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Articles from 1997 In January


After The Control Is Gone

Is your solid waste facility economically viable? If you relied on flow control, possibly not. In fact, the Carbone v. Clarkstown, N.Y. decision has forced many owners and operators to reassess their facilities' financial viability under the harsh light of economic realities. And in some cases, it's become apparent that some projects would not survive without the artificial support of legal flow control.

Many now are recognizing that, sometimes, the basic, underlying economics and competition - called "economic flow control" - offered little support toward the success of an existing or planned project.

Bond rating agencies also are considering these same issues. First, operations that had received an investment grade rating had to be re-examined to determine if the original ratings would change or even revise downward. Second, rating agencies had to develop new guidelines for those financing new facilities or expansions.

While the general purpose of both flow controls is similar - to provide certainty in waste flow, revenue flow and enhanced finance ability - legal flow control often works against market forces, while economic flow control reflects market forces.

Now, however, "flow control" requires a solid understanding of basic economic concepts. Juris-dictions must focus on the waste levels to be directed to the facility rather than on the market-directed levels. Moreover, they must ensure that the market will continue to direct that waste to the facility according to the financing or expansion schedule. Thus, facility owners and operators are discovering their role and functions as market participants.

To be successful, a jurisdiction should consider:

* market structures and the types ofcompetition;

* the long- and short-run;

* supply and demand;

* change in demand and change inquantity demanded;

* elasticity of demand;

* costs;

* marginal costs, marginal revenues;

* pricing and marginal cost and average cost;

* economies of scale; and

* financial and fiscal flexibility.

Market Structures Most landfilling services are standard: There aren't many balefills, and the variations in daily covers wouldn't be a significant element to haulers in determining which landfill to use. A hauler or a city may have a contract, but landfilling one ton of municipal solid waste is similar from one landfill to another.

A potential difference may be that one landfill currently complies with Subtitle D, so the long-range potential for user liability might be less.

However, if all other factors are equal, landfilling is perfectly competitive in terms of service and standardization. For solid waste facilities, this nearly monopolistic market structure is close to legal flow control in waste and revenue flows to pay debt service. More competition means less economic flow control. Analyzing the market's structure helps determine the viability of economic flow control for an in-dividual solid waste facility.

Waste Flow Analysis The main determinants for a solid waste facility are its tipping fees and hauling costs. If no monopoly exists, or if there are only a few relatively minor-sized competing facilities, then price should be kept within an overall competitive range. If the price is too high, it can encourage competition.

Fresno County, Calif., hovers closest to a monopolistic market structure, because there are not many landfills. Of those landfills operating in the county, none has the current or future capacity to handle the waste flow received by the American Avenue Landfill. The Fresno County Solid Waste Management Plan of 1985 designated the American Avenue as the county's regional landfill and mandated that privately-owned landfills close when the waste footprint capacity is reached.

In Fresno county, the recent trend has been for landfill closures: The Southeast Regional Landfill closed in 1990; the city of Fresno Land-fill closed in 1987; the privately-operated Chestnut Avenue Land-fill, closed in 1993; and the Chateau Avenue Landfill, was projected to close in 1996. Thus, in terms of market structure and competition, there may be economic flow control in Fresno County.

Another aspect of economic flow control analysis is related to geography. Although Fresno county's geographic area is large - nearly 6,000 square miles - it is possible for haulers to transport waste to landfills outside of the county. However, the out-of-county landfills tipping fees are higher, and they cannot handle the same volumes of the American Avenue site.

Since the city of Fresno's landfill closed, Fresno County and the cities of Fresno and Clovis agreed that the county would develop American Avenue into the regional landfill to be used by both cities.

In return, the city of Fresno guaranteed to deliver all its solid waste to the landfill, and specified a minimum tonnage, which was computed to enable the city to reach its 50 percent diversion goals.

According to American Avenue's records, some out-of-county waste is delivered to the landfill while some goes facilities in other counties because of lower overall costs (tipping fees and transportation). So, while Fresno County has considerable price control, increasing the tipping fee can have an effect on waste that is currently being generated in Fresno County and hauled to American Avenue.

In terms of out-of-county facilities, American Avenue still has a strong basis for continued economic flow control. For example, in Kern County, approximately 100 miles south, the tipping fees are comparable to Am-erican Avenue, but transportation costs make using it prohibitive.

American Avenue's tipping fee of $28.80 covers the facility's average total cost. Occasionally, disposal facilities which are facing greater competition are tempted to price their landfill or disposal service at less than their average total cost. This same issue is raised in full-cost accounting, when a jurisdiction or agency determines the cost for each activity and program.

This type of analysis will overstate or understate the benefits and costs, if decisions and/or analyses are completed and focus on the "incremental" or marginal cost and/or benefits.

The marginal costs and marginal revenues analyses are completed and analyzed together to aid in the decision-making process. Typically, though, the differences between the marginal cost and the average cost are so significant that the facility will often price itself into a corner and has little ability to recover all of its operational and capital costs. If reserves are modest initially, then that facility will marginal-cost price itself into a deficit quickly.

There are two situations when marginal cost pricing will benefit the agency:

* when the marginal cost price equals the average total cost price and

* when the marginal cost price exceedsthe average total cost price.

The second situation occurs whenever the demand has increased significantly and has little alternatives to the agency's facilities.

Economics Of Scale American Avenue's operations history demonstrates a significant amount of economics of scale.

In 1991, the landfill received an average of 100 tons per day (tpd). That amount increased dramatically each year thereafter until it reached its the current levels of approximately 1,700 tpd.

While tonnages increased more than tenfold, the operations cost increased by a much smaller percentage. In addition, the current tipping fee - barring any pass-through surcharge increases - can remain at its current level for at least three years. During that time, the landfill will be able to finance additional expansion and to strengthen its economic flow control using competitive pricing.

Of course, not every jurisdiction or agency will be able to experience similar economies of scale. However, if they lack the economics of scale on operation expansion, the financial flexibility feature of economic flow control can be used.

One view of financial flexibility is that the agency can change with the market. For example, when competition changes, the agency has the plans and ability to alter its operation levels and to reduce its costs to compete at a lower price.

American Avenue is prepared to buy necessary equipment and increase staff as the tonnage levels change.

The current plans have back-ups for either the future decreases in tonnages due to diversion or increases because of unexpected population increases.

By managing the inherent econo-mies of scale in operations, both in terms of expansion and contraction, and maintaining financial flexibility in both short- and long-range operations and planning, American Avenue believes it will have economic flow control beyond the year 2000.

Mary L. Pranzo is the former waste management coordinator for Fresno County, Calif., Public Works & Devel-opment Services Department.

Waste-to-Energy: WTE Market Poised For Expansion By 2001

The 105th Congress pro-mises to prioritize legislation that restructures the electric utility marketplace, and in the process highlight waste-to-energy (WTE) as a source of electric power.

Power plants that convert trash into energy by combusting waste in high-temperature furnaces frequently are mentioned as a disposal option for communities. However, with Congress and numerous states focusing on the power market - and how to assure consumer choice - the energy in waste may rise in importance.

There are 114 WTE plants, operating in 32 states, that convert about 15 percent of the trash generated nationwide into 2,650 megawatts of electricity. This electricity meets the power needs of 1.2 million homes and businesses; meanwhile, the facilities themselves serve the disposal needs of more than 40 million people, and generate enough energy to re-place about 30 million barrels of oil annually.

WTE long has been considered a renewable source of power. Trash is both sustainable and indigenous - two basic criteria for establishing what is a renewable energy source. Also, approximately 80 percent of municipal trash is biomass - a fancier name for organic material.

Last year, Congress began reviewing the electric utility market by holding a series of hearings to determine the status of the electric industry and its need for change. After a year of deliberation, Rep. Dan Schaefer (R-Colo.), the Subcommittee Chairman of the House Energy and Power Subcommittee of Commerce, introduced comprehensive legislation that included provisions supporting renewable energy sources such as waste-to-energy.

Schaefer's bill contains a provision that requires electricity generators to demonstrate that 2 percent of all electric power generated comes from renewable sources. Currently, renewable energy generation totals slightly more than 2 percent nationwide, including sources from geothermal, biomass, solar and wind. But, this bill envisions growth by calling for the renewable requirement to rise to 4 percent by the year 2010.

The Schaefer bill likely is just a starting point for further discussions on electric utility restructuring that will take place throughout the next session of Congress.

The stakes in this debate are high. The utility industry represents about 5 percent of the Gross National Product.

Ultimately, the WTE industry may be a relatively small player in the debate. WTE facilities generate less than 11/42 of 1 percent of the na-tion's total electricity generated. However, the in-dustry has some important selling points, such as its environmental controls.

New Clean Air Act rules for municipal waste combustors ensure that waste-to-en-ergy is one of the cleanest sources of power in America.

Energy can be produced from trash about as cleanly as from natural gas, according to a re-cent booklet re-leased by the U.S. Conference of Ma-yors and the Am-erican Society of Mechanical En-gineers. Since modern WTE plants usually replace older oil- and coal-burning technologies, they can actually improve the air quality in the communities where they operate.

Organic pollutants such as dioxin also are no longer an issue with the addition of more sophisticated pollution control equipment to existing facilities. As older plants are retrofit-ted in accordance with the Clean Air Act rules over the next few years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that WTE as a source of dioxin will fall to less than 11/42 of 1 percent.

Similar control is predicted on mercury emissions, with waste-to-energy contributing about 3 percent of all man-made mercury into the environment, according to EPA.

In addition, WTE reduces greenhouse gas buildup in the air, since combusting biomass does not add to the buildup of greenhouse gases. Waste-to-energy, as opposed to landfilling as a disposal option, actually reduced greenhouse gases last year alone by 130 million tons.

Other significant advantages speak well for WTE. For example, the resi-due ash left after combusting trash had been an issue for both regulators and the courts. Three years ago, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that WTE ash must be tested for its toxicity. Since that time, the ash has consistently passed the test and has proven safe. Communities across the country now are considering the beneficial uses of the ash for roadbed material, landfill cover and building material.

As the congressional debate on utility reform wages next year, environmental concerns and renewable sources of power will be just two of the many topics open for discussion. Certainly, WTE is poised to play a greater role in America's energy supply.

Al-jon Inc., Ottumwa, Iowa, has won a Governor's Export Award from the state of Iowa for their success in selling solid waste handling products and services in foreign markets.

Community Waste Disposal Inc., Dallas, has been awarded the Dallas & Denton County Corporate Re-cycling Council's 1996 Environmental Visions Awards for its innovative methods in municipal recycling.

Contracts

Dames & Moore, Los Angeles, has been awarded two contracts totaling $13 million by the U.S. Postal Service to provide environmental in-vestigation, design and remediation oversight services for the Midwest. and western United States.

Mayfran International, Cleveland, has recently appointed H. West Equipment Inc., Orange, Calif., as an exclusive Mayfran dealer/representative for the company's conveyors and recycling systems for the solid waste industry. H. West will sell, install and service the recycling equipment in California, Arizona and Nevada.

Avoiding A Rural Public Relations Nightmare

Deciding what to do with trash is a priority for all communities. Government regulations, especially the Re-source Conservation and Recov-ery Act (RCRA) and Subtitle D, have brought profound changes in how we deal with our garbage.

The public has become at-tuned to waste issues, both intrigued by urban legends like the garbage barge and spurred by local and national grassroots movements to be less wasteful. "Reduce, reuse and recycle" has become the mantra of responsible citizens in major population centers like New York City, Los Angeles and Baltimore.

While this activity was raging in large towns and cities, small, rural communities, especially those in the arid West, largely ignored the furor. Nobody there immediately saw the connection between public education and high tech services. Remote locations with long distances be-tween population centers didn't seem to encourage any real change from the open pit, unregulated city dumps.

The National Guard, local road department or a similar organization helped little towns by digging disposal pits and covering them after they filled up.

Some towns fenced and operated their dumps according to local health department mandates that were fairly effective, but most sites continued to be litter makers and eyesores. Few people cared, as long as the dump was out of town and no-body could smell it.

This situation couldn't last, though. Big city residents brought their waste management perspectives to small towns where waste reduction programs were not as well-established.

Growth problems, including potential groundwater pollution and increased citizen concerns, forced many local governments to take action.

City council members and county commissioners found themselves paying for information their constituents rejected. Disagreements divided communities; local elections became ejection chutes for politicians who had been in public service for decades.

Simply put, rural communities needed high-tech solutions, but had low-level funding. This situation demanded cooperation between citizens and local governments - a difficult task for rural communities. Traditionally, the positions of mayor, council members and commissioners have been held by unpaid, hard-working, selfless leaders who were elected and then largely ignored by their constituents. However, when these rural, Western communities' solid waste issues loomed large, officials knew they had to actively involve a far-flung, and sometimes indifferent, public.

They had to find a way to let residents know that they had to step up their participation in managing solid waste.

The "not-in-my-backyard" mindset is obvious in the rural West, and the perception of landfills as "dumps" is difficult to change. Throughout the process, however, good science must be the basis for public utility projects, and that information must be presented in a format people can understand.

One City's Story One small, Western city is currently in the midst of a nightmare which, unfortunately, it shares with other similar communities. This city thought it was doing everything right. In fact, the city manager and council prided themselves on their political savvy and commitment to "environmentally-friendly" tactics.

Initially, they held a public meeting to discuss the necessity for siting a new landfill. There was no discussion of alternatives, but the city was confident that its residents would support locating a new site, based on the voiced dissatisfaction with the traffic that traversed through town enroute to the existing landfill.

Unfortunately, a specific site was selected without the community's direct participation - an oversight that proved disastrous.

After months of consulting and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, the mandatory 30-day review period began.

A few people who generally opposed a landfill distributed leaflets and cartoons depicting the wanton pollution and ground water poisoning they believed would be the inevitable result of the new facility. Then, hundreds of calls and written responses poured into the county seat.

The first public meeting was boisterous, but the hastily-convened second one was worse. Community factions quickly polarized into warring parties, and nobody seemed to want compromise. The political ramifications were stinging: The city manager was forced to resign, and three councilmen faced recall initiatives. In the end, four good men who gave their best found that wasn't good enough.

The city has put the question on the ballot for June 1997 and now must decide whether to scrap the current site (which is not bad, but will need more study), to undertake a concentrated and expensive public education campaign to bolster support or to build a transfer station and haul waste to a regional landfill.

What could this community have done to avoid its nightmare? Remem-ber, it followed established procedures to provide necessary utilities. It requested statements of qualifications from engineers in the region and held competitive negotiations with the top candidates. The problem wasn't with the selected consultant, nor was it with the process' legality.

So, why the fuss? The city failed to assess its constituents' preferences in an accurate and timely manner. Additionally, it did not provide a for-um for residents to express their concerns and learn details. Heading off a problem before it begins is always simpler than fixing it.

Using this rural city's experiences, the following step-by-step analysis highlights public relations tactics that can circumvent such problems cost-effectively.

Four Steps To Siting Success 1As soon as the city selects a consultant, it should hold "scoping" meetings, which consists of the city council, city manager and the consulting engineer who would discuss possible alternatives in a public forum.

Advertise this meeting well in both the local paper and on high-visibility bulletin boards. Encourage residents to submit written comments and to volunteer for an ad hoc citizen's advisory committee.

2After the meeting and while the consultant investigates alternatives, the city should consider the volunteers' backgrounds and solicit others to comprise a six- or seven- member committee.

This group will be crucial to the success of such an environmentally-sensitive project.

Ideally, the consultant would have the capability to help the city select members who represented various points of view but who were capable of compromising.

3 Once the waste disposal choices are narrowed down to economically feasible scenarios, the city should conduct polls to determine the public's preferences and concerns. The consultant would summarize the alternatives under consideration in an understandable fashion and develop a questionnaire for the polling process.

Following the poll, the advisory committee would provide the core group to do the "leg work" under the direction of a knowledgeable person. In addition to polls, focus groups should be formed in particular neighborhoods to gain grassroots input.

These groups would be headed by local leaders - such as scout masters, clergy and business people - and one of the consultants. Here, the public can learn the science behind each alternative.

4 After the polls and focus groups, a carefully-organized, open public meeting should be held to air out continuing issues. This meeting should be conducted by either the consultant or a knowledgeable city employee in conjunction with the consultant's guidance.

The city studies the meeting's results to select the alternative it feels best represents a consensus. After making its siting decision, the city should publish the results, including a clear description of why it chose a particular site.

Note that these four steps will take place before a word was written on the Permit to Operate Application. The city in the earlier example should never have waited until the mandatory 30-day comment period for its first public hearing.

Education Matters The public education process isn't difficult, but it takes time and resources, and it can't be done halfheartedly. Too many cash-poor local governments think any literate person can lead a public meeting and come up with intelligent, persuasive articles and flyers explaining a project. Although they know that engineering designs can only be conducted by qualified, experienced professionals, they must understand that a similar level of talent and expertise must be brought to a public education program, especially if disagreements arise.

"Mary from the city clerk's office" or volunteers from the local high school are no more capable of explaining a new landfill than they would be able to design and permit the project. Cooperation among businesses, non-profits, public agencies and the general population only can be achieved through well-conceived public education programs tied to engineering expertise.

Rural, arid communities, through their elected officials and public employees, can pull together to solve common problems. They're turning to flexible, responsive organizations, and they're banding together with like-minded communities. Most of all, they're providing opportunities for grassroots involvement, because they recognize that citizens must be full partners in any process that impacts the environment - especially when they are trying to change the term "dump" to "sanitary landfill."

Corrie Lynne Player is president of Tahoma Companies Inc., Cedar City, Utah.

UPDATE: Pacific West Loses Environmental Offices

MINNEAPOLIS - The Pacific West isn't the place to be if you're a small, environmental service firm.

In fact, 35 percent of these re-gional firms with 25 or fewer em-ployees surveyed in 1994 could not be located in 1996, according to Environmental Information Ltd. (EI), Minneapolis.

Large and medium firms, on the other hand, did not exhibit the ex-tensive number of office closures found in the smaller ranks. The of-fices with more than 100 employees in 1994 were still operating in the region in 1996, despite cost-cutting in the environmental sector, EI reported. It seems that companies still feel the need to remain geographically close to their customers and are hesitant to eliminate local offices.

Eight states in the U.S. Environ-mental Protection Agency's regions nine and 10 - including Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Nevada, Oregon and Washington - were included in EI's 1996 survey. Results showed California to be the state with the highest number of vanishing firms, with 55 of 253 firms gone. Washington was next, with 23 of 102 firms missing.

"We believe that the Pacific West is typical of environmental businesses nationwide," said John Morrow, the study's lead research-er. "Preliminary data from our West Central survey suggests similar trends."

This year, EI expanded its survey, identifying 1,500 firms with offices in the Pacific West; the total included hazardous waste companies, landfills and waste transporters. California again took first place by being home to the most environmental firms (more than 500 offices) regionwide. Notably, 19 of the nation's top 100 firms are headquartered there.

For more information or to order a copy of the survey, contact EI's John Morrow at (800) 593-6271.

PET Shortage Spurs Facility Closure

BEDFORD, Mass. - wTe Corp., Bedford, Ma., has closed the doors of its Hayward, Calif., PET bottle recycling facility just 14 months after its opening in August 1995. The facility was a stand-alone project financed, owned and operated by Certified Polymer Processors Inc. (CPP), a Californian subsidiary of wTe.

The facility, with installed processing capacity of more than 40 million pounds per year, was developed and constructed at a cost of approximately $3.5 million. It de-baled, sorted, granulated and removed labels from baled post-consumer beverage and custom PET bottles, selling the flake to wTe's Albany, N.Y., PET recycling facility for further processing and/or re-marketing.

The project relied upon an 11-year, 30 million pound per year PET supply agreement with the Plastics Re-cycling Corporation of California (PRCC), a non-profit corporation.

"During the critical 1995 PET shortage, when CPP needed the PET to fulfill its contracts for finished products with its customers, PRCC failed to supply the PET in accordance with its agreement with CPP," said Leigh Alan Peritz, wTe's Plastic Division president. "After a seven-year effort to develop a PET bottle recycling facility in California, it is very disappointing to have to shut the plant down."

Just three months into the facility's operation, PRCC filed for arbitration action to terminate its supply agreement based on its assertion that the facility was not a "PET Bottle Recycling Facility," and that CPP did not have the right to sell the excess bales that it was unable to process due to the poor, non-specification quality of the PET provided by PRCC.

Although wTe's Albany facility will be unaffected by the CPP closure, the company is disappointed since it was de-pending upon the CPP facility and PRCC's PET supply to expand its PET market share. Now, wTe is planning to focus its attention on the expansion and improvement of its Albany facility.

"The contract dispute between PRCC and CPP is presently in arbitration. The outcome of the process and the independent actions of the banks, creditors, and the State of California under its financial guarantees will determine whether or not the facility ever re-opens," said David Spencer, wTe's president. "It is unfortunate that a project with so much potential for doing good for PRCC, CPP and the state of California now stands idle."

Legislation: Enviromental Influence November Election

Major environmental groups campaigned hard to influence November's congressional elections. Their effort, however, achieved mixed results: Some of their favored candidates won, but some of their targets survived. Meanwhile, industry groups successfully fought several pro-environmental ballot referendums.

Record spending in the millions by the Sierra Club, San Francisco, and the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), was aimed at realigning environmental attitudes in the new, 105th Congress by targeting anti-environmental Republican candidates.

One of the campaign's lessons: Accusing vulnerable politicians of anti-environmental extremism can be a potent weapon in negative campaigns.

Ultimately, Republicans retained control of the House and Senate, frustrating the environmentalists who, for the most part, had backed Demo-cratic candidates. Nevertheless, conservation groups were confident that those targets who were re-elected still would be smarting from the political lashing they took for voting "incorrectly" on environmental issues.

"Anti-environmentalists returning to Congress got a warning shot across the bow," said Deb Callahan, LCV's president. "We did not expect to win all of these races, but we expected to make a point. If you vote against the environment, you are in danger of paying for it with your seat in Con-gress."

However, Jonathan Adler, an environmental analyst at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a Washington, D.C.-based group favoring less government regulation, downplayed the environmental campaign's effectiveness.

"The LCV and the Sierra Club tried to make much of this election a referendum on environmental issues," Adler told a reporter for The N.Y. Times. "But it is hard to say if they were successful. Given all the missteps the Republicans made, the fact that the LCV and the Sierra Club were not more successful suggests that their position has less power and saliency than they suggested."

Whether a single factor is decisive on election day is difficult to measure. Still, the conservation groups insisted, based on election-eve polling, that the incumbent's environmental record was among the most important issues in some races. Thus, adverse publicity could sufficiently exploit the issue to affect the results.

Perhaps the point is simply that media campaigns on environmental issues can influence the outcome - one way or the other. For example, heavy advertising by Florida sugar producers was a major factor in convincing voters to turn thumbs-down on a one-cent-per-pound tax on sugar produced near the Everglades. The tax would have created a fund for en-vironmental restoration in the area where, for decades, runoff from sugar farms has damaged the ecosystem.

Environmentalists also encountered setbacks in a number of Senate races too. Sen. Robert Smith (R-N.H.), for example, was re-elected in a race where his Democratic opponent labeled him a "tool" of polluting industries. Previously, Sen. Smith had sponsored an industry-favored bill to ease toxic waste cleanups.

In Colorado where Republican representative Hank Brown was retiring, the voters elected Republican Con-gressman Wayne Allard, whose voting record the League rated at 7 percent. His Democratic rival, environmental attorney Tom Strickland, received strong support from environmentalists despite his having represented corporate polluters - a fact that Allard was happy to exploit in the campaign.

A closely-contested Oregon election produced a win for Gordon Smith, a Republican who was trying for the second time in two years to win a Senate seat. His Democratic opponent, Tom Bruggere, had attacked him on environmental issues.

Environmental groups did claim victories in two House races where the Sierra Club financed advertising campaigns to help Democrats defeat Republican freshmen. First-term GOP representatives Andrea Sea-strand of California and Dick Chrysler of Michigan lost to Walter Holden Capps and Debbie Stabenow, respectively.

However, Republican freshman from conservative districts were re-elected despite assaults by environmentalists. Steve Stockman (R-Texas) and Helen Chenoweth (R-Idaho.) won by small percentages.

Not all of the environmentalists' targets were Republicans. Gary A. Con-dit (D-Calif.), a conservative, won handily. He was the sole Democrat on the LCV's "dirty dozen" list - lawma-kers whom the League most strongly opposed.

Overall, the Sierra Club was proud of its accomplishments. The organization claimed that its candidates won in more than two-thirds of the 62 contests where it had focused its attention: eight out of 12 Senate seats and 34 of 50 House seats.

For its part, the LCV said that its candidates won more than half of the contests involving the "dirty dozen."

Rep. Martin Frost (D-Texas), chairman of the Democratic National Campaign Committee, had predicted a major role for environmental issues in California, Oregon and Washing-ton. "Environmental issues are very important on the West Coast," he said. "The Republicans tried to roll back virtually all the environmental regulations that had been established on a bipartisan basis during the last 20 years."

Callahan would go further. As she sees it, the 1996 elections prove that a green campaign can be influential almost anywhere in the country.

Paper Quality And Efficiency: It's Not Pulp Fiction

This is your mission should you choose to accept it: Do more with less while improving the quality of your product in order to sell - or move - it. Material recovery facilities (MRF) operators and paper processors have researched how they can manage paper processing facilities and cut costs to operate more efficiently. Certainly, every facility strives for this. However decreasing paper revenues have forced many operators to take a good, hard look at procedures.

Across the country, MRFs ranging from 25 tons per day (tpd) to more than 150 tpd have made significant changes to improve efficiency. This improvement is not limited to the private sector; many public MRFs also are streamlining operations. "There is a new trend in people handling more materials," said Tade Mahoney, president of Recycling and Equipment Service, a distributor in Freeport, Maine, who believes that some changes to the existing system must be made.

Quality Sells Paper processors must adhere strictly to mill specifications to move the material, especially when market prices are low and only quality paper sells. This may require more processing time - time that must be used wisely. Since paper is a commodity, and markets are cyclical, quality is the only real control you have.

How do processors that accept multiple grades of paper together deal with this? Rhode Island's MRF experienced a recent retrofit, allowing it to process residential mixed paper (RMP) into different commodities, said Edward Connelly, manager of resource recovery and planning for the Rhode Island Resource Recovery Corporation, Johnston, which serves approximately one million people. "We designed for maximum flexibility," Connelly said, noting that the paper grades likely to be sorted from RMP are corrugated cardboard, newspaper, paperboard, unwanted mail/paper and magazines. "We saw mill specifications changing [in early 1994], and didn't know what the markets would bring."

The corporation's MRF operator, RRT/Waste Management Inc., Johnston, installed a parallel sorting line, a baler capable of 65 tons per hour (tph) and two conveyor belts, which enables the facility to handle two paper materials at once. In this system, one town's newspapers can be processed simultaneously with another town's RMP, according to Connelly. Additionally, "shorter sorting lines allow the sorters to get a better look at the material," he said. To make the MRF more flexible, paper can be marketed loose, using an open pit. "If a baler ever breaks down, we have another way to do business," Connelly said.

The corporation's bid specifications required that RRT/Waste Management provide equipment which is capable of processing more than 90,000 tons of paper per year. "We needed to plan for the maximum incoming materials and a buffer for storage," Connelly said.

Financial Advantages The capital improvements are paying off fast. The new equipment and sorting system has granted Rhode Island a unique position in the current market: Demands for its product have resulted in increased production at the facility.

By instituting a quality bonus program, workers at Oak Brook, Ill.-based Waste Management Inc.'s paper MRF in Woodinville, Wash., have an added incentive to follow sorting specifications, said Bill Stansberry, plant manager: Employees receive a bonus of $1 per ton for every 'Aquality' ton of newspaper.

Communication is vital between the procurement manager and the employees on the sorting line, said Susan Combs, procurement manager at Capitol Fiber, Springfield, Va. "The procurement person must train employees about the different grades which they need to make.

"Make your specifications known to your customers," Combs continued. "You have no control of paper quality as it enters your facility. One option is to develop tiered acceptance levels so the customer feels it when paper is downgraded."

John Neyman, facility manager of Confi-Shred in New Castle, Del., agrees. "To improve our product [shredded office paper], we worked with customers and showed them how to clear up the paper," he said. "One customer had been leaving the plastic bags which contained the shredded paper in the paper compactor. We asked them to dump the paper from the plastic bags, leaving only paper in the compactor."

The customer saved money possibly by reusing plastic bags, while not forcing us to pass on the extra sorting costs, Neyman explained. "We saved a valued customer and upgraded the paper. The quality improved by reducing contamination levels to less than 10 percent from 40 percent with a little education."

Rabanco Recycling, Seattle, Wash., conducted stringent research when searching for the best automated sorting system, said Robert Evans, vice president. After concluding that the perfect system did not exist, Rabanco built their own "Recyclone" for their 80,000-square foot Third and Lander MRF. The equipment allows employees on a picking line to hold the paper up to one of multiple suction tubes, which hang over them. The tubes operate like a vacuum, sucking the paper from the pickers' hands before releasing it directly into a baler.

Rabanco's results: Productivity has increased dramatically, and the paper is available to mills exactly to their specifications. Rabanco, which processes materials from approximately 25 communities bordering Seattle and from small, commercial haulers, produces about 400 tpd and has never experienced a rejection due to contamination, according to Evans.

Cost-Savers "Think outside the box," advised Combs. "Look at everything to maximize your efficiency - even repair broken pallets." She suggested looking at opportunities to sell bale wire and plastic wrapping from newspaper bundling left over from your operation. Capitol Fiber is currently selling its wire for $50 per ton, Combs said.

Leasing equipment is another efficiency option. "Look at the cost benefit analysis of leasing rather than owning moveable equipment," Combs suggested. "There is no depreciation with leasing, and you can get an agreement with the leasing company to repair and replace the equipment, which minimizes downtime." Leasing equipment may eliminate the need for a paid staff mechanic - a step that would reduce overhead and improve the bottom line, said Combs.

Mahoney acknowledged that "there may be tax advantages to leasing, as well as an opportunity to get into a good piece of equipment without spending the money," but admits that many companies still prefer to buy.

The decision to lease equipment depends on the amount of working capital available, said Connelly. Leasing may make sense if the issue is cash flow. It also may be prudent to lease experimental equipment on a test basis. Connelly concedes that this isn't practical for governments, but may be for private operators.

Another creative way to deal with unstable paper markets is to depend less on waste paper prices, and more on the service provided, reports Rob Glass at Ontario-based Shred Tek. In addition to manufacturing a line of stationary shredders, his company sells a mobile document shredder housed in a truck that travels from business to business shredding confidential documents. In this case, the paper is sold as additional revenue for these independent operators.

Man Or Machine? Operating more efficiently doesn't mean losing good workers. None of the 150 Rabanco Recycling employees were laid off despite the use of the Recyclone and the computerization of three balers, Evans said. Displaced employees were retrained for work in other areas.

Sean Austin of Bulk Handling Systems, Eugene, Ore., suggests retraining workers to separate the higher grades of paper at the end of the line.

"Baling technology has been evolving slowly in response to the need for decreased baling costs per ton," said Mahoney, noting that some companies are getting creative at decreasing costs. For example, "the older way of doing things involved larger cylinders [in the baler], which required more oil to help [the cylinders] move back and forth; requiring big pumps and large motors," he said.

Confi-Shred employees have become more productive by simply replacing the old baler with an auto tie baler, said Neyman. "The old, manual tie baler took 20 minutes per bale over the auto tie baler, and if we produce 20 bales per day, we have 400 extra minutes per day of productive time," which could add up to about 2,400 additional worker hours, he said.

At Rhode Island's MRF, the new equipment has given employees some stability in their working hours, said Connelly. Older equipment may result in unanticipated downtime, and workers may never know their hours due to the uncertainty in the production levels, he explained. New equipment allows facilities to predict how long it will take to produce certain bale amounts.

At Capitol Fiber, employee bonuses are tied to the amount of bales made each month, as a productivity incentive. Even if the goal is not reached, they still walk away with some financial reward, Combs said. The system works because everyone has a buy-in. Each month, the staff sets productivity goals and holds a month's end review. "Include your workforce in these meetings and practice open-book management," Combs advised.

With financial gain at stake, "the employees realize that the baler is their lifeline and that they should treat it as such," she said. "We have a chart in the break room that shows the number of bales made each day, and they see it go up over the month."

Safety Improvements Citing "skyrocketing" workers compensation costs and high employee turnover, Mahoney stressed the importance of installing a system "that is faster and improves worker safety."

Worker training and safety was a priority when Confi-Shred replaced its manual tie baler for an auto tie baler. "Any new equipment purchase should come with training, with an emphasis on worker safety," Neyman said.

Manufacturers of balers are making the equipment safer and more automatic with less required operator time. "Programmable controllers allow designers to get more creative on how systems are set up," said Mahoney. "The designers can develop systems which prevent a worker from getting in an unsafe position."

For example, in larger machines, a worker easily could overfeed a baler and the bale couldn't eject. Then, by hand, he would have to remove materials and get inside the baler. Now, machines with two rams have a bale release through the computer technology, said Mahoney, who stressed the importance of keeping people away from machinery.

The Recyclone has allowed Rabanco to experience 23 straight months without a single time loss injury, Evans reported. "The state [of Wash-ington] Department of Labor and Industries loves it," he said.

Employees are happy too. He explained that the employees on the picking line are spared the back-breaking job of twisting and turning to put paper into receptacles on the floor. Instead, they hold their hands full of paper above their heads toward a suction tube.

In the Woodinville facility, Waste Management has instituted an accident/injury-free safety bonus program, said Stansberry. "Our facility is relatively low-tech, while processing 6,500 tons per month," he said. "Safety is number one."

Efficient Operations Mahoney recommended that companies or municipalities make informed decisions about purchases before jumping on the efficiency bandwagon. "Try to determine what an estimated cost per ton will be to run the machine," he said. "Newer machinery may be a less costly alternative, but the only way to tell is by knowing your current costs per ton."

He cautioned against short-term thinking. "It takes political courage in municipalities to make the case for spending more money for more productive equipment, instead of going with the lowest bid," he said, but conceded that this idea may be difficult to justify to taxpayers.

For private companies, the objective may be to process as high a volume as possible. Equipment has been on the market for two years with features that separate paper grades - such as old corrugated cardboard from office paper - and that significantly reduce the amount of man hours.

Bob Quinn, of Marathon Equipment, Vernon, Ala., stressed that buyers consider purchasing a baler with the ability to make the heaviest and most dense bale possible. For example, some equipment can process up to 20 tons an hour and replace up to 15 workers on the floor who can concentrate on sorting through the most valuable grades instead of shifting through corrugated and office paper.

When Robert Loose Jr., paper broker at Maslo Company Inc., Consho-hocken, Penn., purchased a new baler this year, he knew it was important to allow for flexibility in the product and to make top quality bales of a variety of paper grades.

The updating of Maslo's baling capabilities was somewhat delayed, but the conversion from pit-style balers with manual tie-off to a horizontal auto-tie has provided the increased productivity Loose envisioned. The specific baler Maslo chose, which processes 7-10 tons per hour, has yielded efficiencies not possible in higher volume systems.

Ideally, the objective is to become as efficient and cost-effective as possible over the long term. By analyzing your current operating costs versus viable, long-term solutions, you will be able to make educated decisions about the costs as well as the efficiencies of the recycling process.

Monitoring costs constantly and getting as many employees involved in the decision-making process as possible is a way of practicing open-book management, where everyone is informed about the bottom line, said Combs.

This mission is not impossible.

Shirley H. Plews is a free-lance writer based in Bowie, Md.

Monmouth County Serves As A Composting Model

The first "Home-Works" pilot composting program in the nation has registered a success at diverting waste in a New Jersey borough.

Home-Works is a community-based composting program developed by Organic Recycling Inc., Tappan, N.Y., that provides composters, education and support to its participants.

Monmouth County, N.J., agreed to adopt the pilot, which included single-family homes, multi-family units and the institutional, commercial and industrial sector (IC&I).

The county engag-ed in an extensive sel-ection process to identify a host community that was willing to see the project through from its early planning stages to its completion.

The Borough of Brielle, located about sixty miles south of New York City, was chosen due to its:

* excellent recycling record and history of other waste reduction initiatives;

* demographics which closely fit thecounty profile, making the results easily transferable; and

* strong support of both staff and elected officials.

A neighborhood of 454 single- and 56 multi-family dwellings, comprising one garbage route, was selected for the pilot, and 77 percent of the single-family households contacted agreed to participate. Nine businesses and an elementary school also were in-cluded.

The project ran from March 1 to October 31, 1996. Waste audits were conducted before the compost bins' distribution to establish a baseline for the waste tonnage and composition. More than 25 percent of the residential household waste was determined to be readily compostable.

"Compost doctors" installed compost bins and follow ups were conducted. In addition, three newsletters were mailed and a hotline was established.

The IC&I participants' waste was audited individually, with organic content registering as high as 80 percent. The businesses separated their compostable organics into rolled Schaefer carts of varying sizes and quantities, depending on need. During twice-weekly collection, full carts were switched out with empty ones, and the material was delivered to a private composting facility.

At the school, students separated the compostable organics from their lunch waste. They held an assembly and an art contest highlighting composting's benefits.

As a result, the children took the message home, and the borough re-sponded by subsidizing compost bins to families outside of the pilot area.

By conservative figures, more than 25 percent of the households in the borough currently are composting, and the community has lowered its disposal costs.

In July, waste audits were conducted again to monitor progress, identify areas needing attention and reconcile seasonal variations.

Final audits, which concluded the project in late October, showed a total waste reduction of 45 percent, with decreases in readily compostable organics in varying percentages including:

* 33 percent among single-family homes;

* 26 percent in condos; and

* 81 percent in the IC&I organics.

Due to Brielle's success, the county is ready to provide technical support to its fifty-three municipalities that are interested in implementing home composting as an effective waste diversion strategy.

international: Anaerobic Digestion Gains Ground In Europe

Organic waste recycling in Europe doesn't stop with mulching and composting. The march toward maximum recycling of the municipal waste stream is leading Europeans to anaerobic digestion as well.

Also known as fermentation, gasification and methanization, this process decomposes biodegradable material while converting it into biogas consisting of 55 to 60 percent meth-ane and 40 to 45 percent carbon dioxide. The residue, which averages 40 to 60 percent by weight of the feedstock, can be directly applied as a soil conditioner or composted for further refinement.

Anaerobic digestion and aerobic processing (composting) complement each other. The anaerobic method lends itself to wet, compact, untextured wastes from kitchens and restaurants that interfere with air

circulation and moisture control in traditional composting. Wastes from breweries, slaughterhouses, dairies, canning plants and other food industries also can be treated. Composting, on the other hand, is the method best suited for rough, structured wastes such as shrub cuttings and other yard debris.

Several different anaerobic digestion technologies, developed in various countries, are on the market. Facilities are operating, under construction or planned in a growing number of locations.

In Salzburg, Austria, 20,000 metric tons of source-separated biowaste is processed each year by means of the same Belgian technology that is earmarked for future facilities in Flan-ders and Germany.

A Swiss technology applied in facilities near Zurich ferments the feedstock in 15 to 20 days, followed by five to 10 days of postfermentation in an aerobic environment. Two reactors of this type are now under construction at the landfill in Braunschweig, Germany. Their total annual capacity will be 20,000 metric tons of separately collected biowastes. The biogas, together with landfill gas, will be sent to a combined heat and power station at the adjacent wastewater treatment plant. Startup is scheduled for Fall 1997.

In Elsinore, Denmark, a multistage facility was completed in 1991 to process 20,000 metric tons a year of biowaste. A one-stage biogas reactor using the same German technology came on line in Kelheim County, Germany, in 1995. It converts 13,000 metric tons a year of mechanically preprocessed bio- and slaughterhouse wastes into compost and gas to power the facility.

Further reactors of this type are under construction, if not recently completed, in Karlsruhe and Munich and are planned for other cities. Smaller plants, operating in Baden-Baden and Kaufbeuern, use existing wastewater treatment plant digestors.

Developers of a French technology report that their plant in Amiens, France, was the world's first to treat household waste by continuous anaerobic digestion. Commissioned in 1987, it originally handled the city's entire municipal waste stream but later was expanded to accept a nearby city's waste as well. A preparation unit separates out the biodegradable material for methanization, and the processed biogas is sold to Gaz de France. Since 1994, a similar plant has been operating in Tilburg, the Netherlands, on a feedstock of vegetable, fruit and garden (VFG) waste.

Using yet another technology, a facility in Waasa, Finland, has been digesting biowaste from 200,000 residents since 1990. The biogas is converted into electricity by a gas motor, and surplus energy is fed to the local grid.

A beneficial feature of anaerobic digestion is odor containment, since gasification takes place in airtight enclosures. Odor emissions occur only during pre- and post-treatment, and can be controlled by cleaning and deodorizing the exhaust air in a biofilter. Coupled with compact plant design, this allows facilities to be sited closer to population centers with less risk of offending residents.

Other considerations include the complicated nature of the biological process, which is more prone to downtime than composting, and the need to treat wastewater if its not recirculated. Typically, each metric ton of input generates about 500 liters of wastewater. The biogas use generates air emissions but also saves natural gas.

Europeans see anaerobic digestion as a way to boost their recycling rates to the 50 percent mark, especially considering that at least 50 percent of Europe's household waste stream consists of biodegradable materials. Two-thirds of that is VFG; the rest includes nonrecyclable paper and cardboard, soiled single-use paper products and growing quantities of biodegradable starch-based polymers.

According to Bert Lemmes, managing director of the Organic Reclama-tion & Composting Association in Brussels, "an overall view of the economics of ... biogasification still has to be achieved." Dr. Rainer Putz of the (German) Federal Association of Citizen Initiatives for the Environment reported, however, that the production of energy promises long-term advantages despite the higher capital costs of gasification.

Agreement NTS Technology Inc., Pittsburgh, has signed an installer agreement between the NTS-subsidiary Ground Water Control (GWC), Jacksonville,Fla. and GSE Lining Technology, Houston.

Approval

Eastern Environmental Services Inc.,

Trenton, N.J. has gained final approval

from the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection Agency to complete its merger with Super Kwik, Voorhees, N.J.

based collection company with more than $22 million in annual revenue. Awards Al-jon Inc., Ottumwa, Iowa, has won a Governor's Export Award from the state of Iowa for their success in selling solid waste handling products and services in foreign markets.

Community Waste Disposal Inc., Dallas, has been awarded the Dallas & Denton County Corporate Re-cycling Council's 1996 Environmental Visions Awards for its innovative methods in municipal recycling.

Contracts

Dames & Moore, Los Angeles, has been awarded two contracts totaling $13 million by the U.S. Postal Service to provide environmental investigation, design and remdiation oversight services for post office facilities throughout the Midwest and western United States. Garb-Oil & Power Corp. and Gar-balizer Machinery Corp., sister companies based in Salt Lake City, have announced contracts with Imtech of Perth, Australia and Alberta Recov-ery Technologies, Lacombe, Canada for designing, manufacturing and installing mechanical processes for processing off-road tires in Australia and the Alberta Province.

Metcalf & Eddy Inc., Branchburg, N.J., has been awarded a multi-million dollar remediation contract at a Superfund site located in EPA Re-gion II.

Fiscal Synthetic Industries Inc., Chat-tanooga, Tenn., has reported strong financial results for the fourth quarter and fiscal year ended September 30, 1996. Net income for this quarter was $5.3 million or $0.90 per share, compared to a year-earlier net loss of $619,000 or $0.10 per share. New Distributor Galbreath Inc., Winamac, Ind., has named Gulfstream Waste Equipment, mpano Beach, Fla., as its newest distributor. New Facility Dinverno Recycling, Detroit, has completed a 25,000 square foot, $1.5 million construction recycling

center Penalty

Aptus Inc., Lake-ville, Minn., has paid a $1,600 fine for past hazardous waste violations to the Min-nesota Pollution Control Agency. People Frank W. Norris, Jr. has been named director of sales and marketing for Maintainer Corp. of Iowa Inc., Sheldon, Iowa.

Reimbursed

The state of Minnesota has reimbursed 19 businesses, counties and cities for their roles in cleaning up old, closed landfills across the state. The payment, totaling $7 million, is the third in a plan to reimburse eligible parties between $43 million and $46 million.

Relocation

LFG Specialties Inc., Middleburg Heights, Ohio, has relocated their Cleveland, Ohio engineering and administration offices. The new address: 705 South Friendship Dr., New Concord, Ohio 43762. (614) 826-7686. Fax: (614) 826-4948.

Shred-Tech Chicago, Mount Pros-pect, Ill., has moved their Wood Dale, Ill., office to a new location. The new address: 1907 Busse Rd., Mount Pros-pect, Ill. 60056. (800) 323-1265. Fax: (847) 589-8102.

Web Site

Jacobs Vehicle Equipment Co., Bloomfield, Conn., has established a home page on the Internet: http:// www.jakebrake.com.