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Highlights from Day Two at WASTECON 2016

Day two of WASTECON, the Solid Waste Association of North America’s biggest event, was filled with multiple education sessions.

Day two of WASTECON, the Solid Waste Association of North America’s (SWANA) biggest event, was filled with education sessions that covered the topics of safety, food waste, culture, recycling, circular economy, mixed waste processing, waste-to-energy and more.

After a long day of learning, attendees and exhibitors took cover for a possible tornado and then celebrated the show and the passing of the possible tornado with a networking event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Here are a few highlights from day two of WASTECON:

1. In the “Residential Organics Collection: From One Kitchen to the Next” session, Skip Berg of Labrie Enviroquip, Jim Wollschlager of Organix Solutions, Phil Allen of New Way Trucks, Jeremy O’Brien of the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) and Charlotte Pitt of the City and County of Denver spoke about the challenges and perks of residential organics collection. Here are some key quotes from the session:

 “Collection is often overlooked, but it’s about 50 percent of the cost of waste management,” says O’Brien.

“Vermont, Connecticut and Massachusetts have banned food waste,” says O’Brien.

“Denver's residential waste stream is 25 percent recycling, 50 percent organics and 25 percent trash,” comments Pitt.

“We have more than 100 years of life on our landfill so there's no crisis to get the organics out,” says Pitt.

“There are four layers for waste management and energy recovery: SSO, AD, MRF and BurCell Recovery System,” says Wollschlager.

“From a sustainability standpoint, contamination is going to hurt you the worst,” says Wollschlager.

“The diversion from landfill is not the reason to do organics; making the soil is,” comments Wollschlager.

“About 70 percent of the organics that we collect is from the residential waste stream,” says Wollschlager.

 “When you talk about organics as a recyclable, it then makes sense,” comments Allen.

“We have to learn to be flexible when it comes to organics; there is not one solution,” says Allen.

“No one wants to have a heavy cart of organics when it's hot outside; the cart will roll itself to the curb,” says Berg.

“We see a lot of resistance because people don't have room for another cart in their garage,” says Berg.

“The biggest residential organics challenge is one truck design doesn’t meet all needs,” comments Berg.

2. John Skinner of John Skinner Environmental Consulting spoke on policies to create a circular economy in his session. Skinner highlighted four takeaways of a circular economy:

  1. There are significant potential environmental and economic benefits.
  2. It is much more than just recycling, and recycling will have to be approached differently.
  3. Significant policy changes will be necessary to make a circular economy happen.
  4. There’s an important role for the waste management sector.

He also touched on the features and benefits of a circular economy:

  1. Elimination of waste through design of superior materials, products and systems.
  2. Uses renewable energy.
  3. Eliminates toxic materials.
  4. Disposal of end-of-life is replaces with re-manufacture, restoration and reuse.
  5. A circular economy conserves material and energy resources,
  6. A circular economy allows for more efficient ways to provide services and products to customers.
  7. More durable, sustainable, energy-efficient and less toxic products are available in a circular economy.
  8. There is substantial reduction in carbon emissions, and there are also many economic benefits.

In addition to those items, he explained the role of the waste management sector in the circular economy:

  1. The industry needs to provide feedback to producers to help them design better products.
  2. The industry needs to participate or create partnerships in the EPR programs.
  3. The industry needs to communicate with the public about why and how to recycle so that they understand the important of a circular economy.

3. During the “Great Organics Debate” food waste lunch and learn, Risa Weinberger of Risa Weinberger & Associates, Pat Sullivan of SCS Engineers, Craig Bartlett of the Region of Durham, Ontario and Kevin Roche of ecomaine faced off with a food waste debate that covered the topics of composting, anaerobic digestion, landfilling and waste-to-energy. Below are a few of the important quotes from the session:

“We are going to make food waste great again,” says Roche.

“Our clear bag solution helps resolve any of the nastiness that comes with food waste,” comments Roche. “It’s ultimately our solution for the ick factor.”

“The commercial establishments are going to anchor our food waste program,” says Roche.

“Landfills take all of the organics. We don't need organics to be source separated,” says Sullivan.

“Energy is one of the most environmental issues of our time,” states Sullivan.

“My advice to you is to take a step back and look at the way organics can be managed in a landfill,” says Sullivan.

“The three pillars of sustainability are people, planet and profit,” says session moderator Michelle Leonard of SCS Engineers.

“AD uses a biological process to create energy, which can be used for different forms,” states Bartlett. “And, one of the benefits of AD is that it's vertical.”

“Once people learn about composting and do it themselves, they understand the importance of it,” says Weinberger.

4. Toward the end of the day, session attendees and exhibitors had to take cover due to a possible tornado in the area. Even though everyone was huddled in the conference center’s basement for safety reasons, networking and conversation were still in full effect for both attendees and exhibitors.

5. SWANA is working hard to combat food waste at WASTECON with its Recycling & Recovery Program. SWANA has partnered with Second Helpings, an Indianapolis-based organization that reclaims food after events and distributes it to local homeless shelters and missions, to make its waste reduction goals a reality. It also teamed up with GreenCycle, an Indianapolis-based organization that uses food waste to product organic mulches, composts and soil blends, to ensure that all food scraps from the conference go to good use. In addition to finding solutions for food waste, SWANA is working with the Indiana Convention Center to ensure that aluminum cans, plastic bottles, glass, cardboard, pallets, paper and cooking oil are recycled.

6. To close the second day of the conference, attendees and exhibitors gathered at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for a networking event. Event attendees enjoyed food and refreshments, access to the original bricks at the start-finish line, racetrack rides that exceeded speeds up to 150 miles per hour and a dance and selfie opportunity in Victory Circle after crossing the finish line.

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