liu.
  • The International Solid Waste Association Marine Task Force is working to prevent plastic litter from ending up in the world’s waters.
  • In order to keep waters free of plastic waste, the task force says the following needs to be done:
    • Investing in effective waste management in the Global South.
    • Reduce the leakage by intervening at the source (close dumpsites, provide appropriate waste treatment and disposal facilities, prevent uncontrolled dumping by providing a functioning and correct collection of waste and prevent littering).
    • Capturing and enhancing the value of waste products.
    • Move away from the current push markets to pull markets, driven by sufficient demand.
    • Get acceptance worldwide for energy recovery as a sustainable waste treatment method.
    • A step-change from the linear use of plastics to a sustainable and proven circular and cascading system is needed.
    • Address the issue at the very beginning: Innovate and invent at the materials and processing level.
  • To help promote the Marine Litter Task Force, the task force will identify and share best practices, contribute to addressing the knowledge gaps in identifying intervention hotspots, actively participate in other major efforts and international for a, access the level of investment needed and create viable a platform.
  • According to snap polls taken at the conference, 49 percent of WASTECON attendees didn't know that the UN Sustainable Development Goals on marine litter could interlink to targets for solid waste. And 72 percent of WASTECON attendees agreed that the waste and resources sector should play a central role in stopping marine litter.
  • In The New Plastics Economy keynote session, Gary Crawford of Veolia, Rachel Goldstein of Mars Inc. and Michiel De Smet of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation discussed the New Plastics Economy Initiative: an ambitious, three-year initiative to build momentum toward a plastics system that will capture material value and contribute to improved economic and environmental outcomes, notably, reduced leakage of plastics into the ocean and reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The new Plastics Economy Initiative consists of five building blocks: dialogue mechanism, global plastics protocol, innovation moonshots, evidence base and stakeholder engagement.
  • The three strategies for all stakeholders to transform the global plastic packaging market are fundamental redesign and innovation, reuse and recycling with radically improved economics and quality.
  • Goldstein stated that Mars is working on three main areas for its Sustainable in a Generation Plan: healthy planet, thriving people and nourishing wellbeing.
  • Veolia’s Corporate Strategy consists of three main tasks: developing access to resources, preserving resources and replenishing resources.
  • De Smet said, “When we look at plastics we see the benefits of plastic packaging, but we also see that the system is broken. Our vision is a system change that works.”
  • Crawford of Veolia commented, “China’s intent to ban certain materials will not disrupt the new Plastics Economy Initiative. In the short term, it could cause disruption that can lead to rethinking and the improvement in the quality of materials.”
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