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Need to Know

Recycling Law is Working — And More Work — In Vermont

For some towns, the state’s new recycling law has been a boon, while for others it has been a new and frustrating layer of bureaucracy.

“What I’m getting back in response is a pretty mixed bag, I’d say — no pun intended,” said Karen Horn, director of public policy and advocacy at the Vermont League of Cities and Towns.

Provisions of the law which took effect July 1 ban a wide range of recyclables from being sent to landfills. It requires curbside collection of recycling and mandates that towns adopt ordinances to set pricing based on weight or volume of trash.

Continue reading at Times Argus

NWRA Names Kraushaar VP of Government Affairs

The National Waste and Recycling Association (NWRA) announced that Kevin J. Kraushaar has been named vice president for government affairs, chapter operations and general counsel.  In this role, Kraushaar will coordinate all NWRA advocacy and legislative efforts at the federal, state and local levels.

“Kevin brings a depth and breadth of experience to NWRA as we engage at the state and federal levels on a multitude of issues we face as an industry,”  NWRA President and CEO Sharon H. Kneiss said in a statement.  “His track record with major associations and corporate advocacy will serve our member companies well as we continue to advance the agenda for the waste and recycling industry.  Kevin has already hit the ground running prior to his official start.  He will be meeting many of our members at this week’s Mid-Atlantic Annual Conference in Charleston, and he had the opportunity to meet with many members and NWRA Chapter leaders at our recent Southeast Regional meetings.”

Kraushaar has more than 25 years of experience in legislative affairs and advocacy programs.  He was most recently a principal in the firm J. Warren Strategies, advising associations and corporations on a wide range of state and federal legislative initiatives.  Prior to that, he served as the vice president of government relations for the Consumer Healthcare Products Association, and he served on the staff of Representative Carl Pursell (MI).  He began his career with the Michigan State Senate.  He holds a juris doctor from University of Detroit Mercy and a bachelor degree from the University of Michigan.

“NWRA is a dynamic, member-driven organization that is unique in that we touch virtually every home and business in America,” Kraushaar said in a statement. “We will be expanding our advocacy efforts both on Capitol Hill and with a number of federal agencies, and we will continue to build on the legislative and policy successes led by our chapters at state and local governments across the country.”

Kraushaar succeeds David Biderman, who left the NWRA in April to become executive director and CEO of the Solid Waste Association of North America.

Novolex Buys Wisconsin Plastic Bag, Film Recycler, Maker

Stickers Used to Keep Plastic Bags from Recycling Bins

Novolex has purchased Wisconsin Film & Bag (WFB), a plastic bag and film manufacturer and recycler, for an undisclosed amount.

The Shawano, Wis.-based WFB operates a plastics recycling plant and converting facility near its headquarters. It makes custom polyethylene bags and films as well recycled and sustainable materials. It employs about 175, according to a news release.

“This is important to us because it will further enhance our high quality packaging choices for customers while advancing our position as the industry leader in sustainability,” said Stan Bikulege, chairman and CEO of Novolex, based in Hartsville, S.C.

Private equity firm Wind Point Partners acquired Novolex (formerly Hilex Poly) in 2012. WFB is the fourth acquisition for the company since it took on new ownership. Previous Novolex purchases include Packaging Dynamics (December 2014), Duro Bag (July 2014) and a portion of Clondalkin Group’s North American Flexible Packaging Division (April 2013).

With the addition of WFB, Novolex now generates revenue of $2 billion with more than 5,200 employees and 37 manufacturing locations in North America.

The plastic bags continue to be most famous for being an environmental and political football in a battle to ban their use by consumers or find a better way to recycle them. While legislation restricting their use continues to be a popular push for environmentalists, two companies in Texas have tried to find a way to recycle the products.

In late 2014, the city of San Antonio and ReCommunity joined forces to pilot the “Bag Your Bags” program as a way to stop lightweight high-density polyethylene (HDPE) material from jamming recycling machines by asking residents to effectively create a plastic bag "ball" out of multiple bags. 

Texas Disposal Services (TDS) introduced a similar program in 2011, but only one of the nearly 100 communities and municipalities it services has taken them up on the offer. That’s Georgetown, Texas, a community north of Austin which added the program when it converted its curbside recycling collection to single-stream, says Ryan Hobbs, business development for TDS.

“We came up with the 'Bag-The-Bag' film plastic recycling program and we designed a special stuffer bag that are distributed to residential customers who can place them in their pantry or under a sink and over the course of time, they can stuff all varieties of film plastic inside,” such as bread bags, newspaper bags and the wrap around paper towels, he says.

Earlier in the year, there was promising data for post-consumer plastic film recycling. It jumped 11 percent from the previous year, according to the findings from the American Chemistry Council.

How 10 Universities are Changing the Game in Managing Waste

The Sierra Club compiled an extensive ranking of America’s Greenest Universities, and Waste was one of the 11 key metrics the San Francisco-based organization used.

Higher education has been a popular area for examination and focus on improving waste management and other environmental factors. The OnlineSchoolsCenter.com, a website about higher education, ranked the greenest schools earlier this year, from a broad environmental perspective. And the annual Recyclemania contest for schools pits universities and colleges across America in a battle for top recycling achievement.

The best schools in the waste category varied widely with the final overall rankings. Clearly, some schools are better in some environmental categories and worse in others.

In this study, the Sierra Club assigned a total of 105 possible points for universities and colleges to make the grade on waste operations.

Waste reduction accounted for 25 points. Institutions had to reduce waste by 7 percent or more per year compared with an historical baseline.

General waste diversion comprised 20 points. Institutions could earn half of available points by calculating the general diversion. The rest could come based on the percentage.

Waste diversion from new construction and demolition (C&D) totaled 20 points. Half could come from calculating diversion during new C&D. The other half was available based on the percentage of diversion achieved.

The electronic waste recycling category represents 20 points. Half relate to having a program to refurbish, reuse, or recycle electronic waste generated by the school. The other half come from having a similar program for electronic waste generated by students.

The last category is move-in/move-out waste reduction. All points come from having such a program.

Finnish Firm Wants All Trash Receptacles to be Smart

A Finnish technology startup is intent on convincing decision-makers in the U.S. solid waste industry that its smart software can save money, slice carbon dioxide emissions—and even prevent stress-induced gray hair.

Enevo has packaged those promises in a rugged, one-pound, yellow sensor that resembles a bloated hockey puck.

The wireless sensor, which can be affixed to a full range of refuse containers carrying all types of garbage, is designed to tolerate harsh weather and grueling conditions. It tracks fill levels and also monitors temperatures and movement to detect fire or vandalism. Pertinent information is transmitted to haulers via sonar technology so drivers can be more efficient, responsive and timely with pickups. It’s mainly geared for the commercial and industrial sector.

“We’re not just tech folks trying to jam a solution upon the waste industry,” says Geoff Aardsma, Enevo’s Boston-based regional sales manager. “People need to trust that the sensor is going to be able to deliver. That’s why we’ve hired people with waste industry experience.”

Aardsma was one of several representatives touting Enevo’s inventiveness in mid-September during an event called Smart Cities Week in downtown Washington, D.C.

He joined Enevo after a decade at Waste Management. The European company, which branched into the U.S. market 18 months ago, is in the midst of expanding its state-side staff from 10 to 13 employees.

Enevo—short for environmental evolution—launched in Finland five years ago and now counts 140-plus customers in 35 countries. One U.S. client is the DowntownDC Business Improvement District (BID) in Washington that covers 138 city blocks roughly between the White House and the U.S. Capitol. The area has been designated as an eco-district in collaboration with Smart Cities.

As part of a pilot program, the BID installed six Enevo sensors on dumpsters in large commercial office buildings in May, says Scott Pomeroy, the organization’s sustainability manager. The BID is in the midst of measuring waste streams and compiling accurate baselines so managers can make economical decisions about landfilling, recycling and composting.

About 200 more sensors will be added to the eco-district this month.

“Our goal is to make life easier for commercial property managers,” says Pomeroy, who first met with Enevo representatives in January. “Without the sensors, volumes and weights are so variable that we don’t have accurate measurements of what is coming or going unless we were to figure it out by hand on a daily basis. That would take thousands of man hours.”

Another bonus of sensor data is that building managers can achieve valuable green-building certification points by submitting accurate calculations on diversion rates.

Though commercial buildings are the target now, Pomeroy says, restaurants might be candidates for sensor technology that could streamline pickup of grease containers and overflowing trash bins. As well, the BID might consider attaching sensors to the trash and recycling containers on public sidewalks.

Gathering data for several months allows the eco-district to look for patterns and determine how to maximize information the sensors offer, he says. By knowing what’s in the wastestream, it will be easier to figure out how those materials are separated and where they should go. For instance, organics could be composted or used to generate energy at the regional wastewater treatment plant.

“It’s going to be a whole palette of options,” Pomeroy says, adding that addressing hauler routes is a possibility. “We just don’t know yet. Using technology, we are able make the analysis of this much more cost-effective and easier to understand.”

The potential for the sensors is enormous in a city such as Washington, where commercial haulers attend to 75 percent of the trash and recycling. The city’s Department of Public Works picks up the rest.

David Biderman, chief executive of the Silver Spring, Md.-based Solid Waste Association of North America, says the industry welcomes smart software. But the hardware must withstand heat, cold and lots of banging around.

“Companies need to demonstrate that their technology will withstand rough operating conditions,” Biderman says. “This industry is not easy on its equipment.”

Charbel Aoun, Enevo’s London-based chief sales and strategy officer, says the durable sensor is designed to take a beating—and continue transmitting data to a digital dashboard. Then, he points out, garbage haulers can optimize fleet efficiency by adjusting their daily rounds instead of sticking to static routes.

“These sensors are like eyes in the field,” Aoun says, adding that they can pare fuel bills, save labor costs and reduce customer complaints. “We’re on a mission to put one on every trashcan in the world.”

This technology is not a toy, he says, emphasizing that Enevo put top value on creating a product that the industry requested instead of allowing its engineers to go wild.

“We’ve realized the value of listening to our customers,” Aoun says. “They’re keeping us on our toes.” 

Focusing on the Economics of Glass Recycling

The Glass Packaging Institute touts glass as “the trusted and proven packaging for health, taste and the environment.” The benefits associated with glass packaging are many… glass containers are nonporous and impermeable, and food and drinks that are sold in glass containers are safely protected. There is no change to the taste of products that are packaged in glass. And once glass containers are used, they can be recycled, resulting in significant environmental benefits and energy savings. 

But despite all the good qualities of glass packaging, glass recycling is struggling. As glass recycling is analyzed, several communities with curbside recycling programs have recently dropped glass from the list of acceptable items. 

So, what’s the problem with glass?

Glass has been a regular part of many curbside recycling programs since the 1990s. So why now is glass a problem? The fact is that glass has always been one of the lower valued commodities. Today, recycling managers are facing new pressure as commodity prices have dropped. 

The problems begin with the collection process, where glass breaks when it is placed in collection vehicles. With single-stream programs, broken glass is mixed up with tons of other recyclables and is difficult to sort. Even with dual-stream recycling programs and drop-off centers where materials are collected separately, glass can be a problem. At recycling centers glass is hard on equipment, creating wear on conveyor belts, screens and other moving parts. 

Quality issues are another concern of the recycling manager. As paper and cardboard mills become more stringent on quality, buyers of used fiber will pay significantly less for materials containing crushed glass.

The economics of glass recycling, high contamination rates and the limited outlets for recovered glass is causing recycling managers across the United States to reconsider glass in their recycling programs. Additionally, markets for glass are limited. Remember…when there is no market, there is no recycling. 

In most cases, recycling centers have to pay to get rid of the glass they produce. Even if you are fortunate to have a viable glass outlet near your recycling center, you must still realize that glass is heavy and the cost of shipping glass is expensive. As a result, a number of towns and cities have eliminated glass from their curbside recycling programs. 

Looking ahead

The pressure to operate recycling centers in a cost-effective and environmentally sound manner will continue. Recycling managers will continue to look for ways to trim costs and examine the cost benefits of various commodities.

The Glass Recycling Institute suggests that the ideal recycling program for glass is one which “results in color separated, contaminant-free recycled glass helps ensure that these materials are recycled into new glass containers.” The institute goes on to say, “While curbside collection of glass recyclables can generate high participation and large amounts of recyclables, drop-off and commercial collection programs often yield higher-quality container glass.” But recycling infrastructure is not easy to change and demands a lot of capital.

Recycling managers need to take an analytical look at every commodity in their recycling program and understand the economics associated with each item that is being collected, processed, transported and sold. 

Moving forward many municipalities will be asking for and evaluating recycling programs with and without glass as a collected item.

Unquestionably, there are significant environmental benefits associated with recycling glass, including energy savings. However, environmental mangers know that glass tossed into the trash and sent to a landfill presents no risk to public health. Glass is inert and does not decompose. Glass generates no landfill gas and it does not produce any containments that need to be removed like leachate from the landfill.

Fixing the problem…

While glass will remain a useful packaging material, there is going to be increased scrutiny on the recycling side of the glass lifecycle. From a business standpoint, recyclers face many challenges with glass. First, glass breaks and it is difficult to sort at most recycling centers.  Second, glass is hard on equipment, resulting in higher maintenance costs at recycling centers where glass is processed. Third, glass mixes with paper and cardboard and lowers the value of the fiber that is being sold or increases the risk of deductions at the mill for quality issues. Fourth, glass is heavy and expensive to transport. Fifth, the markets for glass are limited. In many markets there are no viable, long-term outlets for glass, and recycling centers have to pay to get rid of the materials that often end up being used as a beneficial use at a landfill. 

Fixing the problem will not be easy. While the environmental benefits of recycling materials are clear, recycling mangers are more routinely focusing on the economics of recycling. If recycling a certain commodity is not cost effective and the consumer is unwilling to pay more for recycling, than we should expect to see materials like glass being dropped from more and more curbside programs. Glass manufactures should be concerned because of the potential consumer backlash against packaging products that are seen as non-recyclable. 

Again, the fix will not be easy as recycling is coming to a crossroads and recycling managers, municipal managers and manufacturers will need to make hard decisions based on sound economics and the ability to move materials to viable, long-term markets. 

Need to Know

Recology Scores a Victory in San Francisco Landfill Agreement Dispute

Recology recology-trucknocarts.jpg

San Francisco’s garbage is destined for a new home, following a Board of Supervisors unanimous vote Tuesday to reject an appeal for environmental review of a new landfill agreement.

The appeal was turned down even though garbage trucks will now have to travel 40 round-trip miles farther than before.

The vote was a significant victory for Recology, who operates the Hay Road landfill in Solano County — the place San Francisco’s trash will now end up.

The company has long operated a trash hauling monopoly, but until now hasn’t had the landfill piece of the refuse business.

Continue reading at the San Francisco Examiner

Need to Know

Mosaic Agrees to $1.8 Billion Settlement Over Fertilizer Waste in Louisiana, Florida

One of the world's largest fertilizer makers is settling a massive hazardous waste lawsuit for nearly $2 billion to help clean up pollution and upgrade leaky facilities in Florida and Louisiana, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.

The department and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency were set to announce the agreement with Minnesota-based The Mosaic Co. on Thursday. The deal still needs to be finalized by the court.

The legal agreement concerns the proper storage and disposal of more than 60 billion tons of hazardous waste.

Continue reading here

Need to Know

Covanta Environmental Solutions Acquires Two Industrial Waste Management Firms

Covanta subsidiary, Covanta Environmental Solutions reports that it has acquired Waste Recovery Solutions Inc. (WRS) and Chesapeake Waste Solutions, two privately held environmental services companies located in Pennsylvania. Covanta is based in based in Morristown, New Jersey. 

The waste and energy company says the acquisitions will expand its industrial material management network and capabilities in the mid-Atlantic region, complementing previous acquisitions of similar businesses in the Midwest and Carolinas.

In total, the acquisitions completed to date are expected to contribute approximately $80 million of annual revenue, the company says.

Continue reading at Recycling Today

Need to Know

Wyoming Residents Concerned Landfill Expansion Will Contaminate Well Water

The risk of well water contamination appears to be the biggest issue on the minds of residents near the Happy Jack Landfill.

At least it was for those who showed up to a public hearing Tuesday night about the proposed expansion of the landfill west of the city.

Residents also weren't happy at what they said was a lack of communication by the city of Cheyenne, which owns the landfill and is trying to add more than 7.2 million cubic yards to the north of it

The expansion would let the city resume using its own landfill to dump municipal waste and stop spending $1.2 million annually to haul trash to the North Weld Landfill near Ault, Colo.

Continue reading at Wyoming News