Garbage is a dirty business, but that doesn't mean that your facilities can't have a minimal impact on the environment.
In late June, Republic Services opened an environmentally friendly office and fleet maintenance facility in Palm Beach County, Fla. The firm says the a two-story, 30,000-square-foot building will receive certification from the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. The LEED system is designed to provide independent, third-party verification that a building consumes energy and water efficiently, emits greenhouse gases at a low rate, and generally has a small impact on natural resources.
Among the environmentally friendly features included in Republic's Palm Beach County facility are low-flow faucets, toilets and urinals that the firm says will reduce water use by 40 percent when compared with standard equipment. The building's roof has panels that reflect heat back into the atmosphere and thus decrease the need for air conditioning. The maintenance facility also features abundant skylights designed to reduce the demand for artificial lighting.
The Republic office is not the only facility in the waste industry that has achieved or is aiming for LEED certification. In "A Healthy Shade of Green" (Waste Age, February 2010, p. 48), Miles Gornto and Michael Kalish of SCS Engineers discuss King County, Wash.'s Shoreline Recycling and Transfer Station, which has achieved the highest level of LEED certification. The facility generates about 10 percent of its electricity from on-site solar panels, captures rainwater to reduce non-potable water consumption, and uses translucent roofing and walls to decrease the need for artificial light. The authors also write about a transfer station in Princes George County, Md., that is aiming for LEED recognition.
It's impossible to say exactly how many facilities in the waste industry have achieved LEED certification but the program is on the industry's radar enough that a conference session at the most recent WasteExpo was dedicated to the topic. (And for a look at how some state and local governments are using the program to increase landfill diversion, read "LEEDing Indicators" on p. 28).
Protecting the public health is the core function of the waste industry, and building and operating out of environmentally friendly facilities provides yet another way for the industry to protect the environment.