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Articles from 2019 In January


Stifel Report Details Top 10 in 10 Observations in Solid Waste

“Solid waste has typically been seen as evolutionary, not revolutionary. That perspective is still relevant, but the cycle time for adopting change is getting shorter.”

That’s according to a newly released report by Stifel’s Michael E. Hoffman, managing director and group head of diversified industrials. The report, “Top 10 in 10 Years Observations in Solid Waste: Tip Fees Rising, Plastics Issues, Recycling Fix Underway,” details the top 10 trends in solid waste over the next 10 years.

According to the report, tight labor markets, the rapid influx of mobile Internet of Things (IoT) and state level, climate change-driven policies are dictating immediate industry action. “The process of collecting and disposing of trash (landfill, recycling, composting and energy conversion (waste-to-energy (WTE), anaerobic digesters, bioreactors)) is about one stop at a time with a focus on route density and internalization, which supports sustainable pricing leverage and maximizing cash on cash returns,” the report points out.

Here is Stifel’s roundup of the top 10 trends in solid waste over the next 10 years:

1. There are more little brown boxes in the residential waste stream than anyone could have imagined. How much more is possible? Potentially a lot; 85 percent of consumer purchases are still done in brick-and-mortar stores.

“The holiday season certainly brought to focus the sheer volume of little brown boxes showing up in the residential MSW [municipal solid waste] stream,” according to the report. “In the U.S., consumer purchases are still 85 to 90 percent brick-and-mortar based, but that trend is in a long, steady decline as e-commerce continues to expand.”

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2. Nearly all recycled paper—old corrugated cardboard (OCC) and mixed waste paper (MWP)—is processed domestically into dehydrated pulp or finished materials, exported and then converted into boxes, et al.

The resale of collected and recycled fiber into the global papermaking market was massively disrupted in 2018, the report notes. Virtually all imports of OCC and MWP into China were diverted to alternative markets—India, Southeast Asia, Vietnam and Eastern Europe.

North American export OCC prices (Los Angeles Port price) over the past eight years have traded between $62.50 per ton to $183 per ton, with the low in December fiscal year 2018 at $62.50 per ton. The domestic (Midwest price) prices over the same period have traded between $65 per ton and $175 per ton.

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Despite the dramatic hit to fiber prices in FY18, the demand side remained healthy.

3. Customers (municipal authorities) come clean on recycling versus diversion with a renewed commitment to true sustainability driving reuse: Recycle only OCC (for now), only plastic bottles with a neck, all cans (beer and soup), NO GLASS or single-use plastics.

“For 30 years, the domestic recycling model has been, in our view, mispriced and, frankly, to the consumer misleading about what is recycling versus diversion,” notes Hoffman in the report. “The commodity value peaked in FY17 only to trough in FY18. The commodity and contamination impact on the performance of the recycling collection and processing business model is finally creating the catalyst for change.”

What is at issue, he continues, are processing costs and input contamination. Processing costs to meet National Sword or similar export contamination limits are now more than $100 per ton up from $65 per ton to $80 per ton on slower line speeds, increased labor and elevated input contamination.

Contamination of the collected waste stream is a huge issue,” the report points out. “Today, the problem has multiple points of why contamination has sky rocketed from 5 percent to 10 percent to over 20 percent in the past five to 10 years.”

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4. U.S. average landfill tip fees rise from $55 per ton to $80 per ton for MSW as more capacity exits naturally and leachate costs rise—think PFAS (per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances).

There are about 1,530 non-hazardous waste landfills in the U.S. with nearly half controlled by 25 companies, of which two-thirds of that group are controlled by the five public companies.

“We expect small private and mid-to-small municipal landfills to close at a steady pace over the next decade,” says Hoffman in the report. “The drivers are a lack of land to expand and the rising cost of managing leachate and the closure post closure obligations. In 10 years, we think total non-hazardous waste landfills will be down to 1,000 to 1,100. In urban markets, if there are three to four landfills on average today, the trend is likely for at least one landfill to come out of the market over 10 years.”

The report also notes that cell development and leachate processing cost have been on the rise for several years. Additionally, there is a growing concern of PFAS human exposure mostly through drinking water. PFAS are a group of man-made chemicals that have been manufactured and used in a variety of industries around the globe since the 1940s.

For solid waste, this is adding incremental cost to leachate collection, which is already 5 to 10 percent of sales cost item, the report notes. “Smaller landfills with less than 15 years of capacity will not want to spend the capital to internalize managing leachate and that will accelerate the closure.”

5. Post-collection recycling increases from 25 to 30 percent (more “little brown box” effect, not organics); composting stays at 10 percent, as does WTE; and landfill the remainder declines toward 50 percent from about 55 percent.

“The gradual and increasing growth of e-commerce will shift more packaging into residential collection, which should slowly walk up the rate of recycling all things being equal,” according to the report. “The biggest headwind to this outcome is the current state of recycling in North America. If the market rebalances the recycling business model to truly focus on reusable material, the actual recycling rate dips first and then recovers as more paper packaging volume is captured in residential collection.”

6. Technology helps deliver better end-to-end connection with the customer. Doesn’t everyone want a mobile garbage app?

According to the report, two critical operating issues for solid waste collection are route density and customer retention.

“About half of customer turnover is service related, missed pickup, late pickup, disruptive to the customer business, truck leaked oil, truck hit the mailbox,” the report adds. “With a mobile app, the solid waste service provider can put out an alert and the customer can ‘Google-like’ ask the question and get that answer without a live call.”

7. True autonomous vehicles (AV) are only used in off-road applications, but AV-like applications help address labor pressures.

The local regulatory challenges to successfully put on the road Level 5 (fully autonomous) AV garbage trucks in either residential or commercial collection assures AV in a pickup and delivery setting is decades away, according to the report.

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Alternatively, however, AV-like technology (Level 2 automation with lane assistant or collision avoidance up to Level 4 with technology assisted driving/productivity) could be used in residential markets to maximize productivity.

In addition, there are several applications at the landfill where AV equipment can and should be readily deployed, including landfill compacting vehicles and even bulldozers that work the face of the landfill cell, according to the report.

8. Alternative-fueled collection vehicles make up 50 percent of the fleet—not only fuel, but maintenance savings helps with this conversion.

The diesel gallon equivalent to use compressed natural gas (CNG) even with diesel prices around $3 per gallon ($2.61 per gasoline gallon equivalent (GGE)) range is about $2.11 per GGE. On fuel savings alone, the payback period is in a three- to four-year period for CNG trucks. Adding in fueling and maintenance infrastructure costs pushes the payback out another year or two, according to the report. However, the long-term maintenance savings after years five to six makes the cost advantage versus diesel incrementally attractive.

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“Solid waste and municipal bus services were early movers on converting to CNG-powered vehicles,” Hoffman points out in the report. “Solid waste as a group is in the low 20 percent converted, with Waste Management over 50 percent of the routed fleet converted. We expect the average level of fleet conversion could more than double over the next 10 years as fueling infrastructure investments accelerate independent of the solid waste company investments in the same and the lifetime maintenance differential remains favorable to CNG.”

9. Organic diversion/recycling not economical without subsidies—ever.

Stifel projects that in 10 years, the probability of a viable solution to economically capture the energy value of organic waste—specifically food waste—still will not be able to address the following: Does it work? Can it be scaled? Is it economical without subsidies, and is there a favorable regulatory backdrop?

“For now, there is no technology that works, is scalable and is economic without subsidies to convert primarily organic waste into energy that is better than landfill gas or WTE,” the report points out.

10. U.S. solid waste generation has inched up to 4.50 pounds per person per day.

A healthy economy and continued use of single-use packaging helped lift waste generation per person to 4.50 pounds per day, the report notes. The growing presence of little brown boxes and the consumption of regularly used products in small quantities could keep the average daily production of waste per person at least constant, or even expand.

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“The unknown is, will the growing angst about single use packaging and PFAS lead to a secular change in how plastics are used in packaging and with it a dramatic reduction of them in the waste stream?” Hoffman points out. “Solid waste would likely cheer the elimination of films and single-use packaging that is not realistically recyclable (think #4 to #7 plastics).”

“However, replacing single-use packaging would probably increase the waste generated per person until efficient options were widely developed and deployed,” he adds.

In summation, free cash flow is what makes solid waste so compelling, according to the report.

“The FY19 fundamental outlook should prove better than the market expectations with price better than inflation and stable underlying market volumes around 1 percent, excluding purposeful divestments,” notes Hoffman in the report. “The deal climate remains very robust. Margin expansion is highly probable. And if all else fails and the U.S. economy tips into a recession, solid waste is defensive, as 80 to 85 percent of sales are service based.”

The full report is available here.

Need to Know

Report Highlights Ways Boston Can Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions

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A report conducted by Boston’s Green Ribbon Commission and Boston University researchers looks at how the city can address its building stock and transportation, energy and waste systems to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and ultimately meet its goal of becoming “carbon neutral” by 2050.

The report suggests ways for reducing waste, increasing renewable energy options and promoting the use of mass transit and electric vehicles.

WRAL has more information:

A study commissioned by Boston is examining steps the Massachusetts capital can take to meet its goal of becoming "carbon neutral" by 2050.

The report released Tuesday by the city's Green Ribbon Commission and Boston University researchers looks at specific ways Boston can address its building stock and transportation, energy and waste systems to sharply reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Among the strategies is retrofitting thousands of buildings to reduce energy use and converting gas and oil systems to electric ones.

Read the full story here.

Need to Know

Disney World Focuses Efforts on Clean Energy

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Walt Disney World is continuing its efforts to invest in new technologies and renewable energy products that will continue to slash greenhouse gas emissions.

In a recent Q&A with Forbes, Angie Renner, environmental integration director at Walt Disney World Resort, said the company is striving to meet three environmental goals: to divert 60 percent of its waste from landfills by 2020, reduce net emissions 50 percent from 2012 levels by 2020 and to reduce water consumption across the board.

Forbes has more details:

“Environmental stewardship and conservation were engrained in The Walt Disney Company from the beginning,” Angie Renner recently told me. Angie is an Environmental Integration Director at Walt Disney World Resort, and today she says the company is investing in new technologies and renewable energy projects that have thus far cut greenhouse gas emissions nearly in half. Why? Because as a Bloomberg story just noted, warmer temperatures are already impacting the “the comfort and health and well being of [the resort’s] customers.”

In other words, climate change is bad for business. But as I’ve seen firsthand, companies that invest in clean energy, engage customers in sustainability efforts and leverage their influence to drive smart policies can turn a downside risk into tangible cost-savings, customer retention and global leadership.

I recently caught up with Angie to learn more about the company’s sustainability initiatives and successes and its efforts to provide environmental education to the hundreds of thousands of guests who visit the iconic Disney resorts each day.

Read the full article here.

Need to Know

Covanta Expands Partnership with Wreaths Across America

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USE IT ALL: A handcrafted Christmas wreath is a good example of a non-timber forest product.

Covanta has expanded its partnership with Wreaths Across America to sustainably recycle and dispose of wreaths that are laid on gravestones of military veterans at cemeteries across the United States.

Wreaths Across America is a national nonprofit organization founded in 2007 with a mission to remember the fallen, honor those that serve and their families and teach the next generation about the value of freedom.

In the weeks following the end of the holiday season, Wreaths Across America volunteers collect hundreds of thousands of evergreen wreaths placed at more than 1,640 participating locations. To help ease the burden of disposal, the wreaths are delivered and processed at nearby Covanta energy-from-waste facilities free of charge. As an added benefit, Covanta’s facilities recover energy from the organic portion of the wreaths and the metal frame is collected for recycling. 

Covanta has participated in the program since 2017 and is now accepting wreaths at six locations in Virginia—Covanta Fairfax and Covanta Alexandria/Arlington—and at all of Covanta’s facilities on Long Island, N.Y.—Covanta Hempstead, Covanta Huntington, Covanta Babylon and Covanta MacArthur.

“Covanta is pleased to provide Wreaths Across America with this vital service,” said Edward Sandkuhl, facility manager at Covanta Hempstead, in a statement. “As a Navy veteran, I am proud to support an organization that remembers and reverently honors the deceased men and women of our military. At Covanta, we are committed to supporting veterans, which account for 15 percent of our U.S. workforce.” 

“We are continually looking for ways to support our participating locations,” said Wayne Hanson, location coordinator volunteer with Wreaths Across America for Arlington National Cemetery and chairman of the board of directors, in a statement. “We are grateful for Covanta’s growing support of our mission and the sustainable solution they are providing to help prevent the veterans’ wreaths from going to waste.”

Wreaths from Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia are processed at Covanta Fairfax and Covanta Alexandria/Arlington. Wreaths collected from Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, N.Y., are sent to Covanta’s Long Island facilities.

Covanta’s Long Island facilities alone will collect approximately 40,000 wreaths, generating enough energy to supply electricity to eight homes for one month. In addition, the metal recovered from the Long Island facilities amounts to more than 1,000 pounds, enough to manufacture more than 8,000 soup cans.

Need to Know

Groups Launch Plant Based Products Council

A group of businesses and environmental leaders jointly launched the Plant Based Products Council (PBPC), a group of organizations working to guide the global economy toward more sustainable and responsible consumer products and packaging through greater use of plant-based materials. The launch was announced at the California Air Resources Board’s California Bioresource Economy Summit.

Recognizing that the ever-growing global demand for consumer goods and convenient packaging poses a serious threat to the environment, the PBPC promotes the adoption and use of products derived from renewable biomass. The group will advocate for private sector programs and government policies to encourage use of renewable materials and feedstocks, including policies to reduce carbon emissions, improve water quality and soil health and curtail solid waste destined for landfills by purposeful closed loop end-of-life strategies through recycling and composting.

“Businesses and consumers alike recognize the need to solve the problem of plastic pollution that harms our environment,” said John Bode, president and CEO of the Corn Refiners Association, in a statement. “The PBPC will seek plant-based solutions, bringing together government, nonprofit and corporate entities to address environmental challenges while driving economic opportunity.”

PBPC’s membership includes businesses large and small, from across the United States, that produce, distribute or sell products/packaging from renewable biomass inputs, as well as those organizations that have made related public commitments to build a more sustainable future. In addition to its membership, the PBPC features an advisory board consisting of environmental organizations and NGOs.

“This initiative adds much needed diversity to a changing conversation,” said Nina Goodrich, executive director of GreenBlue, in a statement. “The Plant Based Product Council is an exciting new voice seeking sustainable packaging solutions to our material recovery challenges.”

Today, nearly 80 percent of plastics are in a landfill or polluting the environment, and even among recyclables, most plastics never reach the intended facilities.

Polling, conducted in August 2018 and released by the Plant Based Products Council, reinforces the notion that millennial consumers are supportive of bioplastics and even willing to pay more for them. Findings in the polling include:

  • 48 percent of millennial respondents feel most guilty about their own plastic use compared to other resources, such as paper (33 percent), water (31 percent) or the amount they drive (19 percent).
  • 64 percent are willing to use alternatives to plastic.
  • 60 percent are surprised by the lack of alternative options to plastic.
  • While only 13 percent are “very familiar” with bioplastic, once described, 90 percent become favorable to bioplastics.

In addition to providing a platform for collaboration, the PBPC launched an extensive database, featuring more than 480 plant-based and biobased products currently on the market, with plans to continue to expand the database. The database showcases the versatility of plant-based materials and is designed to help guide businesses and consumers toward more sustainable decisions.

“My hope is that this new council will greatly aid UC ANR’s efforts to pursue forest health and improve farm profitability by finding new, more valuable products made from biomass,” said Glenda Humiston, University of California vice president for agriculture and natural resources, in a statement.

The following companies are founding members of the PBPC: Georgia-Pacific, Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill, Tate & Lyle, Ingredion, WestRock-Multi Packaging Solutions, Stone Straw, Loliware, Visolis Biotechnology, Newtrient, Future iQ, Emerald Brands, Hemp Road Trip, Hemp Industries Association and Tree Free Hemp.

The following organizations and individuals will serve on PBPC’s advisory board: GreenBlue, Californians Against Waste, International Conservation Caucus Foundation, University of California Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources and Professor Ramani Narayan of Michigan State University’s Department of Chemical Engineering & Materials Science.

Need to Know

Keep America Beautiful Launches Branch in Newark, N.J.

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Newark, N.J., Mayor Ras J. Baraka and Mars Wrigley Confectionery U.S. announced that the city and the confectioner are partnering to bring national nonprofit Keep America Beautiful to Newark, establishing a branch of the sustainability organization in a city hub to enhance ongoing programs and add new ones. Working with the city, the business community and a variety of nonprofits, Keep America Beautiful-Newark will work to curtail littering, improve recycling and beautify the local community.

The move expands Keep America Beautiful's network, which includes branches in more than 600 community-based affiliates across the U.S., 27 state and several international affiliates, as well as Keep Jersey City Beautiful.

"Keep America Beautiful has done an outstanding job of supporting sustainability and community programs across the nation,” said Baraka in a statement. “Mars Wrigley Confectionery is returning to its historic Newark roots as both an economic engine for our city and a good corporate neighbor by partnering with Keep America Beautiful and us to create this important program to make Newark a more sustainable, clean and strong city. I commend these organizations on developing this partnership and look forward to engaging our administration and residents with them."

"Through our many partnerships across the city, we will bring programs and resources to help keep Newark clean, safe, healthy and beautiful," said Malkia King, founding executive director of Keep America Beautiful-Newark, in a statement. "Clean, healthy, livable communities are the foundation for strong local economies—and all of the people of Newark deserve to live in such a community. Keep America Beautiful-Newark will provide yet another way to move Newark forward. I'm honored to lead this initiative, along with my advisory board and partners. We welcome all who share the same desire to create and provide a better quality of life for Newark's citizens."

One of the community improvement programs that Keep America Beautiful-Newark will produce in the coming year is the Great American Cleanup, which will kick off in Newark in April.

Keep America Beautiful-Newark also plans on participating in America Recycles Day, a Keep America Beautiful national initiative that annually takes place in mid-November. Keep America Beautiful pass-through grants from national partners will also be pursued to improve public space recycling, beautify open spaces and create urban community gardens that can provide fresh produce to Newark citizens.

Mars has a long history of partnering with Keep America Beautiful as a key corporate partner, working with the organization for more than 60 years to educate America's youth about environmental stewardship and improve local communities nationwide.

"We are proud to have a strong legacy and future in Newark. More than 75 years ago, Mars opened its doors in Newark to create the first M&M's as military rations. We are excited to come back to the community by opening a new market hub in 2020," said Mars Wrigley Confectionery U.S. Workplace Strategy Director Alison Mulligan in a statement. "As part of our commitment to treat the communities where we live and work, Mars will join forces with Keep America Beautiful to further the revitalization of Newark for workers and residents alike."

Keep America Beautiful's network mobilizes more than 3.4 million volunteers each year to take positive action on community improvement concerns. Through their programs, litter is reduced, solid waste is responsibly managed, citizens improve vacant lots, highways and other public spaces, trees and flowers are planted and recycling and composting efforts are implemented.

The formation of Keep America Beautiful-Newark exemplifies the organization's trisector model for social good in which the business community, local government, nonprofits and citizens work together to champion environmentally healthy, socially connected, and economically sound communities.

"As part of the Keep America Beautiful Network, the Newark branch will act as a catalyst for positive community change, with a goal of improving the quality of life for every resident," said Keep America Beautiful President and CEO Helen Lowman in a statement. "Keep America Beautiful-Newark will help transform public spaces into beautiful places as an important representative of our national movement and our local efforts to expand our presence in New Jersey."

Green Bay Packaging Launches 100% Recycled Paper Plant Using Mixed Papers

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Green Bay Packaging is launching a paper mill in Wisconsin that will use 100 percent recycled fiber, add mixed paper and double the capacity of its existing old corrugated paper containers (OCC) plant.

The new $500 million facility will be able to process 685,000 tons per year. End products will be high-performance linerboard and corrugated medium.

Introducing mixed residential paper while controlling for contamination adds complexity. But Green Bay Packaging has designed a robust recycling process focused on dealing with the specific challenges associated with this feedstock and with an overall drop in OCC quality, says Matt Szymanski, vice president of mill operations for Green Bay Packaging.

More cleaning and rejects handling steps have been added to ensure product performance. And the company will employ cutting-edge water management techniques as well as strength enhancement strategies to overcome reduced fiber quality associated with incorporating mixed paper fiber.

“By using state-of-the-art forming technology [to physically create a stronger sheet of paper] and size press technology [to apply strength-enhancing chemistries to products], we will be able to make a step change in product quality. This will allow performance increases in lighter-weight grades,” says Szymanski.

The company also will invest in increased paper machine trim width technology to meet the specs of customers who want wider corrugators in order to make boxes. 

Modern gas boilers will replace a facility-wide coal burner, reducing sulfur dioxide and particulate matter emissions by more than 90 percent. By incorporating a reclaimed water system, it will not be necessary to draw from the Fox River, nor will the operation discharge into this natural resource. Combined green features also will cut greenhouse gas emissions by 50 percent per ton of paper.

Green Bay projects this plant will create 1,000 construction jobs and an additional 200 jobs between now and 2022. But the company’s focus on environment was at least as big a sell to the town of Green Bay.

“Green Bay Packaging’s base business is recycling, which, in and of itself, is attractive to those of us concerned about the environment. But they are going above and beyond recycling corrugate to be environmentally responsible. They are recycling water, spending a lot upfront to reduce energy costs and making other large investments to respect the environment. We appreciate that because we are community stewards as they are,” says Green Bay Mayor Jim Schmitt.

Key partners are Voith Paper, which is supplying the full packaging production line; general building contractor Miron Construction; and KSH Solutions, which will provide engineering and procurement services.

“This is the first time in United States paper history that a project with the breadth of supply and scope was delivered by a single-source company,” said Martin Jauch, president of business line projects for Voith Paper North America, in a statement. “The Green Bay project award will benefit not only the industry but also [hundreds of] dedicated workers we have in Wisconsin.” 

Miron Construction mirrored that enthusiasm. “We are excited and honored to serve as the design-build partner of Green Bay Packaging. Their commitment [through this long-term investment] will benefit Green Bay, the northeast Wisconsin region and the entire state for many years to come,” said Tim Kippenhan, vice president and COO of Miron, in a statement. 

While Wisconsin is the top paper manufacturer in the U.S., this will be the state’s first new mill in more than 30 years. Ongoing economic constraints, beginning around 2000, and further fueled by China’s restrictions on recycled paper, have taken hold. But Green Bay Packaging anticipates there will be demand to justify substantial upgrades, including the ability to double capacity.

Szymanski would not name customers or say where the mill would get feedstock to bump production to this level; however, he said, “The supply base is and will continue to be a mix of direct sources material and material provided by a base of brokers, primarily from Wisconsin … We will continue to grow our relationships to supply our increasing needs.”

The new mill will replace the current 70-plus-year-old plant and is expected to be fully operational by spring 2021.

Green Bay Packaging owns and runs corrugated container plants, folding cartons, recycled and virgin linerboard mills, pressure-sensitive label rollstock and specialty converting processes, among operations.

AMCS Report Shines Light on Digital Transformation in the Waste Industry

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The waste management and recycling industry is less than enthusiastic about its own success in making the digital transformation, according to AMCS’ benchmark report “Digital Transformation Barometer 2018.”

This is especially true for the application of new technologies, such as route optimization, online customer portals and business intelligence. Most companies gave themselves a grade of “unsatisfactory” in these areas. This is surprising given that 64 percent of those surveyed expect an increase in their information technology (IT) budgets. In fact, 20 percent expected an increase of more than 5 percent, according to AMCS.

More than 80 percent of participants—regardless of whether they are municipalities or private sector waste management companies—believe that digital innovation is important for their business success. At the top of their priorities list is improving customer satisfaction (73 percent) and increasing productivity (72 percent).

In addition, more than half (52 percent) indicated that improving sustainability is a big priority. But to achieve this, the most important issue by far for management is how to organize the operational process, in terms of both harmonization and digitalization. Obsolete legacy IT systems, implementing a paperless organization and creating a culture open to change are the main barriers.

“The research shows that there are five elements that are critical to success in transitioning into a digital organization,” said Mark Abbas, chief marketing officer for AMCS, in a statement. “Besides engaged employees and a management team that gives people the space to innovate, it is very important to have a comprehensive understanding of the digital trends and advancements in the value chain. It is also down to a smart application of new technology within the organization and using (reliable) data to make decisions.”

Research participants were asked to rate their organization on a variety of statements that measure progress on the five elements of success in digital transformation. The average score on the 10-point scale was a mere 6.3.

Key findings from the benchmark are:

  1. Digital transformation requires leadership in change management: The results of the survey show that leaders in the waste management industry clearly understand the importance of “soft” factors, such as leadership and employee engagement, in making the transition.
  2. The digital part of digital transformation is the real challenge: Unlike the softer aspects like leadership, it is exactly the "harder" technical aspects of transforming the organization, as in using business intelligence (BI) and data science or applying new technology, that forms the biggest challenge. When it comes to the application of emerging technologies, 60 percent of respondents gave themselves a failing grade. Average scores for business information were slightly better, but nearly half (45 percent) still gave themselves a grade of unsatisfactory.
  3. Legacy systems are the greatest barrier to successful digital transformation: For 54 percent of organizations surveyed, it is the problem of legacy software and systems that creates the greatest barrier to full implementation of the digital transformation.

So, what can leaders do differently? According to Abbas, the results provide insights into an interesting group of companies that have taken the lead in digital transformation.

“This group approaches digital transformation in a completely different way and has very different priorities from the rest,” he said. “Their operations are already very nearly paperless, they use digital invoicing systems and they have self-service web portals available for their customers. They are also more likely to already be using other digital techniques and applications, such as RFID, GPS monitoring, route optimization and in-vehicle tablets.”

The foreseeable future will be about evolving from data to information, according to AMCS. Analytics and BI are making it possible to immediately calculate the profitability of routes and jobs. Coordination with subcontractors is optimized when information can be exchanged digitally. And investing in applications like digital invoicing and payments mean offices can become completely paperless.

For the “Digital Transformation Barometer 2018,” AMCS studied which priorities are on the agendas of management in municipalities and private sector waste collectors in both Europe and the U.S. AMCS also wanted to understand the biggest challenges they face in the digital transformation of their operational processes and whether there were any significant differences in digital maturity within the target group. The respondents included a significant number of organizations with more than 250 employees. More than half of respondents have more than 50 vehicles for waste collection.

Need to Know

How Startups Are Joining the Race to Kill Plastic

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A recent Fast Company article has taken an in-depth look at some emerging startups and how climate change is spurring product innovation to eliminate plastic.  

The report details how a new wave of startups have popped up to reduce the amount of single-use plastic in our daily lives. Prompted by the anxieties about the environmental crisis, many companies are developing sustainable alternatives to the everyday, single-use plastic products we have come to depend on.

However, though the business case for this new genre of startups is obvious, these companies are still in their infancy, and to succeed, they’ll have to go up against household brand names that have been around for decades, the report notes.

Fast Company has more details:

I’ll admit it’s taken me a while to come to terms with how dire the environmental crisis is. I assumed my everyday eco-friendly behaviors–like recycling and bringing reusable bags to the grocery store–were helping to stave off plastic pollution and carbon pollution.

But the numbers are in, and it’s clear that an apocalyptic disaster is hurtling toward us much faster than we previously anticipated. Most experts believe we’ll be living in a state of crisis by 2040, with food shortages and frequent natural disasters part of everyday life. U.S. carbon emissions surged by 3.4% in 2018, the largest increase in eight years, further accelerating the pace of climate change. Meanwhile, billions of plastic pieces are filling the oceans every year, killing off sea life and ending up in the food chain, causing liver damage to both animals and people.

Read the full article here.

Need to Know

The Final Straw for Ben & Jerry's

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Ben & Jerry's announced it is moving away from single-use plastic. As a first step, the company said it will no longer offer plastic straws and spoons in any of its more than 600 Scoop Shops worldwide in early 2019. The company also announced a plan to address plastic cups and lids used to serve ice cream by the end of 2020.

Jenna Evans, Ben & Jerry's global sustainability manager, is leading the transition. She noted that Ben & Jerry's Scoop Shops currently hand out 2.5 million plastic straws a year and 30 million plastic spoons. If all the plastic spoons used by Ben & Jerry's in the U.S. were placed end to end, they'd stretch from Burlington, Vt., to Jacksonville, Fla., noted the company.

"We're not going to recycle our way out of this problem," said Evans in a statement. "We, and the rest of the world, need to get out of single-use plastic."

"Single-use plastics are a pollution threat unlike anything we've seen before," said Paul Burns, executive director of the Vermont Public Interest Research Group, in a statement. "Across the globe, discarded plastics are choking our environment and threatening wildlife. The only solution is to stop using them. That's why Ben & Jerry's plan to move away from single-use plastics is exactly the kind of leadership we need. We urge other businesses to follow Ben & Jerry's example and kick the plastics habit."   

Ben & Jerry's has already embarked on its plan to get out of single-use plastic in its Scoop Shops:

  • August 2018: Scoop Shops made plastic straws available by request only. Many shops had already transitioned to plastic alternatives by this time.
  • By April 9, 2019 (Free Cone Day!): Scoop Shops will complete the transition to wooden spoons. Paper straws will be available by request only.
  • By the end of 2020: Ben & Jerry's will find an alternative to clear plastic cups, plastic-lined cups and plastic lids.

The company has a history of striving for more sustainable packaging solutions. Pints and "tubs" (as Ben & Jerry's container is known in the U.K. and Europe) have been made with Forest Stewardship Council-certified paperboard since 2009. But because they are coated with polyethylene to create a moisture barrier, they are difficult to recycle. Evans explained Ben & Jerry's is looking at other options.

"Over the past year, we have begun an intensive effort to find a biodegradable and compostable coating that meets our product quality requirements," she said.

"In the short term, eliminating plastic straws and spoons is not going to save the world," added Evans. "But it's a good start toward changing expectations. We're committed to exploring additional options to further reduce the use of disposable items. This transition is the first step for us on a more comprehensive journey to eliminate single-use, petroleum-based plastic in our supply chain, and we look forward to reporting on our progress.