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ROLL CALL

  • Federal Signal Environmental Products Group, Elgin, Ill., has promoted Craig Dow to international sales manager. He will manage the sales force outside of North America.

  • Earth Tech, Long Beach, Calif., has named three vice presidents: Pamela Murray Johnson, who will be in the Alexandria, Va., office; Joe Cazares, who will be in the San Diego office; and Lou Tortora Jr., who will work in the company's Milwaukee, Wis., office.

  • San Diego-based DriveCam Video Systems has named Dan Hammang chief financial officer.

  • Heil Environmental, Chattanooga, Tenn., has hired Chad Hardy as western region sales manager.

  • CTI and Associates, Brighton, Mich., has named Morgan Subbarayan principal engineer and manager of its solid waste division. The company also has appointed Te-Yang Soong manager of engineering and design services, and Matthew Williams senior project manager.

  • Webb Wheel Products, Cullman, Ala., has named Dan Allen plant manager of its Transit Business unit.

  • SCS Engineers, Sacramento, Calif., has named Paul Damian its California risk assessment practice leader and national partner for risk assessment.


The Smell of Garbage

GARBAGE SMELLS. WELL, NOT ALWAYS, but anyone with a nose knows that garbage can stink. A bag of meat or diapers left in a garbage can on a hot, humid summer day can send a powerful message about the mischief-making powers of bacteria and microbes.

A bag of garbage smells for a very simple reason. It contains decaying, putrescible materials such as meat or vegetables or diapers. As meat decays, it attracts bacteria that feast on the amino acids in the meat's proteins. Vegetables also can rot and slowly liquefy as microbes attack the vegetables' cell structure and the fermenting liquids warm up the garbage bag. As more gasses and liquids are produced, the bag may rupture. It may sound gross, but it is just garbage at work.

The odors from the decomposition process are a variety of goodies with nasty sounding names. After all, who wants to invite “cadaverine” or “putrescine” over for dinner? Although these smells are obnoxious, they don't pose a health threat. However, the rats and flies attracted by rotting garbage do. These “vectors” spread diseases that can be serious to humans if they get into our food supplies.

The good news is that our modern garbage collection and disposal systems have guaranteed that trash is no longer a public health problem in America. But we are still left with the smell.

Our individual reactions to odors are subjective. Some of us have a better sense of smell than others. We differ in the scents that offend or please us. I don't like most perfumes, and I find the odor of some chewing gums to be nauseating, but I love the scent of hyacinths in the springtime.

A good sense of smell is important for survival of the human race. We need to be able to smell sour milk and the smoke from a fire. The ability to smell is so incredibly important that Richard Axel and Linda Buck won the 2004 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for discovering how the sense of smell works and how a person can differentiate between and remember 10,000 different smells.

In one of life's little ironies, increased recycling may have aggravated trash's smell factor by taking non-putrescibles out of the garbage bag and concentrating the amount of material that can decay. But only a rabid anti-recycler would use that as an argument against recycling.

So what can we do? We can deny that trash smells, or we can take proactive steps to manage odors at transfer stations, composting facilities and landfills. Failure to control odors can intensify public opposition to these facilities and make it difficult to protect public health.

“Managing Solid Waste Facilities to Prevent Odor” is a new NSWMA research paper that is available on our Web site, www.nswma.org. Although no single magic bullet — no one-size-fits-all odor management solution — exists, the paper offers numerous odor prevention and control measures with proven success records. Clearly, the most important step to take in managing odors is to take odor complaints seriously, and then act to ensure that odors are controlled.

As for me, whenever I have a really smelly garbage bag, I put one of those perfume samplers that come in magazines into the trash can. Then I let the odors fight it out.

Opinions in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the National Solid Wastes Management Association or the Environmental Industry Associations. E-mail the author at: cmiller@envasns.org.

The columnist is state programs director for the Environmental Industry Associations, Washington, D.C.

Resolve to Reduce Risks

NEW YEAR'S RESOLUTIONS OFTEN SPARK an urge to lose a few pounds, kick a bad habit or get more exercise. However, New Year's resolutions do not need to be strictly reserved for individuals.

Waste businesses also may be inspired by the fresh start that a new year offers and set out to make a few changes in how they do business. A renewed commitment to finding, implementing and improving a firm's risk management practices, for example, may be a resolution well worth keeping.

There are many ways that a waste firm can reaffirm the effort it puts into risk management. Here are a few things to consider.

Shake off complacency

Complacency can be a grave danger to any business, and it can easily set in. When things are going well, it may be difficult to imagine that something could go wrong. However, a firm is most vulnerable when it is lulled into a quiet state of security. Small changes that result from process improvement, re-engineering and ongoing employee training can keep a firm on its toes and lead to breakthroughs that enhance old processes.

Renew your commitment to employee training

Any employee's actions can become liabilities. It is important to provide proper equipment and training. Insurance companies often offer risk control information and training to help their customers develop employee programs to control day-to-day operational risks.

Vow to look for improvements

Effective risk management requires a commitment to continuously seeking ways to minimize exposures as they are uncovered. Procedures — recordkeeping, personal safety equipment, material handling, disposal practices and reporting procedures — need to be part of day-to-day operations. Risk management is an ongoing process.

Get re-acquainted with your insurance coverage

Every business should be familiar with the terms and conditions of its insurance policies and understand how its coverages will work in various situations. Because so much can change in a business during any year, it is important to consider how any changes may affect a company's insurance protection.

Commit to communication

Smart and open communication has many benefits. Communication breakdowns, on the other hand, present a host of risks to a company and potentially affect employees, shareholders, government agencies and customers. Sometimes even the smallest communication can make a big difference in preventing a future problem or dispute. Feedback, for instance, can encourage good behavior and result in a more motivated project team. In the event that an employee does something wrong, constructive feedback is necessary to get workers back on track. Customer relationships also rely on effective communication skills.

Be more prepared

Despite the best precautions, accidents can and do happen. Businesses need to be in a constant state of readiness for any potential incident. That means preparing emergency response plans under different scenarios and properly communicating the plans to employees. Again, because business situations can change rapidly, it is important to frequently evaluate emergency response plans to assure their effectiveness.

The active and aggressive management of potential exposures is a critical component of an effective risk management plan. As the new year begins, there is no better time for waste firms to make a risk management resolution to be active and more aggressive in managing potential exposures.

Saving a Slope Failure

WHEN A CENTRAL MAINE LANDFILL was recently faced with having to build a new disposal cell to extend site life, the project managers got creative. In 1989,a landslide had nearly doubled the size of the Crossroads Landfil. Following the landslide, the site was purchased by Houston-based Waste Management Inc. (WM),who expanded operations in other areas of the site. By the late 1990s, WM knew that to keep the site open, it had to remedy the area of the landslide while working with the soft foundation conditions. So, the company began a project to relocate the waste from the landslide area, revamp the area and provide new disposal capacity — all while controlling costs.

According to WM, the landslide occurred because the slopes of the landfill cell were too steep and buttressing soils adjacent to the toe of the site had been removed by the prior owner. When the soft foundation clay sheared, the unlined landfill moved 400 feet, doubling its size from 12 to 25 acres in less than 30 seconds. A year after the landslide, WM acquired the facility and covered the failed area with a soil/geosynthetic final cap.

Maine passed a law shortly thereafter restricting landfill expansions to property that was used for active landfilling before 1990. WM had developed landfill cells on other portions of the property during the 1990s but had to construct a new lined disposal cell in the landslide area to keep the site open. It began a project to dig up more than 1 million cubic yards of unlined waste from the landslide area, relocate it to lined cells, then construct a liner system in the area of the landslide. This would allow for disposal in the newly lined area and in adjacent lined cells.

The expansion project has three phases. The biggest challenge to relocating the unlined waste was ensuring the stability of the surrounding waste disposal cells during excavation. Controls were established to ensure that the excavation slopes were not too steep and that excavation was limited to small areas at any given time. Backfilling occurred rapidly. To speed the consolidation of the underlying soft clays and strengthen the landfill foundation as waste is placed in the site, WM installed wick drains in the clay under the expansion area. An underdrain layer beneath the liner collects water from the wicks.

To further increase disposal capacity, WM used mechanically stabilized earth (MSE) berms around the landfill perimeter. Geosynthetic reinforcement created a nearly vertical slope along the exterior portion of the perimeter berms. The MSE berm around the expansion area has a height of about 20 feet and a length of more than 5,500 linear feet. The interior side of the MSE perimeter berm is sloped at a three-to-one horizontal-to-vertical ratio prior to installation of the liner system. Horizontal layers of geogrid reinforcement are installed every 18 inches vertically within the berm soil to allow the exterior slope to be nearly vertical. Each layer of geogrid extends horizontally from the exterior face about 15 to 35 feet into the berm. The exterior facing component consists of geogrid and welded-wire mesh forms filled with vegetated topsoil.

To date, the first two construction phases have been completed, so the unlined waste has been removed from the southern portion of the landfill and the liner has been constructed. Nearly 2,800 liner feet of MSE berms have been placed around the perimeter of the expansion area. Project completion is expected by 2006.

Because of creative design techniques, the Crossroads Landfill will provide close to 4 million cubic yards of new disposal capacity, thereby allowing the facility to continue serving Central Maine for years to come.

NSWMA, SWANA to File Brief Supporting RD&D Rule

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia has granted the National Solid Wastes Management Association , Washington, D.C., and the Solid Waste Association of North America, Silver Spring, Md., permission to file a joint amicus brief in a lawsuit brought by the Madison, Wis.-based GrassRoots Recycling Network (GRRN). GRRN's lawsuit challenges the Environmental Protection Agency's “Research, Development and Demonstration Permits for Municipal Solid Waste Landfills” final rule. The brief will defend the rule. GRRN opposed the filing of the amicus brief.

Technology Brake-Through

PEOPLE ARE LINING UP to buy hybrid cars and sport utility vehicles. In the future, refuse fleets could be lining up for hybrid garbage trucks. A couple of projects now are demonstrating refuse trucks with hybrid hydraulic technology that can save fuel and brakes, plus reduce pollution.

Refuse trucks stop and go hundreds of times each day. Every time the throttle is applied to get a vehicle moving, additional fuel is used. When brakes are applied, energy is lost in the form of heat. Regenerative braking can reduce fuel use by recovering, storing and using a large portion of braking energy to assist the vehicle's engine during initial, high-fuel-consumption acceleration.

Regenerative braking is a key feature of most electric and hybrid-electric vehicles. When drivers step on their brakes, heavy — and expensive — battery packs are used to store braking energy that otherwise would have been wasted as heat. However, there is another way to capture braking energy. Hydraulic regenerative braking recovers energy and stores it as high-pressure hydraulic fluid in an accumulator, rather than in a battery.

The typical hydraulic hybrid uses a combination hydraulic pump/motor built into a vehicle's drivetrain. During braking, the pump/motor operates as a pump using braking energy to pressurize hydraulic fluid that is stored in a high-pressure accumulator while slowing the vehicle. During acceleration, the high-pressure hydraulic fluid is fed back through the pump/motor, which then acts like a motor, to supply additional torque so that the engine has to work less and use less fuel.

Besides providing a 25 percent to 35 percent improvement in fuel economy and reductions in emissions and greenhouse gases, hydraulic regenerative braking reduces brake wear. Also, the greater power density of hydraulic systems improves vehicle acceleration.

In hybrid-electric vehicles, batteries eventually must be replaced. On the other hand, the accumulators in hydraulic regenerative braking systems should last for the entire life of the vehicle. While the best fuel economy improvements will occur when hydraulic regenerative braking is designed into new trucks, retrofitted vehicles could see significant improvement as well.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, D.C., has led hydraulic research in the United States and is licensing the technology to companies whose goal is to market hydraulic hybrid vehicles. For example, Eaton Corp., Cleveland, Ohio, has developed Hydraulic Launch Assist (HLA). Eaton's HLA system can potentially be used in Class 2B through Class 8 commercial vehicles.

Both Eaton and Dana Corp., Toledo, Ohio, are targeting frequent stop/start applications, including refuse trucks. Recently, Eaton worked with Peterbilt Motors Co., Denton, Texas, to develop a Class 8 hydraulic hybrid refuse truck using the HLA system installed in a Peterbilt 320 chassis. Eaton predicts the system could be production-ready in two to three years.

In early 2005, Dana plans to demonstrate its hydraulic hybrid in a Mack Trucks LE 613 refuse truck. Dana's system is based on the Ballina, Australia-based Permo-Drive Technologies' Regenerative Drive System.

This Mack truck will be demonstrated in the Los Angeles Basin for up to a year and run on liquefied natural gas. The project is sponsored in part by California's South Coast Air Quality Management District (SCAQMD), Diamond Bar, Calif.; the U.S. Army's National Automotive Center, Warren, Mich.; Mack; and Houston-based Waste Management. According to Dana, the system will create fuel and brake-repair cost savings on par with hybrid-electric vehicles. The lifetime cost will be less than one-third of electric-based systems. Dana expects to have a developed and tested product in volume production by 2009.

According to SCAQMD, fleet managers can expect fuel savings of at least 25 percent and can expect to cut brake maintenance in half. These brake and fuel cost reductions could enable the hydraulic-hybrid technology to pay for itself in about two to three years.

With savings like these, why would any fleet manager stop for another technology?

Safety Starts at the Top

PREVENTING FATALITIES, INJURIES AND accidents in the solid waste industry is an ongoing struggle. Each day, tens of thousands of collection trucks run their routes, sometimes making more than 800 residential pickups. These trucks dump their loads at transfer stations, material recovery facilities, incinerators and landfills. Then waste is processed, transferred, or compacted via manual labor, sorting equipment and heavy equipment. This mix of trash, people, trucks and heavy equipment, often in close quarters, can result in safety hazards that can lead to accidents.

Despite these challenging conditions, the solid waste industry places a high emphasis on employee and community safety. Waste companies recognize the relationship between safe operations and maintaining a productive and healthy workforce; providing a responsible presence to customers and their communities; and controlling the cost of waste services.

A waste management company's safety department is responsible for improving worker safety and, not coincidentally, reducing property damage, personal injury claims and workers compensation costs. However, it can be difficult for a safety director to single-handedly change a company's safety culture and persuade veteran workers to change their job performance.

Drivers, helpers and others are often more responsive to their direct reports or supervisors than to the corporate safety director whom they may rarely or never see. Also, some employees' “it's not going to happen to me” attitude can be tough to overcome.

In response, some companies are making safety a basic management function. Instead of relying solely on a safety department, companies are making managers responsible for implementing the company's safety program. Accidents and lost workdays have become metrics by which managers are evaluated and compensated. When managers have a personal financial stake in reducing accidents and claims, human nature suggests that they will be more attentive. At one national solid waste company, several corporate safety department managers have become local managers in the field.

The Washington, D.C.-based National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA) has expanded its safety program offerings in recent years, including the release of the OSHA-funded “Be Safe, Be Proud” safety video, promotion of the “Slow Down to Get Around” campaign, and the Coaching the Refuse Driver II program. NSWMA also offers safety education sessions at WasteExpo, has a manual of recommended safety practices and promotes driver safety through Driver of the Year Safety Awards. Information about these NSWMA safety programs can be found at www.nswma.org.

Two NSWMA members in Illinois asked the association to provide company-specific manager safety training in 2004. NSWMA responded with cost-effective programs that fit each company's needs. The companies appreciated not having to send managers out of town for safety training, and they valued the expertise of the instructors and the focus on real-world, practical safety tips for solid waste managers.

This year, NSWMA will offer a manager-focused three- to four-hour safety program at its members' workplaces. Although the program will be customized for each member, the basic components of the program likely will include: the leading causes of fatalities and injuries in the solid waste industry; the importance of ANSI safety standards; OSHA compliance; and how to improve the company's safety culture and make a good safety program even better. This will include tips on what other companies are doing.

While many managers are aware of employee safety, they are frequently unaware of how their company's fatality rate or OSHA compliance record compares to industry averages. By bringing together managers for half a day to discuss safety, a company can demonstrate its commitment to the safety of its employees. This new NSWMA safety program could help companies achieve their safety objectives. Of course, executing changes that encourage safe operations and make safety part of its employees' “DNA” is the true test of a company's commitment.

David Biderman is the general counsel for NSWMA. To contact him or to learn about the new Safety Training for Managers Program, call (202) 364-3743 or e-mail davidb@envasns.org.

UPDATES

Awards

  • RetroBox, Columbus, Ohio, has been named Outstanding Minority Business by the National Recycling Coalition (NRC) at the 23rd Annual Congress and Exposition in San Francisco. The NRC awarded RetroBox for its leadership and achievement in the recycling field for the past three years.

  • The Milwaukee, Wis.-based Publications in Construction Association, a subgroup of the Association of Equipment Manufacturers, has named 32 winners in its Measures of Success industry awards program. The awards honor marketing communications efforts as examples of best practices. For details, visit www.aem.org.



Sponsorship

  • Mack Trucks, Allentown, Pa., has renewed its sponsorship of the American Trucking Associations' Share the Road program, which teaches motorists how to share the road with large trucks.



Training

  • Wastequip Accurate, Cleveland, is offering free sales training seminars to its compactor and baler customers. These seminars teach compaction principles and applications. For details, contact (800) 220-2228. Web site: www.wastequip.com


MARK IT

Feb. 7-12, 2005

SWANA Winter Technical Symposia:

Collection and Transfer; Waste Reduction, Recycling and Composting; and Special Waste West

Palm Beach, Fla. For details, call (800) GO-SWANA (467-9262).

March 15-19, 2005

CONEXPO-CON/AGG Construction and Construction Materials Trade Show

Las Vegas, Nev.
For details, call (800) 867-6060, (414) 298-4141, or (301) 587-3140; or visit www.conexpoconagg.com.

April 18-21, 2005

SWANA Spring Training Center

Las Vegas, Nev. For details, call (800) GO-SWANA (467-9262) or visit www.SWANAstore.com.

April 28-30, 2005

North American Truck Show

Boston, Mass.
For details, call (800) 225-1577 or visit www.truckingexpo.com.

May 11-14, 2005

Waste - The Social Context Conference

Edmonton, Canada. For details, contact Katrin Hoffman at hoffman@ualberta.ca.

Bag the Idea

PAPER OR PLASTIC? If some San Franciscoans get their way, residents soon might want to choose neither.

To reduce the number of discarded plastic bags, San Francisco's Commission on the Environment is weighing whether to urge the city's mayor to impose a 17-cent fee on grocery bags — both paper and plastic — provided to shoppers. The fee would be charged to grocery stores and no doubt would be passed onto consumers.

San Francisco's Department of the Environment (DOE) says the ordinance would mitigate the negative effects from bag disposal and help develop bag recycling and reduction programs. San Francisco customers bring home about 50 million bags per year. This accounts for 2 percent of the city's waste and has an annual cleanup cost of about $8.4 million, or 17 cents per bag, according to DOE figures. Cost estimates were based on expenses from removing bag contamination from recycling equipment; removing plastic bag contamination that reduced compost sales; bag collection and disposal; street cleaning; and future landfill liability costs.

Reducing pesky bag waste sounds like a good idea. However, it seems the DOE neglected to calculate the costs of implementing the program. The proposed law would require supermarkets to submit an annual report summarizing their revenues and expenditures. So stores would have to absorb additional bookkeeping expenditures. But there's no indication of how the DOE would ensure that stores are accurately reporting their numbers. And how would self-check out lines be monitored to ensure that customers aren't shoplifting bags?

Opponents of the ordinance also argue that the fee would affect low-income consumers the most, plus hurt businesses such as composite wood and plastic lumber companies that rely on recycled plastic bags. Indeed, we've created ways to recycle plastic waste, and the proposal sounds like it would undermine supplies to the recycling system.

So perhaps San Francisco should rethink its incentives to reduce bag consumption. A similar plastic bag fee imposed in Ireland spawned a big jump in both paper bag use and sales of plastic trash bags, Donna Dempsey, spokeswoman for the Film and Bag Federation, recently told The San Diego Union-Tribune.

As an alternative, consider Safeway's campaign years ago to reduce plastic bag use in Hawaii. Shoppers could purchase a canvas bag from the grocery store. Then, every time they brought the bag in to carry subsequent purchases, they would receive a small rebate.

The road to waste reduction is paved with good intentions. But before bagging bag waste, the city should more carefully evaluate the rewards.

The author is the editor of Waste Age