Need to Know

DEP Questions Keystone Landfill Expansion

The Department of Environmental Protection wants more information from Keystone Sanitary Landfill about plans to expand the dump and what it will mean for the environment and the scenery.

If you drive past or live near Keystone Landfill in Lackawanna County, you've probably noticed how the dump has created its own mountain range.

On Friday, we learned that the DEP sent a letter this week to Keystone asking for more information on how the landfill might change the landscape even more and how bad the dump could smell if it is allowed to expand.

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Need to Know

ECUA to Pay $7.5M to Convert Florida Recycling Facility

A plan by the Emerald Coast Utilities Authority to build a recycling facility at the Escambia County-owned Perdido Landfill is being fast tracked after the recycling facility ECUA had been using abruptly closed at the start of the month.

ECUA serves about 75,000 customers in Escambia County and 18,000 in Santa Rosa County, all of which are offered recycling pickup along with regular waste services. ECUA had been taking that recycling to an Infinitus Energy facility in Montgomery, Ala., until Infinitus abruptly closed the facility earlier this month after a sharp drop in the market price of recycled materials.

Since then, ECUA has diverted 30 percent of recyclables to a small plant in Baldwin County and is working on finding processing facilities for the remaining 70 percent. Recycling pick up hasn’t been affected, and ECUA wants its customers to continue recycling, but until a permanent solution is found some recyclable material will put in the landfill along with regular garbage.

Continue reading at the Pensacola News Journal

Need to Know

Tennessee Town Shuts Down Recycling Program

South Pittsburg's volunteer recycling program has been shut down after a unanimous vote by the City Commission last week.

City Administrator Sammy Burrows said an official with WestRock in Kimball, Tenn., formerly known as RockTenn, contacted him about the city's recycling program recently.

"The deal was that RockTenn would pay the haul bill if they got our recycling materials," he said. "[WestRock] has looked at that and are having to cut out paying the haul bill on that."

At the South Pittsburg City Commission's October meeting, Burrows asked the board to set policy on the matter since the town would have to pay that bill now.

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Three Goals in Nestlé USA’s Corporate Sustainability Report

Nestlé USA, which brings you everything from bottled water and coffee products to sweet chocolate treats and even cat litter, is looking to do more to bring its facilities toward environmental sustainability. Among the objectives Nestlé lists in its Corporate Sustainability Report, released earlier this month, are several environmental goals the company is working toward through 2020. Those targets include: zero waste to landfill, responsible packaging and reducing food waste.

Zero Waste to Landfill

As of May 2015, all 23 Nestle USA factories reached landfill-free status. By year’s end, Nestlé reports 30 percent of its U.S. factories will achieve landfill-free status. This milestone supports its commitment to environmentally sustainable business practices and helps meet its 2015 global commitment of 10 percent of facilities achieving zero waste to landfill status ahead of schedule.

The overall goal, is working toward zero waste for disposal, where no factory waste is landfilled or is incinerated without energy recovery, and to maximize the value of remaining by-products. According to its Report, as of 2014, 12 of Nestlé’s facilities in the United States achieved zero waste to landfill status.

Nestlé encourages employees to consider different ways to reduce, recycle or recover energy when disposing of manufacturing by-products. Additionally, it works with waste vendors to support its efforts to dispose, recycle and compost. All of this is working toward its U.S.-wide goal of zero waste to landfill status in all factories by 2020.

The plan is improving efficiency, quality and productivity, and doing more with fewer resources and less waste. Nestlé defines zero waste for disposal as any material that arises during the manufacture or distribution of a product that is destined for final disposal to offsite landfill or incineration without energy recovery. The overall ambition is to work towards this goal in as many facilities as possible, where no factory waste goes to landfill or is incinerated without energy recovered, and to maximize the value of remaining by-products.

Reduce Food Waste

Improving resource efficiency in its operations contributes to Nestlé’s efforts to reduce food waste. About one-third of all food produced worldwide is lost or wasted at some point along the supply chain, often before it reaches the end consumer. Aside from the tragedy of food wasted while millions go hungry around the world, food loss places a tremendous burden on the environment.

The company recently pledged to reduce food loss and waste in a new initiative launched at its global headquarters in Switzerland, attended by industry, research, government and civil society representatives. The program, called Save Food, works closely with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and the United Nations Environment Programme to create awareness of and help prevent food loss.

Nestlé’s efforts include responsible sourcing and educating consumers about food waste, as well as working closely with the World Resources Institute to develop a global standard to measure and to evaluate food loss and waste in the food supply chain. These efforts complement the global commitment to achieve zero waste to landfill in all of its manufacturing sites globally by 2020, further reducing waste from farm to table.

Responsible Packaging

Nestle is using smart packaging design to reduce food waste, guarantee the quality of its products and communicate with consumers. Nestlé says it is working to improve environmental performance of its packaging by optimizing packaging design and materials by taking a holistic approach, assessing the impacts of raw materials and processes across a product’s life cycle, and making the best choice for a particular product, whether it’s baby food, frozen pizza or pet food. Smart packaging delivers performance and functionality while optimizing weight and volume. Nestlé also is working to promote recovery and recycling and the use of materials from renewable sources, “where there’s an environmental benefit and it’s appropriate,” the report says. Improving the resource efficiency and environmental performance of its packaging is an ongoing priority across Nestlé’s operations.

The work, the company says, will help deliver on its 2020 commitment to develop the next generation of recyclable water bottles, with a lighter environmental footprint, made from post-consumer recycled or renewable materials.

Among its product packaging changes, Nestlé Purina announced this year that its Pro Plan Renew natural cat litter packaging is using 93 percent recycled materials. In partnership with Ecologic Brands, the litter packaging is a rigid container made from recyclable molded paper pulp with a closure made from the same material and can be recycled in curbside programs. In addition, the product itself is an eco-friendly, clumping litter made from 100 percent natural corncob and cedar, and contains no artificial fragrance.

Additionally, Nestlé’s Nespresso coffee, is working to collect all used aluminum capsules wherever it does business. In the U.S., Nespresso Club Members have three recycling options to return their capsules, consisting of collection bins at Nespresso Boutiques across the country, drop-off locations at select retail partner locations or by UPS using Nespresso’s Mail Back Program. The currently are 500 collection points across the country, with plans to further expand and make capsule recycling as convenient and accessible as possible, the company says.

Recyclebank Partners with North Miami

The city of North Miami, Fla., is partnering with Recyclebank to bolster its recycling.

The program will be available to all single-family homes in North Miami that have curbside recycling service. Recyclebank will distribute reward points to local residents based on the community’s recycling weight, according to a news release.

It is the second round of a partnership between the city of about 60,000 and New York-based Recyclebank, the rewards program that provides residents points for their recycling actions. North Miami was the first community in the Southeast United States to deploy the Recyclebank program, in 2009.

North Miami households that receive curbside recycling service must activate or re-activate an existing account, either online or by phone, in order to start earning reward points. Recyclebank also is encouraging businesses interested in being a reward partner to provide discounts and rewards to local residents to contact the company.

In addition, Recyclebank operates a program in communities that it serves for schools to submit an application that creates, continues or expands sustainable practices. Recyclebank selects the top 50 proposals and gives those accepted schools the chance to raise up to $2,500 for their projects.

 Recyclebank, operating for more than 10 years, partners with communities and a variety of brands. It claims more than 4 million members.

In addition to its core recycling incentives program, Recyclebank recently has been addressing one of the recycling industry’s biggest current problems–contamination of collected material. The company has launched a monthly educational initiative offering an array of content on contamination to its users, which are municipal residents located in 350 communities in the United States. The material talks about issues such as explaining recycling contamination and how to prevent it. 

But its core business remains working with municipalities. One of its charter cities, Philadelphia, recycled a record 128,000 tons of material during its fiscal 2014, and has posted a 155-percent increase in recycling since 2008, in part with Recyclebank’s help.

Meanwhile, another incentive firm, Tomra Systems ASA, expanded this month its Greenbean bottle and can recycling incentive program for U.S. colleges and universities. The provider of reverse vending machines (RVMs), based in Asker, Norway, added Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh to its program, which previously included seven institutions in the Northeast and Midwest.

Dallas to Build Recycling Facility

Dallas has agreed to build a new material recovery facility (MRF) to process and market up to 120,000 tons of recycling material annually.

The Dallas city council approved a contract with Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas (FCC), to build and operate the new recycling plant at a cost of $20 million at the McCommas Bluff Landfill, according to a news release. The city expects construction to begin in early 2016 and operations to start by January 2017.

The facility culminates a two-year process for Dallas to develop a long-term recycling program. It evaluated multiple recycling and resource recovery technologies to increase recycling.

Dallas’ plan is to achieve a 40-percent recycling rate by 2020 and have it increase further with time. The city decided to focus on single-stream recycling, as opposed to mixed waste processing, gasification or anaerobic digestion, because it saw the opportunity to increase recovery rates from the existing single-stream program.

The consulting firm Burns & McDonnell advised the city on implementing the program.

“With our current recycling processing agreement expiring in December 2016, we sought to develop a request for proposals that included an opportunity for a meaningful public-private partnership in which the city and a private company would be incentivized to increase recycling among residential households, apartments and commercial businesses by sharing risks and financial rewards,” said Kelly High, Dallas sanitation director. 

The city considered two options: a processing services agreement, or a new facility on a 15-acre site at the landfill.

“Recognizing that the city was offering to provide the land, a convenient location and key infrastructure, we thought that there could be interest in building a new MRF at the McCommas Bluff Landfill,” said Scott Pasternak, project manager for Burns & McDonnell.

FCC, a European company with U.S. headquarters in The Woodlands, Texas, included in its proposal a host fee, public education contributions, revenue sharing, processing fees and a guarantee that the city would not have to pay FCC when processing fees exceed the value of commodity revenue.

“This will be the largest public-private partnership of its kind in Texas,” Pasternak said. “This partnership between the city and FCC should provide a solid foundation for continued efforts to increase recycling in the city of Dallas and surrounding communities.”  

Dallas has struggled to improve its recycling rate. In May it was sued over its single-use carryout bag restriction.

And in 2013 the city settled in a long-standing flow control case, allowing haulers in the area to dispose of waste where they choose. Dallas in September 2011 passed an ordinance that all waste collected inside its borders go to the city’s McCommas Bluff Landfill. The settlement made permanent a court injunction against the ordinance issued in October 2012.

Meanwhile, both the private and public sector struggle with how the drop in commodity prices have put pressure on both to make the recycling business more economical.


Munching Mealworms Just Part of the Solution to Plastics Pollution

Mealworms tend to prefer the dark. Lately, however, the tiny insects have been thrust into the limelight after two studies revealed their propensity for munching on Styrofoam.

In the world of trash, news that microorganisms in a mealworm’s gut can biodegrade all types of polystyrene has been lauded by the hopeful who see endless opportunities and criticized by skeptics who fear it will be viewed as a panacea on a planet littered with plastics.

None of that is lost on Wei-Min Wu, co-author of the pair of companion papers published recently in the journal Environmental Science and Technology. He is a senior research engineer with Stanford University’s Civil and Environmental Engineering Department.

“Our findings have opened a new door for remediation technology because most plastic wastes have been considered non-biodegradable,” Wu tells Waste360 in an interview from Lansing, Mich., where he was on a break with his family. But even with this discovery, he cautions, “we should still reduce plastic waste as much as possible and focus on more green products.”

Thus far, his research is confined to the lab. There, the Styrofoam-chomping mealworms—which are actually the larvae form of the darkling beetle—leave behind miniature yellowish-white feces. Large-scale, in-the-field testing of the mealworms’ capabilities might prove difficult because they are an appealing dinner for the birds, rats and other creatures that frequent landfills and trash bins, he says.

The brown waste excreted by mealworms on a more conventional diet of grains, vegetables and fruits is used as an agricultural fertilizer and even as chicken food in China, Wu says. He adds that while the waste from Styrofoam-fed worms is likely not poisonous because they are able to complete their normal larvae-pupae-beetle lifecycle, more study of its biodegradability and potential health effects is needed.

Wu shuttled between Palo Alto, Calif., and Beijing, China, to conduct his mealworm research after his colleague Jun Yang, a professor at Beihang University, invited him aboard as a collaborator five years ago.

Yang’s curiosity had been piqued when he observed waxworms—larvae of the Indian meal moth, a pest found in kitchens galore—chewing holes in a polyethylene bag containing millet. That launched his studies of biodegradation of plastic by an array of pest worms.

Spokespeople from the Washington, D.C.-based Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers did not return several requests for comment from Waste 360 on the mealworm studies.

Styrofoam is the bane of Julie Lawson’s existence. As the director of Trash Free Maryland, an alliance of 60-plus like-minded organizations, she recently coordinated successful campaigns to ban the sale and use of disposable polystyrene foam products in the nation’s capital and two adjacent counties.

She’s worried that Wu’s research will allow an easy way out. If mealworms can devour plastic, people can continue using disposable, overpackaged stuff without the guilt of damaging the planet.

“I’m urging caution,” Lawson says. “Expecting another organism to tackle the ever-increasing amount of disposable plastics we humans consume doesn’t seem sustainable or immune from unintended consequences.”

Wu is mindful of her apprehension. He doesn’t want the hype to get ahead of the science.

“Mealworms are not the final solution for plastics,” he says, adding that pollution caused by plastics has been a global environmental concern for upward of 50 years. “There’s a lot more we can do.”

Concentrating on four specific strategies could solve the problem with plastics, Wu says. Those efforts include recycling; managing plastic waste to significantly reduce what is dumped in the environment; developing cost-effective, biodegradable materials from biomass and other green resources; and remediating plastic waste by deploying technology or other approaches, such as mealworms.

He and other Stanford researchers also are working on developing non-petroleum-based plastic materials that biodegrade rapidly.

While Wu and his colleagues are focused on studying the microbiology of the plastic-digesting bacteria in a mealworm’s gut, they are hoping those basics offer insight about how to tackle monumental challenges such as the tons of plastic debris floating in the ocean.

Some of that plastic bobs into the ocean via the Anacostia River. Its remarkably vast watershed encompasses 176 square miles in Washington, D.C. and Prince George’s and Montgomery counties in Maryland. The 8.5-mile waterway merges with the Potomac River at Hains Point in Southwest Washington.

What frustrates Lawson is that 25 percent to 40 percent of the watershed’s litter by volume is foam, local surveys show. It’s almost impossible to remove it because it breaks into tiny pieces that take hundreds of years to biodegrade. Those tidbits, which are prone to absorbing petrochemicals in waterways, enter the food chain as an enticing but hazardous snack for fish and other wildlife.

Might there be a freshwater or marine equivalent of the mealworm?

“This is an interesting question,” Wu says. “I hope that some marine animals may have a similar plastic-degrading capability. More investigation is needed.”

Need to Know

Russia Temporarily Bans Recovered Paper Exports

Russia's Ministry for Economic Development has approved a proposal to impose a temporary ban on recovered paper exports. This measure reportedly aims to improve poor supply on the domestic market and encourage domestic converting of recovered paper. This action was among a number of decisions whose objectives are to stimulate economic growth, reduce costs for Russian companies and support certain industries, the Russian Ministry said.

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Need to Know

School Districts Prepare for West Lake Landfill Emergency

Four school districts near the radioactive West Lake Landfill in Bridgeton sent letters to parents Monday explaining their plans for a potential emergency at the site.

“We remain frustrated by the situation at the landfill,” wrote Mike Fulton, superintendent of the Pattonville School District. “This impacts not only our community, but the entire St. Louis region.”

The letters from Pattonville, Orchard Farm, St. Charles and Francis Howell districts used similar language to describe what will happen if toxic fumes are released into the community. Students will either shelter in place at their schools or will be evacuated as directed by emergency responders.

Continue reading at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Need to Know

These 5 Countries Account for 60% of Plastic Pollution in Oceans

Roughly 8 million tons of plastic is dumped into the world’s oceans every year, and according to a new study, the majority of this waste comes from just five countries: China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.

It appears that these five countries are responsible for up to 60 percent of the marine plastic entering our oceans, according to Stemming the Tide, a study released last month by the Ocean Conservancy and McKinsey Center for Business and Environment.

Why are these parts of Asia leaking so much plastic? Well, as the study suggests, these emerging countries are experiencing rapid economic growth, reduced poverty and improved quality of life. This development is, of course, fantastic. However, as these economies grow, so does the consumer use of plastic and plastic-intensive goods.

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