WW: What is the scope of Woodward-Clyde's solid waste services?
DG: Our company provides a broad range of services including planning, investigations, permitting, engineering, design and construction services. Our integrated solid waste management services embody reduction analysis, recycling opportunities, processing of solid waste, resource recovery, disposal, monitoring systems and remediation. About one-fifth of our revenues are derived from solid waste services including remediation activities; this corresponds quite closely to the estimated dollars that are being spent nationally on environmental programs in this decade. While we provide many of the conventional services in the solid waste arena, we have been making increasing use of technologies that include computer assisted landfill design, life cycle analysis and micro-tunneling.
WW: What are the key issues facing waste managers today?
DG: John Gardner said, "We are continually faced with a series of opportunities brilliantly disguised as problems." I believe that the principal problem that managers are faced with is responding to increased management standards in the face of declining revenues. The public has continued to maintain high expectations on how solid waste is to be managed, in large part because solid waste is something that each citizen generates and can relate to. For industry, managing toxics in their waste stream so as to produce cleaner waste in a competitive international marketplace is a leading concern. Local governments are faced with the challenge of implementing a growing number of federal mandates without the benefit of federal monies. The city of Columbus, Ohio, conducted a financial analysis of attempting to satisfy all known environmental requirements over the next several years. The result was a price tag that questioned the city's ability to pay for it. The whole concept of environmental cost-effectiveness is one that solid waste managers will have to contend with in this decade, and the answer will rest in intelligent decision making.
WW: How do you see the solid waste industry changing in the next five years?
DG: Certainly the next five years will bring with it more sophisticated and more expensive systems in an effort to recover resources and protect the environment and public health. However, in an effort to offset increased costs, owners are going to need more sophisticated automated systems to both analyze and operate waste management systems. I expect owners to seek greater use of performance-based evaluations in order to negotiate the best solution with the regulatory agency. There also will be a balancing of the various recovery, processing and disposal systems to reflect correction of some of the distortions in the marketplace today. The use of tools, such as life cycle analysis, will play an increasing role in the selection process. We will continue to see greater delegation of regulatory responsibilities to state and local governments. Finally, I expect greater development of regional solutions on the part of local governments, the waste service industry and the manufacturing industry. There are obvious economies of scale that accrue to consolidating certain waste management operations that benefit from fewer, larger systems.
WW: How do solid waste issues compare between the United States and Europe?
DG: There are many commonalities between the United States and Europe on solid waste management. One of the variations, however, between the United States and Western Europe is in the regulatory approach to solid waste management systems. The United States has been developing specific technology standards whereas Europe is looking increasingly towards performance-based solutions. For example, many governments in the United States have set recycling goals as a percent of the total waste stream. In Europe, the practices vary from recycling what goods have an acceptable marketplace to aggressive programs like the "green dot" program in Germany, which is certification identification for consumers. European governments and industries are more land limited and tend to rely more heavily on technology, whereas in the United States, technology is more predominant in the highly populated areas. In the central United States, landfills are the accepted management solution as reflected by tipping fees which are one-half to one-fourth those in major coastal metropolitan areas. Eastern Europe has only recently started to address its program needs and is struggling to balance those needs with its movement into a capitalistic society. Another notable distinction between the United States and Western Europe is the European citizen's acceptance of well-designed waste management facilities. In the United States, most communities either do not want, or do not seek separation from waste sites. In Europe, it is common to find waste-to-energy plants, for example, in highly urbanized areas where the secondary benefits of steam heating are more readily appreciated. From an overseas perspective, our offices in Australia and New Zealand have enjoyed a very progressive solid waste management climate for some years. There the governments look toward performance-based solutions rather than prescriptive standards.
WW: What is your most interesting or unusual solid waste project?
DG: It is difficult to say that there is any one project since we are engaged in so many from international and technological standpoints. However, one of the most challenging is BFI's Pine Bend Landfill in Minnesota. We have been retained by BFI to develop not only a modern landfill but an integrated facility which can handle municipal solid waste, industrial solid waste, municipal solid waste ash, a composting facility and even transfer of solid waste on the site.