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Seattle Recycling Laws Take Effect

Seattle — A set of recycling laws took effect in Seattle on Jan. 1. Under the laws, city residents and businesses must recycle paper and cardboard. Residents also must recycle tin and aluminum cans and plastic and glass bottles, according to a report in the Seattle Times newspaper.

"The new rules will not lead to any immediate rate increases, or penalties for failing to comply," the paper reports. "Those who put large amounts of paper and other recyclables in their garbage cans will receive notices this year explaining the new rules." In 2006, the city will begin to issue fines under certain circumstances.

Needle-Free Trash

THE U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, D.C., has issued a set of new recommendations on how residents should dispose of used syringes. The guidelines are designed to minimize the health risks to solid waste workers and others who might come into contact with the needles, such as a resident's neighbors, children or pets.

The EPA released the recommendations after consulting with the Houston-based Coalition for Safe Community Needle Disposal, a group of government agencies, professional associations and businesses that includes the Washington, D.C.-based National Recycling Coalition and Houston-based Waste Management Inc.

The coalition will focus on helping states develop safe needle disposal programs, says Jenny Schumann, executive director of the coalition. “We view [EPA's recommendations] as a first step,” she says.

The guidelines, which are outlined in EPA brochures, instruct residents not to dispose of used needles in their regular trash, in recycling containers or in their toilets. The recommendations urge the residents to, where available, take the syringes to used-needle drop-off sites. Some communities offer household hazardous waste containers, “special waste” pickup services and needle exchange programs, according to the brochures. Some firms also offer needle-mailback services or home needle destruction devices.

Used needles can spread germs and diseases such as HIV/AIDs, hepatitis and syphilis if they stick people, according to the brochures. Between 8 million to 9 million people in the United States regularly use needles at home to treat ailments including diabetes, arthritis and hepatitis, the coalition says.

The brochures are free and are available for download. They also can be ordered by calling (800) 490-9198. State and local governments should request the brochure titled “EPA530-K-04-001.”

Help for the Job Search

The Waste Equipment Technology Association (WASTEC), Washington, D.C., and Waste Recruiters, Burleson, Texas, are creating an online employment center for WASTEC's Web site. The center, which was scheduled to begin operating by late December, will allow people looking for employment in the solid waste industry to search job listings. Job seekers also can post their resumes and register with Waste Recruiters. The firm will try to match them with employers.

Solid waste companies also can use the online center to get Waste Recruiters to locate candidates to fill job openings. The company will be charged a fee if it hires someone that was referred by Waste Recruiters.

“It can be tough to find quality people,” says Gary Satterfield, executive vice president for WASTEC. “This is our way of bringing people who have jobs and those who are interested in jobs together.”

Flow Control Flunks

A FEDERAL JUDGE HAS RULED that a Daviess County, Ky., law mandating where trash collected in the county can be disposed of does not pass constitutional muster. U.S. District Judge Joseph H. McKinley Jr. struck down the ordinance because he concluded it violates the U.S. Constitution's dormant Commerce Clause by discriminating against the interstate flow of municipal solid waste. His ruling came in a lawsuit filed by the Washington, D.C.-based National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA).

Daviess County passed the ordinance in early 2004, but clearly anticipating NSWMA's lawsuit, did so with the provision that it would not enforce the law until it had been approved by a federal court. The ordinance would have required trash collectors to register for non-exclusive franchises with the county and said that they must dispose of their waste at either the county-owned landfill or the county-owned transfer station. The county has said that the law creates low-cost disposal services that prevent public dumping problems.

“We are pleased by the judge's decision,” says David Biderman, general counsel for NSWMA. “It's consistent with other cases holding that these types of flow-control laws violate the Commerce Clause.” Bryan Reynolds, an Owensboro, Ky., attorney who helped represent the county, did not comment on the ruling, but did say the county would decide whether to appeal by mid-December.

The ruling should come as no surprise, says Barry Shanoff, general counsel for the Solid Waste Association of North America, Silver Spring, Md. “This is full-frontal flow control,” he says. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers Kentucky, is “highly unlikely to overturn the ruling,” Shanoff adds.

In its landmark 1994 Carbone decision, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Clarkstown, N.Y.'s flow control law — which required all trash collected in the town to be brought to a certain transfer station — because it concluded the law discriminated against interstate commerce by excluding other waste processors, both in- and out-of-state, from the market. However, Daviess County argued that McKinley should validate its ordinance by following the reasoning of a 2001 decision by the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which covers New York state, Connecticut and Vermont.

In that ruling, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals determined that a flow control law adopted by the Oneida-Herkimer (N.Y.) Solid Waste Management Authority does not discriminate against the flow of interstate waste because the designated disposal sites — unlike the one in the Carbone case — are publicly owned. Therefore, the law evenhandedly affects all in- and out-of-state private businesses, the appeals court reasoned. The appeals court sent the case back to the lower court to decide whether any incidental burdens placed on interstate commerce by the law outweigh the local benefits. A decision is pending.

McKinley wrote that he disagreed with the Second Circuit's assertion in the Oneida-Herkimer case that the “Carbone decision turned on whether the facility was public or private.” The case “focused instead on the effect of the flow control ordinance — that it hoarded solid waste, and the demand to get rid of it, for the benefit of the single local proprietor,” he wrote.

“[T]he Sixth Circuit has not directly addressed the public/private distinction,” McKinley added. “However, until it does so, the prudent course is to follow Carbone … to find that the ordinance discriminates against the flow of interstate waste.”

Biderman says McKinley's ruling and other lower court decisions around the country show “local governments outside of [the Second Circuit] that they shouldn't expect to rely on [the Oneida-Herkimer decision] as a justification for their flow-control laws.”

However, the decision will not have a huge impact on local governments, Shanoff asserts. “A lot of communities will look at the decision and say, ‘So what?’ Local governments, for the most part, are pursuing their local interests with means and methods that ultimately will survive legal challenges based on Commerce Clause theories,” he says.

Safety: Your Lifeblood

THE IMAGE OF SAFETY in the waste industry is evolving. No longer a few cautionary posters in the workplace and a manual gathering dust on a shelf, safety now is a necessary business expense. “It's really more like an investment than a cost,” notes Jim Schultz, Waste Management Inc.'s vice president for health and safety. “Safety isn't only the right thing to do, it's good business,” he says.

With those sentiments in mind, modern refuse companies have been stepping up their efforts to reduce on-the-job hazards and to ingrain safety practices into the essence of their operations. The results have been measurable.

For example, through its “Mission to Zero” — meaning zero accidents — safety program, Houston-based Waste Management has reduced injuries by 20 percent each year since 2001, Schultz says. In the past four years, Scottsdale, Ariz.-based Allied Waste Industries has reduced accidents by 60 percent, says Garry Mosier, safety director.

Equipment changes in the past decade — automated collection vehicles, low-entry cabs, higher-visibility vests and sturdier protective clothing — plus stricter standards and initiatives from the Washington, D.C.-based Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA) no doubt account for many of the industry's overall safety improvements, too. According to a U.S. Department of Labor study, the industry's fatality rate dropped 30 percent in 2002 compared to the previous year. From 1998 to 2002, OSHA also found that the injury and illness rate among waste businesses dipped from 11 incidents per 100 full-time employees to 7.3 incidents, a decrease of 35 percent.

However, the commitment of sanitation employees is what drives a successful safety program, industry experts say. Even the most cunningly designed safety strategy is doomed to failure without the support of all parts of the organization.

“It's about winning hearts and minds,” says Schultz, a former fighter pilot. “You have to have the engagement and buy-in of field management, operators and senior leadership, but you also have to have a personal level of involvement for each individual. It's an art form, not a science.”

Up Close and Personal

So how do you develop a safety program that jibes with employees?

First, “you have to change the behavior of ‘it won't happen to me,’” says Susan Eppes, president of waste industry consulting firm EST Solutions, Houston. “Drivers with 20 years of experience may have always done the same potentially unsafe things over and over and never learned anything different. The best programs take real-life accidents and show how they can have a personal effect on the employees.”

You want to get away from relying on compliance-based programs, Mosier suggests, noting that Allied wants all of its employees “to take personal ownership for their safety.” Direct employee input is crucial to crafting a safety message, he says.

“You can't take people with bright minds and beat them into submission by pushing policies and programs,” agrees Larry Stone, safety director for Rumpke Consolidated Cos., Cincinnati. “It's important to get [workers'] input on drafts and listen to them.”

When developing its safety program, Rumpke conducted a survey of 50 of its drivers, asking them five questions about the hazards they see every day. “One of the questions was, ‘How many times do you experience a near-miss?’” Stone says. “We were surprised to hear that almost every one of [the drivers] said, ‘At least once a day.’”

Feedback such as this is valuable to route managers. “Employees can monitor when and where there's a bad customer, someone who puts needles in the waste stream or overloads containers,” Eppes says.

Waste Management has accumulated drivers', truck experts', mechanics' and managers' knowledge over the years and created an “Operating Rule Book,” a list of best practices used by all drivers of the company's 30,000-truck fleet. “We brought in the best drivers and route managers and asked them how they do everything,” Schultz says. “They're the best consultants.”

To facilitate the process of acquiring employee input, Republic Services Inc., Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., also organized safety committees “in which information flows both up and down,” says Mike Lambert, corporate safety director. When all employees are on board with a safety program and know that it will make their jobs and lives easier, they almost begin to supervise themselves. “You know you've changed the culture when the line employees can approach each other and point out safety issues,” he says.

Just Rewards

If reducing the risk to life and limb is not enough of a motivator, a company can offer incentives. Allied, for instance, lets each of its divisions come up with a recognition program to encourage safe driving. “We're in the process of rolling out a gift certificate program,” Mosier says. “Called ‘Recognizing Excellence,’ the program will award gifts such as jackets, belt buckles and a commemorative ring to [drivers] who achieve the top level.”

Driver incentive programs are building staff morale at Republic, Lambert adds. Safety records are tied to the performance of the company's line managers and drivers. “We've seen a significant drop [in turnover] since the incentive program started,” he says. “It gives [everyone] a much better feeling about the company.”

Keith George, managing director of Camp Hill, Pa.-based American Wholesale Insurance Group, which manages the Environmental Industry Associations' insurance program, says stability and low staff turnover help to determine whether automobile coverage or workers' compensation premiums should be lowered.

“A lot of firms have trouble attracting and retaining good drivers,” George says. “Some incentive-based arrangement, such as a $100 gift certificate, gives [workers] a little stake in the game. The potential increase of premiums due to increased claims would far outweigh the costs of an incentive program,” he says.

Hit the Books

To improve safety, it's also important for management to provide adequate training. Too often, Lambert says, the best safety practices are not adequately ingrained in the minds of new employees. “We often bring together a group of mechanics and drivers and ask them, ‘What can we do to improve safety?’” he says. “Without exception, they always say, ‘Train your new guys better.’”

To address that, Republic has enhanced its safety training manual, expanding the standard 22 topics in OSHA's lockout/tagout procedures to 142, tailored to the company's operations. A comprehensive, more detailed monthly safety program was set up for drivers, helpers and equipment operators.

“When new drivers are hired, they are told to use their mirrors, but they're never told how to use those mirrors,” Lambert says. “If you don't see your helper, what do you do?”

Allied's supervisor and employee training program consists of between 10 to 15 different classes conducted in various areas of the country each year, Mosier says. Instructors include former police officers as well as two chiropractors who show collection crews how to lift properly.

One innovation that helps to tie together training efforts in Allied's network of 315 collection companies is the adoption of PlaceWare, a live, Internet-based conferencing tool. It allows monthly safety seminars to be conducted from the corporate office over the phone in various Allied regions simultaneously, Mosier says.

Waste Management employees participate in annual safety training under the “Mission to Zero” program, which consists of a rigorous three-tier certification process. It is like “a rite of passage,” Schultz says.

The company's Green Certification for managers and supervisors provides training for safety fundamentals. The next phase, Gold Certification, is given to drivers and assistants who work directly with Waste Management's customers. The final Platinum Certification phase, awarded to upper management, includes training on compliance with regulations and access to the WasteMaster/ALIVE system that monitors each driver's activities.

Outreach and Branding

Because the waste industry has frequent daily contact with the public, companies must extend their safety programs to the community in the form of public education and awareness campaigns.

For Rumpke, the necessity of these programs was made brutally clear last year. In a four-day span, Rumpke refuse drivers suffered two tragic accidents. One driver incurred severe head injuries when a car struck him on New Year's Eve 2003, and another driver was killed on Jan. 3, 2004, when he was hit by a sports-utility vehicle.

From the depths of those two tragedies, Stone launched “Slow Down to Get Around,” a universal education program available at no charge to haulers and municipalities. The campaign is designed to raise public awareness about the need to drive with caution around refuse vehicles and crews. Rumpke's truck supplier, McNeilus, owned by Oshkosh Corp., helped to fund and promote the campaign. “This may open [truck manufacturers'] eyes to a new way of working with their customers,” Stone says.

The campaign includes large truck decals with the “Slow Down to Get Around” logo and two radio and television commercials, which Rumpke produced for about $10,000. The ads, however, are generic, allowing space for participants — even other haulers — to add their own names and logos. After its introduction at last year's WasteExpo 2004 tradeshow, 175 cities and municipalities around the country signed up to participate, Stone says. Rumpke is in the process of adding another 57 towns in Cuyahoga County, Ohio, to the program.

The tactic of “branding” safety programs is used extensively at Waste Management to make a visual and mental impact on employees and the public, Schultz says. “Mission to Zero,” he says, acts as the company's umbrella safety program. Other initiatives under the “M2Z” name include “Transition to Recovery,” to help injured persons get the best medical care available, and “Life Changer,” which encourages drivers to “change someone's life for the better” through safe behavior, such as by being courteous at a traffic signal or watching out for children on bicycles.

Sharing the Wealth

Innovative programs such as “Mission to Zero” and “Slow Down to Get Around” are encouraging signs that safety has become a core value that should be shared freely with employees, customers, municipalities and even competitors in the waste industry, Eppes says.

“So many companies are developing safety programs for school kids or customizing programs to make a more personal impact on their employees,” she says. “We're starting to realize that not everything our employees do is within our control. A bad safety record reflects poorly on our standing in the community. From a public relations standpoint, injuries, accidents, dirty trucks and lateness all can affect contract renewals.”

Rumpke already is embarking on a new landfill safety program. A group of five industrial hygenics students from the University of Cincinnati has been reviewing Rumpke's landfill safety regulations and equipment for the past year. Their findings, due this month, will be shared with any interested parties, Stone says.

“A lot of times, your awareness about safety is a baptism by fire. We're not trying to create something we keep in a glass jar. We never want to have a situation where somebody died because the company didn't sit down with the NSWMA to work out a safety plan,” he says.

Perhaps most encouragingly, Eppes says efforts such as these shatter the old expectations that injuries and accidents are unavoidable in waste management. “We used to hear, ‘Well, that's just part of the job,’” she says. “Well, not anymore.”

Randy Woods is a Waste Age contributing editor based in Seattle.

SAFETY'S PRICE TAG

Much of the emphasis on safety has come from the realization that effective safety programs not only save lives, but they save money as well.

Republic Services' cost per man-hour has shrunk by 15 percent from January to October 2004, due in part to relatively inexpensive improvements, says Mike Lambert, corporate safety director. Improvements have included the rollout of a new safety training manual and the expansion of Republic's driver training program. “It doesn't have to cost a whole lot for a comprehensive training program,” he says. “Just changing the way you think can save lot of money.”

Of course, not all safety improvements come cheap. Allied Waste Industries recently completed a three-year retrofit program to install cameras and light-emitting diode (LED) and strobe warning lights on the front and back of each collection truck. Safety Director Gary Mosier estimates the company also spends about $2 million every year on safety training classes, programs and films.

Nevertheless, when factoring in the avoided costs of injuries, the costs become more palatable, says Rumpke's Larry Stone. It might take $20,000 to install a fall-protection device on a truck, which might take three to five years to pay off, he says. However, a single, preventable fall could cost a hauler a $100,000 to $150,000 injury award. “When you look at it that way, you can quantify it better,” Stone says. “You soon say to yourself, ‘How can you afford not to?’”

Safety performance also can have an effect on insurance rates. Costs for property and bodily injury claims continue to rise while deductibles for some commercial general liability policies in the industry have risen from $50,000 to $150,000 in the past few years, says Susan Eppes of EST Solutions.

However, Keith George of American Wholesale Insurance Group says “some pricing concessions now are being given. Companies are being rewarded for good safety performance,” he says.
RW

Gas Project Ignites

A METHANE RECOVERY PROGRAM that will offer private businesses opportunities abroad is up and running. In November, government officials from the United States and 13 other countries gathered in Washington, D.C., for three days of meetings to launch the Methane to Markets Partnership.

The purpose of the initiative is to promote the capture of methane from landfills, underground coal mines, and natural gas and oil systems, and then use the gas as an energy source. Developed countries in the partnership will assist member countries that are developing or that have economies in transition with launching projects to recover and use methane.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, D.C., the partnership has the potential to, by 2015, reduce global methane emissions to an extent equal to the impact of taking 33 million cars off the road for one year. Methane accounts for 16 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, the EPA says. Only carbon dioxide, which makes up 74 percent of the emissions, accounts for more. However, methane is about 20 times more effective at trapping heat than carbon dioxide, so reducing its emissions could have significant environmental benefits, EPA says.

At the November conference, the participating countries created committees, which consist of government officials, and charged them with creating action plans and identifying sites for potential gas-to-energy projects in the coming months, says Brian Guzzone, team leader for the EPA's Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP). The government officials also met with representatives from the private sector, who made technical presentations and participated in the committee meetings. “We really need the private sector involved to help this partnership really be successful,” Guzzone says.

Member countries developing methane-recovery-and-use projects will need the services of firms similar to those that have participated in the LMOP, Guzzone says. This includes consultants, engineers, designers of landfill-gas-to-energy facilities, equipment manufacturers and project financiers.

There are 1,200 landfills around the globe at which methane is recovered for energy use, Guzzone says. About 370 of those are in the United States.

The United States has pledged $53 million over five years to the Methane to Markets Partnership. The EPA, Department of Energy, State Department, Trade and Development Agency, and Agency for International Development will aid the effort.

Besides the United States, the partnership includes Argentina, Australia, Brazil, China, Colombia, India, Italy, Japan, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, Ukraine and the United Kingdom. For more information, visit www.epa.gov/methanetomarkets.

Office Paper

OFFICE PAPER IS A generic name given to a wide variety of paper products used in offices and businesses, including writing, computer and copying paper. These grades usually have longer fibers and are brighter than newspaper and packaging grades. Office wastepaper also includes newspapers, corrugated boxes and paperboard packaging, which are not included in this profile.

Office paper is usually white, but it can be produced in a variety of colors. Most office paper is made from chemically pulped paper fiber.

Office paper is a subcategory of the paper industry's “printing and writing” category, which also includes book and magazine paper, junk mail and brochures. Since 1960, office paper generation increased by 6.1 million tons, or 395 percent, and its MSW market share almost doubled. In the same time, office paper recycling increased by 3.86 million tons, and the recycling rate tripled.

This profile concentrates on office paper because it is the most commonly recycled portion of the printing and writing paper category.

Chaz Miller is state programs director for the National Solid Wastes Management Association, Washington, D.C. E-mail the author at: cmiller@envasns.org

Office Paper Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) Facts:

Generated:

  • 7.42 million tons or 3.2% by weight.*

  • 52.1 pounds (lbs.) per person.*

  • 30.8 million tons of printing and writing paper (industry data).

  • 216 lbs. of printing and writing paper per person (industry data).



Recycled:

  • 4.1 million tons or 55.3%.*

  • 11.5 million tons of printing and writing paper or 37.3% in 2002 (industry data).



Recycled Content:

  • 0% to 100%, depending on a paper mill's ability to use recycled office paper.



Composted:

  • Compostable if shredded properly.

  • Low nitrogen content and lack of physical structure are inhibiting factors.



Incinerated or Landfilled:

  • 3.32 million tons or 2.1% of discarded MSW by weight.*

  • 7,200 Btus per lb. (4,500 Btus to 5,000 Btus in 1 lb. of MSW).



Landfill Volume:

  • 8.67 million cubic yards (cu. yds.) or 2.1% of landfilled MSW in 1997.



Density

  • Landfilled weighs 800 pounds per cubic yard (lbs./cu. yd.)

  • Unbaled weighs 375 lbs./cu. yd. to 465 lbs./cu. yd.

  • Baled weighs 700 lbs./cu. yd. to 750 lbs./cu. yd.



Source-Reduction:

  • Double-sided copying, e-mail, extensive use of online systems.



Recycling Markets:

  • One-third is exported; tissue mills get one-fourth; and recycled paperboard and printing and writing paper are the next largest markets.



End-Market Specifications:

  • ISRI guidelines for paperstock include grades 42, computer printout; 40, sorted white ledger; 37, sorted office paper; 2, mixed paper; and 1 soft mixed paper.

  • Each mill has its own wastepaper requirements.

  • High-value end-markets are the most restrictive.

  • Consult carefully with purchasers before delivering office paper to a market.



Sources:

American Forest and Paper Association, www.afandpa.org

“Characterization of Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: 1998 Update,” U.S. EPA, Office of Solid Waste, 1999

“Municipal Solid Waste in the United States: 2001 Facts and Figures,” EPA, Office of Solid Waste, 2004 www.epa.gov/osw

“Measurement Standards and Reporting Guidelines”, National Recycling Coalition,” Washington, D.C., www.nrcrecycle.org

Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management, Providence, R.I.

“Scrap Specifications Circular 2004,” Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries
Washington, D.C., www.isri.org

*2001 EPA estimates.

TONS of Time

SCALES ARE AN UNASSUMING yet necessary part of the waste business. In addition to telling transfer station and landfill operators how much trash is coming and going, they also are boosting operational and administrative productivity across the country.

The city of Scottsdale, Ariz., for example, weighs outgoing waste loads carried by a third-party contractor to track costs at its landfill. In-ground scales at the city's transfer station also help officials to record weights and calculate fees and costs. Located beneath the transfer station loading pit, the scales check trucks' overall weight and distribution of weight across trailer axles.

The city's scales help to promote efficient transfer operations from the moment a load arrives at the facility by ensuring that trailers are full but not overweight, says James Livingston, systems coordinator for Scottsdale's Division of Solid Waste Management. “Our goals are to be accurate, to keep records properly and to operate efficiently,” he says. By evaluating data recorded on inbound scales from Cardinal Scale Manufacturing Co., Webb City, Mo., Livingston says he can monitor the productivity of the city's residential collection drivers.

Did this driver or that driver handle a full day's tonnage during his or her shift? If not, scanning the scale data can help Scottsdale sanitation officials figure out why not, Livingston says.

On Wheel Loaders

Recognizing scales' measurable value, a number of transfer station operators now have begun using the equipment on wheel loader buckets to control the weight of trash loaded onto transfer trailers. For some, wheel loader scales are producing an impressive return on investment.

Office Paper Systems Inc., a Gaithersburg, Md., recycler, operates the Northwest Transfer Station in Baltimore, Md. The company uses this facility to direct more recycling materials to its processing plant. Simultaneously, the company must transfer trash flowing through the transfer station to disposal sites. To speed loading times without under- and over-loading trailers, Operations Manager Mark Minnick recently installed Loadrite scales on wheel loaders.

The wheel loader scale system costs about $8,000 and includes: a computer and display in the cockpit; a trigger mounted on the boom of the wheel loader that tells the system when to weigh the bucket; and a transducer strain gauge that measures pressure within the machine's hydraulic system and converts the reading to weight. Computer controls enable the operator to record the weight in each bucket, add successive bucket weights and clear the memory for the next truck. The system also allows an operator to maintain a weight in the scale system's memory while the loader handles other tasks — such as pushing newly delivered trash up into a pile. When loading begins again, the operator presses a button, and the system continues adding lifted weights.

The goal is to load transfer trailers to capacity quickly — for the sake of productivity — while avoiding overloads that can delay a truck's departure, compromise safety or draw a fine from regulators monitoring truck weights on the highway, Minnick says. The wheel loader scale system is crucial to Northwest's operations because the facility does not have a tri-axle scale. Prior to purchasing the wheel loader scale, Northwest equipment operators loaded trailers by sight and then checked the weights at the facility's scalehouse.

“The trailers would always be too light or too heavy,” Minnick says. “So we would take the trailers back to the dock, dump some trash off or put more on, and reweigh the trailers at the scalehouse. Sometimes we had to [repeat the process] more than once for each trailer. Each trip added 45 minutes to the process and cost a lot of money.”

Now, the wheel loader system enables operators to distribute a load evenly between the front and back of the trailer without overloading axles. And the total amount of trash in the trailer can be accurately measured. “We still have to adjust loads now and then, but that is [because of] the operator's error, not a problem with the scales, which have a low error rate,” Minnick says.

Jason Bazemore, assistant site manager at the Tampa, Fla., Metro Recycling and Transfer Station, a Republic Services Inc. facility, also is singing the praises of wheel loader scales. Metro transfers about 400 tons of construction and demolition refuse and bulk materials every day. The facility installed a Loadrite scale on a wheel loader approximately one year ago to reduce transfer trailer overloads. Now, the facility doesn't know what it would do without the equipment.

“We had a period where the wheel loader with scales was down for transmission repairs, and we had to rent another wheel loader without scales,” Bazemore says. “It was very costly. Every time we loaded a trailer, we had to bring it back [to the facility] and unload some [waste]. The return trips delayed our entire operation.”

Return on Investment

It may not seem costly to reload one transfer trailer or even a couple, but reloading costs add up, operators say. Suppose a transfer station loads 100 trucks per day, 312 days per year, with two wheel loaders. If 20 percent of the trucks are under- or overloaded and require 15 minutes to drive back, reload, reweigh and get on the road, this will cost an operation time and money. Suppose wheel loaders cost $100 per hour to operate, while trucks cost $75 per hour . Although the cost per hour for wheel loaders is higher, the reloading time for the 20 trucks that are not the correct weight could add $375 in operating costs.

A return on investment calculator on Loadrite's Web site illustrates how equipping two wheel loaders with scales can boost the financial performance of a transfer station. According to the calculator, the hypothetical operation could save $148,200 per year on loader and truck operations. The savings, which come from getting the trailers loaded properly the first time, would pay for two wheel loader scale systems in less than a month, the company indicates. Savings for the other 11 months would go to a waste operation's bottom line.

Assisting Networks

Obviously, all transfer stations want to load trailers productively, but large networks of transfer stations are finding that scale technology also can help to measure and manage the productivity of an entire waste department's administrative systems.

The New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY), for example, recently struck a deal to include customized point-of-sale software for driver-assisted scale data management systems at its transfer stations. Under the contract, PC Scale, Oxford, Pa., will provide DSNY with software and peripheral devices such as scale house terminals, radio frequency identification (RFID) units and proximity readers for city transfer stations.

According to Steve Stam, director of information technologies (IT) for DSNY, the scale contract has three objectives. First, the system must funnel accurate and appropriate data from city transfer stations to DSNY's central IT systems.

As simple as that sounds on the surface, it is a complex task, he says. Today, third-party vendors using many different technologies manage most of the Big Apple's transfer stations. In most cases, these operators transfer refuse from city trucks and from trucks operated by other vendors. “We wanted the new system to enable our vendors to continue with their processes, whatever they are,” he says. “At the same time, we wanted our data to flow from the transfer stations into our systems in an appropriate way.”

The second objective of the deal was for the new system to be flexible enough to handle new transfer stations that the city might build in the future.

Finally, the new system would have to provide opportunities to improve productivity in the future. For example, if the city decides to automate the process by which drivers enter in data at the scalehouse, the system must work with driver-assisted terminals, Stam says.

In short, DSNY specified a system flexible enough on the front-end to be modified as needed and flexible enough on the data output side to accommodate DSNY's large IT processing needs. “After the weights are recorded, our 59 sanitation districts go through a process we call ‘claiming the load,’” Stam says. “When the data arrives here, we have to confirm that what the data says happened really did happen. This is a complex process, and the data coming from the scales at the transfer stations is just part of a much larger process that correlates many different pieces of data.”

In the past, when a truck delivered a load to a transfer station, DSNY created a record that included the truck's identification number. When that truck returned to its home base, the driver delivered a log to his or her supervisor who keyed in the truck's transfer station stops, as well as the rest of the truck's activities for the day.

If the transfer station attendant entered the wrong truck identification number, that truck's load was lost, and someone had to spend administrative time finding it. On the other hand, an RFID system at the transfer station will always identify the truck properly. If the software logging the transaction can send that data to DSNY's IT department, it will assure an efficient correlation with data coming in from each of the sanitation districts.

“The weakness in these systems always comes down to communications,” Stam says. “That's where the disruptions occur. To be efficient, the two pieces of data always have to match.”

If the data entries don't match, someone has to spend time finding out why. If the reason is nothing more than a data entry error, DSNY has wasted its time. And if scale systems can eliminate time previously spent running down mismatches, that has real productivity implications, he says.

Michael Fickes is Waste Age's business editor.

Top-Notch Diverters

From candy makers to engineering companies, California businesses are proving that every little bit helps when it comes to reducing waste. Through this year's Waste Reduction Awards Program (WRAP), the Sacramento, Calif.-based California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB) honored 1,403 businesses that together diverted a total 1.8 million tons of waste from landfills during 2003. The companies also avoided $135 million in operating costs in the process.

Since 1993, CIWMB has been recognizing the private sector's commitment to waste reduction. “It's important for us to involve businesses,” says Linda Moulton-Patterson, member and former chair of CIWMB. “We don't regulate them like we do jurisdictions, cities and counties, so everything they do is voluntary. We want them to know that they aren't just doing a great service to the environment, but that they can save money as well.”

For the ninth year, CIWMB has chosen 10 WRAP of the Year winners that, in the eyes of CIWMB, have made an extraordinary commitment to waste diversion. This year's recipients include American Honda Motor Inc., Eco-Pop Designs, Friedrich-Houston Enterprises, Frito-Lay, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, The Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens, Nomad Café, Northstar-at-Tahoe, Quad Winery and Ricoh Electronics Inc. (REI).

Madera, Calif.-based Quady Winery, a family-run business that produces dessert wines, is one of the smaller firms to receive the honor. By targeting all facets of its operations, including the vineyard, production area and sales offices, Quady reuses or recycles approximately 98 percent of its waste. For example, skins and seeds from the production area are used for compost in the vineyard. Similarly, the water used to wash down the tanks is reused for irrigation. Quady also reuses its packaging materials and recycles paper from the offices and glass from the tasting room.

Another WRAP winner, REI has worked with its parent company, Tokyo-based Ricoh Co., to divert 8 million pounds of waste and save $2.5 million in the past year. Following a zero-waste-to-landfill policy, REI promotes its “Five R Activities:” refuse, return, reduce, reuse and recycle throughout its seven California locations. The company's waste reduction measures include not accepting excessive packaging and sending back any reusable materials to the distributor. The company also designates a team to tour each facility to compile a list of best practices that are then shared with the other locations.

“Hopefully this award will influence other companies to do the same thing and create a sustainable society,” says Eiko Risch, manager of the company's Sustainability Promotion Division.

For a full list of WRAP winners, visit www.ciwmb.ca.gov/WRAP/.

SNAPSHOT

Federal Environmental Executive Ed Pinero and four-year-old Braeden Davis of Washington, D.C., launched America Recycles Day 2004 at a Nov. 15 ceremony in Lafayette Park, across from the White House. Davis and other area school children officially started the day by placing recyclable materials into bins.

Kate Krebs, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based National Recycling Coalition and spokeswoman for America Recycles Day, spoke at the ceremony. The event also featured speakers from Montreal-based Alcan , Detroit-based Ford Motor Co. and Houston-based Waste Management Inc.

America Recycles Day was celebrated across the nation by both public and private organizations.