Kevin Torrens of Brown and Caldwell presents on the process of turning high strength MSW leachate to near drinking water quality at the 2016 Global Waste Management Symposium in Indian Wells Calif

Kevin Torrens of Brown and Caldwell presents on the process of turning high strength MSW leachate to near drinking water quality at the 2016 Global Waste Management Symposium in Indian Wells, Calif.

Key Takeaways from Day One at the Global Waste Management Symposium

The biennial Global Waste Management Symposium wrapped up its first full day of educational sessions on Monday at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells (Calif.) Resort & Spa. The conference highlights cutting edge research on the waste and recycling industry. More than 100 pieces of research are showcased at the conference in live sessions and through poster presentations.

More than 500 waste and recycling pros are in attendance at the 2016 edition of the conference, which has been held since 2008.

The symposium is produced by Waste360 along with strategic partners the Environmental Research and Education Foundation and the National Waste & Recycling Association.

Here are key takeaways from some of Monday’s sessions.

  • Jacques Franco, science and policy fellow, UC Davis Policy of Institute for Energy, Environment and the Economy, kicked off the convention with a keynote presentation examining the link between the climate, energy and solid waste. Franco focused on what’s transpired in California in the past 30 years as the state has had in place some of the most aggressive renewable energy, waste reduction and recycling goals. As it stands, the state is on track to have 33 percent of its energy production produced via renewable sources by 2020.



  • On the waste side, since first launching an integrated waste law in 1989, California has had a pattern of putting in place increasingly ambitious solid waste goals. In 1995 it put in place a mandate to divert 25 percent of its waste. By 2000 the goal was upped to 50 percent, a mark it reached in 2005. In 2011 the state put in place a new mandate calling for 75 percent of its waste to be recycled by 2020. And this year brought in a slate of laws calling for increased organics recycling.
  • Franco said that the organics waste put in California landfills has embedded energy of 15,000 Gwh/yr. That’s enough to meet about five percent of state's current electricity demand.  



  • California had five anaerobic digestion plants in operation in 2012. By last year the number had grown to 13 with several more under development.
  • Franco identified three primary types of anaerobic digestion facilities in operation in the state. Some are food waste digestion facilities located in or next to wastewater treatment plants. (These feature codigestion of biosolids and food waste slurry.) There are some standalone anaerobic digestion facilities. And then there are some facilities that focus specifically on producing transportation fuels.
  • One of the biggest challenges going forward for California is having sufficient processing capacity in place to meet the 75 percent goal in 2020. This is compounded by a difficult permitting process in the state that makes the process of building new facilities arduous.



  • During one of the concurrent track sessions, four speakers discussed organics diversion. Traci Billis of SCS Engineers walked through a waste diversion study for one California community, including assessment of the generation rates throughout the community and the costs of different organics processing options. James Levis of NC State University then provided an overview of the environmental impacts of industrial and commercial food waste. He concluded that the EPA's "food recovery hierarchy" isn't universally applicable. Ramin Yazdani of UC-Davis then looked at methane enhancement by anaerobic composting of food waste. The session concluded with a presentation by Bidhya Kunwar of the University of Illinois-Urbana on the distributed production of ready-to-use gasoline/diesel from low value waste plastics.
  • Barnes Johnson, director of the office of resource conservation and recovery with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, delivered the luncheon keynote. He outlined the EPA’s focus on the concept of sustainable materials management. The agency defines this as the "approach to serving human needs by using/reusing resources, productively and sustainably throughout their life cycles, generally minimizing the amount of materials involved and all associated environmental impacts." 


  • Johnson estimated that 42 percent of greenhouse gases in the U.S. come from the handling, distribution and disposal of goods. He also said that between 1975 and 2000, the U.S. has increased the amount of materials consumed by 57 percent. 
  • The EPA has four goals for the 2017 to 2022 period. The objectives include decreasing the disposal rate, reducing the environmental impacts of materials, increasing socioeconomic benefits of waste reduction and recycling and increase capacity of local and state governments to implement programs.
  • A track on recycling highlighted five pieces of research. David Tonjes of SUNY Stony Brook analyzed the experience in one town after it switched from dual stream to single stream recycling. Debra Kanter of EREF investigated some recycling participation and demographic trends using RFID cart data. Michelle Fok of Hong Kong University explored the solid waste and recycling management strategies in Hong Kong and Taipei. Rene Rosendal of Danish Waste Services presented on his findings looking at landfill mining of shredder waste in Denmark. And Justin Roessler of the University of Florida talked about the potential of recycling waste-to-energy ash.





  • The educational sessions ended with concurrent panel discussions. One looked at elevated landfill temperatures. The other looked at the future of recycling.







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