Building a 10-Year Master Plan for Solid Waste in Louisville

Building a 10-Year Master Plan for Solid Waste in Louisville

Solid waste in the city of Louisville, Ky., is being scrutinized, assessed, picked through, taken apart and put back together again. All of this is to help the city, Jefferson County and other stakeholders to create a 10-year Solid Waste Master Plan and help the city reach its 90 percent diversion goal by 2042.

The planning process will be led by Orlando, Fla.-based MSW Consultants, a management consulting firm specializing in the waste and recycling industry, in partnership with Cascadia Consulting Group (Seattle) and Abbe & Associates (Alameda, Calif.) under a $350,000 contract with the Louisville Department of Public Works.

Angela Futter, public education coordinator for the Louisville Department of Public Works, explains the plan is made up of three phases. The first involves a two-season waste characterization study to glean what materials Jefferson County is producing.

“We haven’t done a waste characterization in Jefferson County before, so it is kind of hard to come to a solution or help meet our 90 percent goal of diversion by 2042, without actually knowing what we’re dealing with. So I think it was just time that we really had to get a handle on the waste,” she says.

In January, the first season of a two-season waste characterization study was completed. Upon completion of the second season, in April, the study will characterize Jefferson County’s residential and commercial waste streams, including construction and demolition debris, and help to quantify diversion opportunities. 

The second phase involves looking at the collection system and getting more information about the cost of services and its efficiency. In this phase, MSW Consultants met with several stakeholders, and initiated a collection system evaluation, focusing on policies, service levels and costs associated with the collection of the county’s residential and commercial waste and recyclables. A goal of this phase is to tabulate the full cost of services for residents of Jefferson County, said MSW Consultants President Walt Davenport in a press release. 

This cost of services phase, which includes gathering information about costs from various haulers and the city. One expected hurdle, says Futter, is that some private companies may not want to share that type of information needed.

The third phase is the development of the 10-year plan, which will take the findings from the first two phases and develop scenarios to help the city reach its 90 percent diversion goals by 2042. Stakeholders, who may include city and county departments, private haulers, recycling and disposal facilities, Goodwill and ReStores, Sierra Club, schools and businesses will be able to have input on the process.

“We really, really wanted to be as inclusive as we possibly could be with getting every sector of the community involved in this from the very beginning, because we know that it is going to take the support and the cooperation and the belief and understanding from everyone to make something work,” she says. "And when I say ‘something,’ I don’t know what that something is going to be yet.”

The goal for the plan is to allow the community to clearly define recommendations to guide solid waste management for the next decade, said MSW Consultants’ Davenport.

The final phase is an in-depth process that incorporates frequent waste industry, community and policy stakeholder group meetings. It includes creating an inventory of the current system, establishing metrics to track and monitor system performance, validating or modifying the current diversion goal, identifying best practices, evaluating alternatives and developing final recommendations for all aspects of the waste management system, he said. 

Those who want to be involved will help find the solutions, Futter says.

“That’s really the way you have to look at solid waste,” she says. “It affects everyone, and everybody has a role in it. So we are trying to get the word out to all of Jefferson County.”

The city will hold a stakeholder meeting sometime this summer to introduce the findings from the first two phases and discuss possible solutions. Stakeholders will have the opportunity to help influence what they think are the right scenarios to be implemented. If all goes well, information from all phases and meetings will be brought together and the final plan will be released in the Fall.

“Each person can have an impact, and that’s exciting to me,” says Futter. “It is a massive undertaking, honestly. But it’s been something we’ve needed. I don’t think we could be any more excited about getting the results or any more excited about just the interest that the study has spurred in the community.”

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