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Articles from 1998 In January


international: Thailand: A Kingdom of Waste Management Opportunities

When one thinks of Thailand, images of an exotic land far away immediately come to mind: exquisite architecture, sumptuous food, seductive night life, waste management business opportunities ... waste management business opportunities?

For example, the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration (BMA) strongly supports privatizing medical waste management services. The reasons vary:

* expand the collection and capture a larger share of the infectious waste stream [approximately 40 percent of the 30 tonnes per day (tpd) of infectious waste generated in Bangkok currently is collected by BMA, the remainder goes into the municipal waste stream or elsewhere];

* improve the regional medical waste incinerator's operating efficiency;

* establish a service fee program (medical waste generators are currently not charged); and

* implement a waste management public relations/education program.

Other potential business opportunities exist including on-site treatment options and the expansion of existing treatment capacity.

Except for two on-site hospital incinerators, Bangkok's medical waste currently is collected by BMA's fleet of 15 trucks.

The waste is delivered to BMA's 20 tpd regional incineration facility at On-Nut. Supplemental fuel is needed for combustion to compensate for the waste's 70 percent moisture content. The incineration ash is landfilled adjacent to the incinerator.

By comparison, hazardous wastes in Thailand are treated at two locations. The first is a treatment facility for heavy metal contaminated wastewater located at Samae-Dam. (Treated sludge is landfilled at Ratchaburi.) The other is a demonstration landfill operated by General Environmental Conservation Co. Ltd. at Map-Tu Phut Industrial Estate.

Several factories have on-site incinerators for treating hazardous waste. There also are four treatment facilities being developed by the Ministry of Industry's Department of Industrial Works (DIW), including a 100 tpd incinerator and three 500 tpd physical/chemical treatment facilities.

DIW's plans to own the facilities, which are being purchased on a turn-key basis. The contractors are to provide six months of start-up assistance and training for DIW staff. The long term plan is to contract with private companies to operate the treatment facilities. Europeans, particularly the Germans and Danes, have been very active in providing assistance on hazardous waste management issues.

Other areas of need include:

* better waste quantity/characteristics data, using a Thai-based definition of hazardous waste;

* better risk assessment data to address public health and environmental concerns related to treatment facility siting; and

* an assessment of operational procedures and the technical/cost suitability of treatment options.

BMA also is interested in the privatization of the collection and disposal system for commercial and non-hazardous industrial waste generated within Bangkok. These waste streams range from 4,000 and 6,000 tpd.

This effort could require trucks and containers for collection, equipment storage and maintenance facilities, materials recovery facilities for recycling and landfills.

Although there are many reuse and recycling activities in Bangkok, there is room for much improvement. For example, coffee tins are commonly reused to store and transport used sharps. At the Rajavithi Hospital, workers physically separate cardboard, glass, plastic and paper from the non-infectious waste stream. These materials are destined for further processing and recycling by a network of small private operations in an expansive outdoor shanty town near the regional medical waste incinerator.

Hazardous waste minimization (pollution prevention), involving production process modifications to reduce waste, offers another area of opportunity. Environmental organizations in Thailand support the need for an assessment of business opportunities such as equipment sales resulting from modifying production processes.

For more information, contact: Jonathan Kiser, 35180 Dornoch Court, Round Hill, Va. 20141. Phone/ Fax: (540) 338-6358. E-mail: [email protected] aol.com

New Facilities The California Integrated Waste Management Board, Sacramento has approved a new facility to sort the city of El Cajon's solid waste. The new facility, operated by Universal Refuse Removal, will receive and transfer up to 1,000 tons per day of solid waste, recyclables and green waste. It will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

An $8 million landfill gas-to-energy plant has begun operation at Lake View Landfill, Erie, Penn., and will provide enough energy to serve approximately 5,000 homes. The new facility houses two Caterpillar G3616 generators, each capable of producing 3.05 megawatts of power and using 1.6 million standard cubic feet per day of landfill gas.

QuickQuiz

Test Your Compost Knowledge 1. Composting piles smell bad. a. true b. false

2. How many composting facilities operate in the United States? a.500 b. 1,000 c. 2,000 d. 3,000

3. Compost controls water pollution by: a. tying up nitrogen and other excess nutrients that would otherwise go into runoff b. acting as a "biofilter" - as air and water are passed through it, the compost locks up heavy metals and other pollutants and lessens odors c. retaining water, which controls erosion and runoff and reduces irrigation needs d. curbing nematodes and fungi and reducing the need for chemical pesticides e. all of the above

4. Remediation can be achieved through compost? a. true b. false

5. Window composting is: a. feeding compostable material into a drum, silo or similar structure where the environmental conditions are controlled closely b. forming large piles of compostables and insulating them with a layer of mature compost c. forming compostables into long piles or rows d. none of the above

Business Information

The Internet is a potent business information tool - for those who can weed through it wisely. A little planning and forethought before getting online, however, can mean the difference between learning how to better manage waste and wasting time.

Web documents can include text, graphics, digitized video, animation and sound files - a virtual, flexible information network. Unfortunately, this information glut often makes finding specifics on the Web a result of sheer persistence and luck. Understanding how to use Internet search tools is a step in the right direction in cybertime management.

There are four essential steps in Internet research:

* Identify what you need to find. Try to translate vague information into specific questions. For example, if you ask, "I need to know more about composting," you're being too broad. More specific questions - such as "What are the regulations for composting MSW in Pennsylvania?" or "What are the best methods for composting food waste?" - will yield a more concise, targeted list.

* Start with general reference sites. "Internet" (or "virtual") libraries and "gateway" sites are two types of general reference sites. Internet libraries are organized with respect to specific subjects and provide directories of other Internet-based directories. An excellent representative Internet library resource is the Library of Congress's Subject Guide. Clicking on the state and local governments' page, for example, links to a number of directories of state and local government web sites as well as direct links to state government home pages.

"Gateway" sites, such as the Global Recycling Network, are alternative starting points that serve as a central information source for specific industries. These sites often include articles or newsletters, lists of associations, products, services or companies and hot links.

* Review subject directories. Another savvy research technique is investigating sites that have link lists organized by subject. "Yahoo!" is one of the first and most well-known. The Yahoo! home page displays the main subject categories such as "business and economy" or "reference." These, in turn, are divided into subcategories with relevant links. Double-clicking on a link will give you access to that site. Yahoo! also provides a search engine as an alternative to manually searching its link lists.

* Use search engines. Internet telephone directories are useful and simple to use as search engines. For example, the Big Book allows you to research telephone numbers and addresses and download a map diagram for any business based on its name, industry category or geographic criteria.

There are a variety of general Internet search engines available, such as HotBot, Alta Vista, Info-Seek and Excite. These search engines rely on software to locate and retrieve information that may be found on the Web and Internet newsgroups. This information then is stored in the search engine's database where it can be accessed through a keyword query.

Again, the more specific your questions, the easier it will be to convert them into keyword search terms. For example, the question "What are the best methods for composting food waste?" can yield composting, food, waste and methods as key words. These key words, in turn, can be combined to create highly-focused searches. Each search engine has help files which explain how to use it most effectively.

Remembering Key Sites How do you return conveniently to sites that have proven to be excellent information resources (or just fun to explore)? Internet browsers can create "tags" to allow them to return quickly to previously-visited sites. Netscape Navigator calls them "bookmarks" and Microsoft Internet Explorer dubs them "favorites."

Each browser's help files will explain how these tags are best managed. Like all other valuable information on your computer's hard drive, back up these tags on a consistent schedule.

Key Sites Following are some key recycling, waste management and general business sites that you can bookmark for referral (see directory on page 39).

* @Brint Research Initiative. This site hosts an amazing number of links to Internet resources relating to business research, general and business news, information management, Internet developments and marketing and technology. It is useful especially in acquiring business and competitor intelligence, identifying new business opportunities or locating business management information.

* American Forest & Paper Association. General information on paper and wood recycling is provided on the recycling page. A notable resource is the National Wood Recycling Directory, a searchable database. Users can search for wood recycling companies based on company name, geographic criteria such as state or county and by type of wood waste accepted.

* California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB). This is one of the most well-developed state government sites devoted to waste management, recycling and waste reduction issues and includes factsheets, downloadable files and databases. A new addition is the solid waste characterization page which provides the composition of waste originating from various sources such as residences and businesses. The publications section allows users to search and order documents published by the CIWMB.

* Cornell Composting. Sponsored by the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Cornell University, this site is a great starting point for composting research.

* Environ$en$e. Enviro$en$e is part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Web network and is a comprehensive clearinghouse on pollution prevention and related subjects. In particular, an integrated solvent substitution data system permits users to search a large number of independent databases through a single query. There are links to national pollution prevention organizations as well as other waste reduction information resources.

* FedWorld Information Network. The FedWorld site is the place to start to find Federal online information resources.

* Global Recycling Network (GRN). GRN is a good reference for recycling and waste management issues. This site has comprehensive directory lists for associations, companies, government agencies, products and publications. This site also links to the "Recyclables Exchange," an Internet-based, buy-and-sell trading system for recyclable commodities. This system is a cooperative effort between GRN and the Chicago Board of Trade.

* Materials Exchanges on the Web. This is a comprehensive list of North American materials exchanges that was developed through the Kentucky Industrial Materials Exchange. A materials exchange is a service for matching generators of specific wastes with individuals or companies that can use them. This list includes available web site and e-mail addresses.

* Plastics Resources. This site was developed by the American Plastics Council (APC), and focuses on plastic that can be recovered by municipal recycling programs. It includes information on plastics, plastics recycling and applications for recycled plastics.

* Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA). This site provides links to information on SWANA conferences, professional training courses and technical publications. The latter includes research sponsored by SWANA and other organizations on innovative waste management technologies and practices.

* Small Business Development Centers. This is a national list of Small Business Development Centers (SBDC) that can be found on the American Express Web Site. SBDCs provide free planning and management assistance to small businesses.

* Thomas Register of Manufacturers. This venerable business reference now is available as a searchable database on the Thomas Register website. Access to the database is free but requires users to register first.

* U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA site has a wealth of technical, educational and regulatory information on municipal solid wastes, hazardous wastes, other types of waste materials, recycling, pollution prevention and waste reduction. There are many general educational and technical documents available for downloading. Good starting points would be either the Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response Home Page or the Projects & Programs page. Recommended program pages include the Landfill Methane Out-reach Program, Waste Wi$e and Pay-As-You-Throw pages. Because the EPA site is so large, the use of its search engine is advised.

Internet Search Tools Alta Vista - http://www.altavista.digital.com/

Big Book - http://www.bigbook.com/

Excite - http://www.excite.com/

HotBot - http://www.hotbot.com/

Library of Congress Subject Guide - http://lcweb.loc.gov/global/subject.html

Yahoo! - http://www.yahoo.com/

Business and Waste Management Research @Brint Research Initiative - http://www.brint.com/

American Forest & Paper Association - http://www.afandpa.org/

California Integrated Waste Management Board - http://www.ciwmb.ca.gov/

Cornell Composting - http://www.cals.cornell.edu/dept/compost/

Enviro$en$e - http://es.inel.gov/

FedWorld Information - http://www.fedworld.gov/

Global Recycling Network - http://www.grn.com/

Materials Exchanges on the Web - http://www.enviroworld.com/resources/matexchs.html

Plastics Resource - http://www.plasticsresource.com/

PRISM - http://www.wrfound.org.uk/

Small Business Development Centers - http://www.americanexpress.com/smallbusiness/resources/expanding/sbdc/

Solid Waste Association of North America - http://www.swana.org/

Thomas Register of Manufacturers - http://www.thomasregister.com:8000/

United States Environmental Protection Agency - http://www.epa.gov/epaoswer/

Water Quality and Waste Management - http://www.bai.ncsu.edu/programs/extension/publicat/wqwm/index3.html

Help with Your Gas

Are there opportunities for your community to cash in on your landfill gas? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can help you assess whether LFGTE is right for your facility and what opportunities are available through its Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP).

Drawing upon the experiences of more than 150 landfill gas-to-energy (LFGTE) projects nationwide, EPA has developed this specialized program whose products and services include: Turning a Liability into an Asset: A Landfill Gas-to-Energy Project Development Hand-book, LFGTE project economics evaluation software (E-PLUS), training workshops, on-site technical assessments and technology primers and fact sheets.

For more information, contact LMOP, U.S. EPA 6202J, 401 M St. SW, Washington, D.C. 20460. Call toll-free (888) STAR-YES. Fax: (703) 934-3895. LMOP's home page: http://www.epa.gov/lmop/

finance: S&P Gives Credit Where Credit is Due

Competition drives virtually every public and private solid waste operation, so it should come as no surprise that it directly affects a project's financing.

In a recent report, Standard & Poor's (S&P), New York City, developed business profiles for 15 solid waste and resource recovery systems. The profiles measure the systems' ability to effectively compete and are particularly useful where the credit rating is primarily driven by non-business rating factors, such as legal provisions or finances.

The five factors considered in a S&P solid waste business profile are:

* management;

* operations;

* competitive position/project economics;

* markets; and

* regulation.

A 10-point scale is used, with '1' representing the strongest overall business profile. This subset of the factors considered in credit ratings (see chart on page 22), provides for a strong correlation between business profiles and credit quality.

The 15 solid waste and recovery systems profiled are geographically dispersed, representing 10 states, with service districts ranging from densely-populated urban and suburban areas, such as Camden County, N.J., to more rural areas, including the coastal region of central North Carolina. Also included is Delaware's integrated statewide system.

The systems also differ in operations. Seven currently rely on waste-to-energy (WTE) facilities, and the rest are primarily landfill-based systems. Finally, the credit quality of the initial group ranges from 'A' with a stable outlook, to 'BB' on CreditWatch with negative implications.

Since S&P does not rate any unenhanced solid waste systems higher than 'A+,' with the majority of ratings ranging from 'BBB' to 'A', business profiles fell in a relatively narrow band. Also, the majority were expected to score below 3.5 with WTE-based systems generally scoring lower (due to their comparatively higher fixed costs) than landfill-based systems.

A more favorable score would indicate very limited business risk, which would require a combination of the following characteristics:

* low tipping fees;

* proactive management;

* increasing trends in waste flow;

* high degree of control over collection of waste;

* sound facility operations with adequate disposal capacity;

* limited regulatory-driven capital needs;

* good relationships with customers and haulers; and

* limited pressure due to the local political environment.

The three systems that scored the highest (3.8 - 4.4) have several common characteristics. All three use landfills as the primary disposal method and, to date, none have experienced problems with waste diversion. Shasta Joint Powers Financing Authority, Calif., for example, has low tipping fees ($30 per ton for county users). And, Delaware Solid Waste Authority has kept its relatively competitive tipping fee ($56.50 per ton) stable over the past several years.

On the other hand, Coastal Regional Solid Waste Management Authority's, N.C., tipping fee, at $48 per ton, is somewhat higher than the regional average. But, alternative disposal sites are limited and the trends in waste flow have been increasing despite a somewhat limited economic base.

Shasta also has seen waste flow increases, while Delaware has experienced very stable waste flow levels. All three have favorable operating profiles. Interestingly, Coastal is rated 'BBB', while Shasta and Delaware are rated 'A'. A recent start-up, Coastal's comparatively favorable business profile indicates that the outlook could be revised to positive, or the rating could be upgraded as the authority builds a greater track record.

Two landfill-based systems that did not fare as well as the top group, yet still scored above the mid-point are Prince Georges County, Md. (4.9) and Metro Waste Disposal System, Ore. (4.9). Both are rated 'A.'

For Metro, the score was not higher due to tipping fees ($70 per ton) that are above the regional average. These higher fees are driven in part by aggressive recycling and hazardous materials programs. However, Metro, with few nearby competitors, has lowered tipping fees somewhat and has significant financial flexibility to make further reductions.

Prince Georges County, which also has a somewhat uncompetitive cost profile, has successfully implemented a user charge system for residents that has enabled a more competitive tip fee for the commercial wastes, which is more vulnerable to diversion.

The Southeastern Public Service Authority, Va., (4.8) which operates a refuse-derived-fuel facility has the best score for a WTE-based system.

Despite some losses in commercial waste, the authority's business profile, and its 'A-' rating, is supported by favorable plant operations, and a strong management team that has adapted well to competitive pressures.

Lancaster, currently rated 'BBB' has the most notable score in this group due to its management's proactive approach to the competitive pressures facing the system. Lancaster's competitive strategy, including negotiating contracts with haulers and marketing plant capacity for specialty waste, is expected to lead for significant improvement in competitive position, which would stabilize its credit quality.

Some of the system's that scored less favorably share certain characteristics, including uncompetitive tipping fees and waste streams vulnerable to diversion. Among this group are Commerce Refuse to Energy Authority, Calif. (6.15), Sarasota County Solid Waste Dept., Fla. (5.9) and Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Authority, N.Y. (6.3).

The lowest scores were assigned to Union County Utilities Authority, N.J., and Camden County Pollution Control Financing Authority, N.J. Both are rated 'BB' and are on CreditWatch. Both authorities have uncompetitive tipping fees driven by the high WTE-related fixed costs.

Until recently, management in both Union and Camden counties made little progress as New Jersey's system of flow control was temporarily preserved.

However, since the Supreme Court declined to hear all appeals regarding flow control in New Jersey last November, these systems are operating in a competitive open market environment. S&P will continue to monitor the situation in New Jersey and comment upon the effects to these issuers credit qualities.

Although many solid waste ratings have remained stable, the overall trend in credit quality has been negative. The systems most exposed to the competitive environment have witnessed rating downgrades.

However, as other systems have adapted to competition, there is evidence that solid waste and recovery systems with the strongest business characteristics can prosper.

Permit Total Tire Recycling, Sacramento, Calif., a facility handling waste tires from the Bay Area and throughout Northern California, has been granted a five-year operating permit by the California Integrated Waste Management Board, allowing it to store up to 10,500 waste tires at its nearly five-acre site in southeast Sacramento.

Production Streamline In an effort to streamline Aljon's customer-focused manufacturing, the company has announced they will no longer produce their line of scrap tire processing equipment and wheel loader attachments. Aljon will, however, continue to service existing equipment.

Stock Pall Corp., East Hills, N.Y., has signed an agreement to purchase all the outstanding capital stock of the swiss holding company Argentaurum AG, including its Rochem subsidiaries. Pall will pay a minimum of $48 million to a maximum of $64 million and the transactions will be accounted for as an asset purchase.

Is the Bid "Too Good to be True?"

The highest price for materials may not always be the best bid. Generators can evaluate the companies based on their:

* previous experience;

* length of time in business;

* financial condition;

* understanding of and response to the bid; and

* transportation costs.

If a bidder provides a price that is way out of line with other bids, the bid price may be the result of an error or misunderstanding, may be due to inexperience or may be a speculative market. A bid that is "too good to be true" may result in the processor backing out of the bid at a later date, leaving the generator the responsibility of finding a new processor.

legislation: Europeans Get Tough on Environmental Enforcement

Environmental enforcement now is a concern for companies with European facilities due to pollution control measures becoming increasingly detailed and demanding over the past ten years. For good measure, national officials nowadays take their own regulations more seriously, basking in the political afterglow when environmental criminals are punished.

A 1992 international treaty created the European Union, which consists of a foreign policy wing; a legal and internal affairs cooperative; and, most important, the European Community (EC). Existing since 1957, the EC passes legislation on environmental, health and safety matters, but has no power to enforce these laws against private parties. Thus, enforcement falls to individual member states, where vast differences in economic and political priorities have produced disparities in environmental enforcement across the continent.

To promote uniformity, the EC and national governments have created an information exchange network for environmental inspectors, including sharing views on enforcement techniques and the interpretation of EC legislation.

Environmental officials in Europe pursue violators through administrative and, often, criminal sanctions. Civil penalties do not exist. A party who injures another may have tort liability under a civil law compensation system, which is not part of environmental enforcement.

Administrative sanctions include orders to cease persistent violations, to clean up contaminated property, and to close facilities. Criminal penalties include fines and imprisonment. In some countries - the Netherlands, for example - prosecutors calculate fines on a daily basis. Elsewhere - Belgium, for instance - ongoing violations are handled as a single criminal act with a lump-sum penalty.

Fines range from relatively insignificant (equivalent to $1,000) for delinquent status reports in France to millions of dollars for serious contamination problems. Belgian, Danish and Dutch courts increasingly have imposed prison terms in waste-related cases. Some national laws permit extraordinary measures, such as prohibiting a convicted individual from engaging in certain business activities or an outright governmental take-over of an enterprise.

The laws of some countries do not make it possible for companies to be held criminally liable. For example, in Austria, Belgium and Germany only individuals can be criminally punished. To circumvent this limitation, courts and lawmakers have become creative in trapping companies in the enforcement net.

Under Belgian law, for example, a company may be haled into the criminal court as a "civilly liable party" and made jointly and severally liable for the fines assessed against one of its employees. By contrast, an individual convicted in a German court must sue his employer in civil court to recover the fine. Unfortunately, even when a company ends up paying the fine, the employee himself still is left with a criminal record.

Continental courts often focus as much on whether a manager had authority to prevent an environmental violation as whether the manager actually committed or contributed to the offense. Thus, courts may hold a company's officers and directors liable even where they delegated pollution control to an environmental coordinator.

Belgian law, for example, addresses "environmentally responsible persons." When a judge in a Belgian court hears evidence about delegated management, witnesses may be asked about whether the company selected a competent person, whether the designated employee received proper training, staffing, authority and funding, and whether senior management adequately supervised the coordinators. Belgian courts have ruled that some obligations - say, the duty to apply for a permit - are so fundamental that senior managers always will be held liable.

When conducting routine inspections, environmental inspectors may freely enter sites, inspect records and question employees. A company's full cooperation is required. However, when inspectors uncover a violation, the rules suddenly change. Dutch and Belgian inspectors, for example, lose much of their investigative powers when the likelihood of criminal prosecution emerges. Thereupon, any evidence that an inspector gathers without approval from the public prosecutor cannot be used in criminal proceedings.

As a result, officials typically conduct extended routine visits, even to the extent of a full-blown criminal investigation, particularly when defendants don't know and don't assert their rights. Many companies end up sacrificing their rights and interests in a misguided attempt to maintain good relations with government agencies.

If inspectors find a violation, they prepare a report for a public prosecutor. Before continuing an investigation, however, the prosecutor first must seek the appointment of an "instruction judge" - an officer of the court responsible for collecting both exculpatory and incriminating evidence. The judge has broad powers to detain suspects, to question witness under oath, and to order the preparation of expert analyses.

The political sensitivity and legal complexity of continental environmental regulation now are forcing companies and managers into sophisticated management and compliance programs, redefining what Europeans view as "sound business practices."

New Organization The boards of the North Carolina Recycling Association and the South Carolina Recycling Association have voted to consolidate into one group by July 1, 1998, pending approval of the membership of both groups.

New Facility A leachate pretreatment facility has opened at the Waste Management Inc.-owned Iris Glen Environmental Center in Johnson City, Tenn. Designed by Rust Environmental & Infrastructure, Grennville, S.C., the facility is a sequencing batch reactor that treats 10,000-25,000 gallons per day of landfill leachate. It features semi-continuous biological processes that use aerobic and anoxic operating conditions to treat organic constituents and ammonia.

Wisconsin Cracks Down on Recycling Mandates

RIVERDALE, MD. - Twenty-four Wisconsin newspapers and printers have been slapped with fines from the state for falling a few points short of using 35 percent recycled fibers.

These levied fines - ranging from $38 to $13,670 - make Wisconsin the first state to enforce its recycled-content mandate on newsprint. So far, 12 states have such mandates while 13 more have voluntary agreements, according to surveys by State Recycling Laws Update, Riverdale, Md.

Although most state laws have so many exemptions for "availability" and "price" that the mandates have little teeth, 13 of the fined Wisconsin publishers discovered that their state's bite is as bad as its bark: All were denied exceptions.

Wisconsin is not the only state getting hard-nosed on paper recycling. In California, members of the California Integrated Waste Management Board, Sacramento, are wringing their hands over how best to ensure timely submission of annual recycled newsprint use reports. Last year, 51 of the 195 companies required to submit the reports filed them at least 45 days late. The Board is considering assessing civil penalties of up to $1,000 for each violation, after providing notice to the delinquent company and conducting a formal public hearing.

With recycled content averaging 25 percent nationwide, publishers have been hard-pressed to meet California's stiff 40-percent-by-1998 recycling mandate, a goal which is also law in Arizona, Connecticut and Missouri.

However, California already has topped this goal for two consecutive years, as its newspaper industry used recycled content paper nearly 50 percent of the time - more than 800,000 tons of recycled newsprint in 1996.

Due to the flat newsprint market, many newsprint mills are finding it difficult to justify any new recycled newsprint capacity - a situation that some states are finding ways to accommodate. For example, rather than mete out fines, Connecticut, Maryland and North Carolina have amended their recycled content laws to either allot more time or allow newspaper credit for their own internal recycling programs.

Newspapers remain the single largest category of material collected in residential recycling programs: After recycling, Americans still trashed 4.38 million tons of old newsprint (ONP) in 1996. Despite the content mandates, the market for ONP decreased to $0 to $25 per ton in 1996 before increasing to $20 to $40 per ton last year.

For more information on recycling legislation, contact Raymond Communications Inc., 6429 Auburn Ave., Riverdale, Md. 20737-1614. (301) 345-4237. Fax: (301) 345-4768. Web: www. raymond.com/recycle

The compost hedge

Just as investors diversify their financial portfolios, municipal solid waste (MSW) managers around the country have diversified their approach to waste management, aiming to meet federal and state diversion goals.

Diversification involves a mixture of recycling and composting strategies. While recycling performs like a high-risk mutual fund - providing great returns one year only to be socked by losses the next, according to the flow and ebb of prices - composting provides steady and reliable diversions and low costs year in and year out.

Composting represents the conservative side of the MSW management portfolio, a low-cost, low-return, stable hedge against recycling's dramatic ups and downs.

While municipalities frequently seem to take investment risks when it comes to high-profile recycling processes, comparatively few seem willing to make unusual financial investments in composting. For example, many forego leasing and rely entirely on outright purchase when they seek to acquire equipment.

Take the Dickerson leaf and grass composting facility in Montgomery County, Md. Montgomery County owns the 10-year-old facility and contracts out day-to-day operations to Maryland Environmental Services (MES), Annapolis, a state agency and non-profit corporation.

The county aims to divert 50 percent of its MSW stream by 2000. County figures show that yard trimmings, leaves and grass account for about 20 percent of the total waste stream, which is why composting is an important investment toward achieving diversion goals.

Important? Yes. Expensive? Not really. Montgomery County acquired the Dickerson facility in the 1980s from the local water company.

Built as a temporary sludge composting station by the water company, the site includes a 55-acre asphalt pad, making it one of the largest composting facilities in the country.

"Most grass and leaf composting facilities don't have an asphalt pad," says Mark Thompson, the county's composting project manager. "It is easy to operate on. While it would have been expensive to build, it has not been too expensive to maintain. Over the years, we've only needed a few minor repairs."

More than 60,000 tons of material arrive annually at Dickerson by truck and by rail from the local transfer station. The rail cars require a high capacity scale, and the facility owns a 130,000-pound capacity model.

Five front end loaders form the material into windrows, which are turned by three self-propelled windrow turners, manufactured by Scarab Manufacturing and Leasing Inc., White Deer, Texas.

It takes about a year of windrowing to compost the volume of material flowing into Dickerson, says Nanci Koerting, the facility's operations manager.

"Our season starts in September and October when the leaves come in to start the windrows," she says. "In April, grass begins to arrive. We mix the grass and leaves, and active composting starts. The turning equipment runs all summer. At the end of the season, the material is pushed into piles and cures."

After curing, two trommel-style screeners sift the material, separating oversized pieces and contaminants from the finished product, which is called "Leaf-Gro," a trademarked brand marketed by MES to landscapers, landscape architects, soil mixing companies and retailers.

The process costs the county $20 to $25 per ton - dramatically less than incineration or landfilling. Incineration costs would be more than $25 per ton and disposing of the ash afterwards would cost $35 per ton, Thompson says. And, landfilling the leaves and grass would cost about $35 per ton.

So, as long as equipment costs remain under control, the county wins on every front.

Old-Fashioned Cash Thompson places the capital value of the facility's equipment at just over $2 million for the scales, loaders, windrow turners and trommel screens as well as two ancillary tub grinders used at the transfer station to pre-process material.

He doesn't like to get fancy with equipment acquisition, preferring straight purchase plans to loans, leasing and renting. "We always have believed that we can get more out of purchase dollars than leasing dollars," he says. "We have a good preventive maintenance program, and we squeeze every bit of life out of the equipment that we can."

"As long as the equipment is well-maintained, life expectancy is very high," Koerting agrees. "For example, we have one windrow turner that is 10 years old and continues to work well."

The Compost Division of the Solid Waste Authority of Palm Beach County, Fla., also favors the purchase of equipment over financing methods.

In Palm Beach, composting occurs at the county landfill and diverts about 500 tons per day of both sludge and vegetation from the solid waste stream.

The composting facilities span two buildings: Building "A" houses 12 bays, and building "B" has 24 bays. The bays run to a length of 250 feet with widths and depths of six feet.

Nine computer controlled and motorized agitators supplied by Knight Industrial Division, Broadhead, Wis., move through the bays, starting the composting process by mixing the sludge and vegetation. It takes between 14 and 21 days for material to travel the length of a bay.

Vegetation arrives by way of the transfer station's trucks or as a commercial drop-off. Arriving vegetation passes through a drum grinder and a trommel screen separator. Sludge comes in on trucks and goes directly to the bays for loading into the mixers.

Front-end loaders deposit the vegetation and sludge into the mixers, which slowly mix and drive the material from the front of the bays to the back. The material drops out of the bay's back, where a front-end loader scoops it onto a tractor trailer for transport to the county's marketing company facilities.

Equipment costs between $1 million and $2 million and is purchased in a conservative manner through a characteristic low-bid process and then is carefully maintained, says Bob Weil, the authority's inventory and maintenance specialist.

"Because of the need for parts interchange ability on the mixers, we go with a sole source provider," he says. "With the loaders, we use an open bid process and deal with several vendors."

Weil manages maintenance to get the most out of the equipment. "We own an extra mixer, so that we can continue to operate if one goes down," he says. "In addition, every Wednesday, we shut down the facility and thoroughly clean and service each machine."

Money Well Spent The Oneida County Solid Waste Department, about three hours north of Green Bay in northern Wisconsin, has purchased about $200,000 worth of equipment for two composting programs operating from the county landfill.

The landfill handles about 18,000 tons of material annually and exports an additional 8,000 tons. The composting efforts divert another 14,000 tons per year from the landfill, says Bart Sexton, the county's solid waste administrator.

"Our largest composting program takes wastewater rejects from a local paper company and composts them in open windrows of fiber cake," he says. "The second program composts source separated organics (paper and food wastes) from grocery stores, restaurants, school cafeterias and other area food service operations."

The open windrows of fiber cake are turned with a Bio System Aeromaster 120, a power-take-off compost turner that attaches to a tractor with a creeper drive.

After the active composting period, the material is spread and mixed into the top layer of soil with a chisel plow.

"The result is a stable product that can be screened and handled with machinery," he says. "It does continue to break down, but not at the rate of the straight compost, which is a kind of pudding that can gum up the screens and other machines."

In the source-separated organics composting program, Sexton shreds the arriving material with a Jenz AZ 35, a horizontal feed rotary drum with swinging hammers and replaceable knives. The shredded material is deposited onto wood chips in static aerated piles under roof. The piles rise to about eight feet. A John Deere 544 loader with a four-in-one bucket turns the material once every one or two months.

Within two to three months, the material has broken down enough to allow combining two piles into one. After another two months, Sexton moves the piles out of the enclosures to a curing pad where it is separated with a Pro-Screen.

"We buy most of our equipment outright," Sexton says. "Our county board is a cash-on-the-barrel-head type of crew, which is a good way to be these days. If you don't have the money, you shouldn't buy the equipment."

The county considered leasing in the past, but rejected the option in favor of spending capital, according to Sexton. "I think that the only time you would lease equipment for composting is if when you don't have the initial capital available, but do have long-term commitments, preferably contractual agreements promising to buy tonnage," he says.

On the other hand, Sexton rents screening equipment. "A screen for our operation would cost a minimum of $110,000," he explains. "At our facility, we screen off about 6,000 cubic yards of compost a year during a six-week period. It's generally a better deal for us to rent the screen."

Except for Sexton's rental of a single piece of equipment, these three different municipal composting operations insist on the financial strategy of acquiring equipment through straightforward purchase plans - and all seem satisfied with the returns on this conservative side of their diversion investments.