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Need to Know

Demise of Blue Bags Brings Glitches to Recycling in Pasco County

The end of the blue bags came with some red flags for residents accustomed to Pasco County's curbside recycling program.

Pasco ditched its 23-year-old blue bag program Oct. 1. The move became necessary after recyclers declined to bid on the county contract to sort and resell plastic, glass and metal cans if the materials came wrapped in plastic bags. Residents are now mandated to put recyclable materials in their own containers if they want haulers to retrieve the items during twice-a-month pickups.

The changeover caught lots of people off guard and left some residents wondering why their recyclables hadn't been taken. Last week, for instance, a drive around five streets in the Land O'Lakes neighborhoods of Lake Padgett Estates East and Eagle Island Estates revealed three dozen homes with blue bags at the curb.

Continue reading at the Tampa Bay Times

Need to Know

Sonoma County Garbage Company Tightens Recycling Rules

Sonoma County’s dominant waste hauler is struggling to clean up its single-stream recycling program, and it’s tightening the rules on what is — and what is not — recyclable material.

For years North Bay Corp. has been hesitant to enforce recycling guidelines, urging residents to err on the side of recycling, said Lou Ratto, chief operating officer for the Ratto Group of Companies, parent company of the Santa Rosa garbage hauler.

But the company, under close scrutiny by local regulators and facing a tighter overseas market for recycled goods, says those days are over.

Continue reading at The Press Democrat

10 Takeaways from the PET Recycling Report

The recycling rate for polyethylene terephthalate (PET) declined slightly in 2014, although total volume of bottles collected and generated hit record highs.

The data comes from the annual report on PET post-consumer recycling activity by the National Association for PET Container Resources (NAPCOR) and the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers (APR), according to a news release.

Here are 10 takeaways from the PET report.

  1. The PET recycling rate dipped to 31 percent compared with 2013’s rate of 31.2 percent. That 2013 rate was the record high, and the rate previously had climbed each year since 2004, when it was 21.6 percent.
  2. Total bottles collected totaled 1.812 billion pounds, the highest amount since 2004. That nearly doubled the amount collected 10 years ago.
  3. Total bottles available for recycling also reached an all-time high of 5.849 billion pounds. By comparison, in 2004 the total was 4.637 billion pounds.
  4. PET bottle bales purchased by export markets dropped 14 percent to 414 million pounds, the lowest total since 2004. Exports have fallen steadily since a 2008 high of 836 million pounds. 
  5. Exports totaled just 23 percent of total post-consumer PET volumes, the lowest percentage of domestic material since 2000.
  6. Total domestic end-use of recycled PET increased to a record high of 1.564 million pounds in 2014 from 1.513 billion a year earlier. The latest results included significant gains in the fiber and sheet end-use market categories. The total virtually triples the amount used more than a decade ago.
  7. The take from Tom Busard, NAPCOR chairman and also with Plastipak Packaging Inc.: “We continue to see strong domestic demand for recycled PET in fiber, sheet, bottles and other market sectors.  … Despite some very real challenges in 2014, including low oil prices and volatile markets, the North American PET reclamation industry continues to process and market more material than ever before.”
  8. And from APR Chairman Scott Saunders, KW Plastics Recycling Division: “While the industry still struggles with persistent issues like poor bale quality, it is resilient and robust, and continues to support significant domestic jobs and economic activity.”
  9. Both groups addressed the industry’s continued challenges. A particular focus is how to maximize the capture of PET from the waste stream, reduce non-PET contamination in recycling streams, and encourage awareness and understanding of designing for recyclability.
  10. In his latest column on commodity pricing, Waste360 columnist Bob Boulanger reported that PET prices have been falling significantly since June, from 14.5 cents per pound to 10.9 cents per pound.

Illinois City to Implement Curbside Organics Recycling Program

Highland Park will become one of the first cities in Illinois to offer curbside recycling of mixed organic waste when it rolls out its opt-in, three-bin system in April 2016.

The affluent Chicago suburb of about 9,000 residences is teaming with Lakeshore Recycling Systems (LRS) to target food scraps during the yard waste season from April 1 to Dec. 15.

Oak Park, Ill., launched a curbside organics collection program more than three years ago.

(This story originally stated based on information supplied that Highland Park was the first Illinois city to offer such a program.)

Highland Park recently awarded LRS—an independent waste and recycling company which recycles more than 1.6 million tons annually—with an exclusive six-year commercial and residential contract that starts Jan. 1, 2016.

Karen Brunetti, assistant to the city manager of Highland Park, says the new program is another step toward implementing the sustainability initiatives laid out in the city’s 2010 strategic plan. Creating a composting or organics program is one of the 90 goals spelled out in the plan.

Brunetti says the city piloted a similar program beginning in 2012 and had success with a few hundred homes participating.

“When we were approaching the contract renewal, we wanted to see just what the cost would be for adding an organics program into our actual franchise agreement,” she says. “We weren’t necessarily committing to anything, just wanted to see what the prices were and what the haulers could really offer us.”

LRS offered the city two options. The first was a year-round, three-bin system for the entire community with each resident paying an extra fee for the service. The second was an opt-in, three-bin system to coincide with landscape collection where the organics would be a commingled stream of yard waste and food waste and only the residents who wanted to participate would pay for it.

“When presented to council, the second option just seemed a little bit more favorable as a starting point for the city to see how residents would take the program,” Brunetti says. Currently, residents pay $236 for a landscape subscription that includes only yard waste. With LRS, that rate will go down to $225—about $26 a month during the season—and include the additional food waste component.

“They are also offering a volume-based organic collection, so what that means is if a resident doesn't want to do the subscription, but perhaps they still want to collect the food scraps, they can do that in a bin and attach a ($2.45) sticker,” she says.

LRS Managing Partner Joshua B. Connell says Highland Park’s new organics recycling program is the first initiative of its kind anywhere in Illinois.

“Highland Park is very progressive with a residential base there that cares about the environment,” Connell says. “I think it’s going to take off. Maybe not the first year, but I think the second year, it'll take off, because we're making it a very easy program and cost effective, too. Are we going to get 70, 80 percent participation? No, I don't think so. To me successful would be a third—about 3,000 homes participating—that would be a tremendous amount.”

LRS, which has about 200 collection vehicles throughout the Chicago area and five material recycling facilities (four of which it owns and one that it manages) will provide all participating residents with a complimentary 35-, 65- or 95-gallon plastic cart.

“We were quick to offer that at no additional cost, because the convenience of it not only for our drivers but for the residents, and it's easy to clean out,” Connell says.

Residents can toss their food waste in compostable bags—brown craft bags or biodegradable bags to keep the smell contained.

“We'll give them some ideas and some tricks and some things that will help,” he says. “As long as it's a compostable type bag or if they want to throw it in loose and clean out their cart each week, they can do that as well.”

Brunetti says the city is excited about the expanded organics recycling, adding that a 2014 survey of residents revealed that more than half would be interested in collecting and composting food scraps if the cost wasn’t too high.

“That tells us that they're willing to do it, so as long as it's economical for residents, then it's something that perhaps they would take advantage of,” she says. “There's a lot of focus and education on preventing waste from going to the landfill. This is one of those measures that the city can proactively take to reduce the amount of waste that's going to the landfill. Every tiny step that we make is hopefully going to, in the long term, have an impact.”

What the Recycling Industry Can Bring to Climate Change Discussions

The unfolding string of chaotic climate events around the world is disturbing to anyone paying attention, but as a father I can tell you that it is absolutely terrifying to our children who are old enough to understand what is happening. The generation that is coming of age at this time, the millennials, are some of the smartest and globally-aware young adults that the human race has ever produced. That is both good and bad news as it relates to climate change and what the world is doing about it.

There is zero time to waste since delaying climate cooling solutions today only increases the price tag in the future–a burden we shouldn’t be passing on to future generations. The time to act is now, and we need solutions that are ready to go, cost-effective and impactful.

Fast, cost-effective and proven

That’s what we as a recycling industry can bring to the climate discussions: Proven strategies that can be implemented today at reasonable costs with meaningful impacts. We can’t solve the whole problem because there is a lot of long-term large-scale work to be done on our energy and transportation systems, but investing in zero waste today is one of the best short-term strategies that helps buy time to work on these longer-term problems.

Unfortunately, the recycling industry has been excluded from the climate conversation, save for a small foothold around methane. In most local greenhouse gas inventories, “waste” is only 2-5 percent of the problem, so it doesn’t look like a sizeable part of the problem or the solution. But that’s only because we’re calculating it incorrectly. We’re only measuring the methane contribution from landfills and not the emissions from making and transporting products and their packaging.

We need to get behind a new climate accounting system that looks beyond landfill emissions and measures the impact of producing, consuming and disposing of all our stuff. It’s time for consumption-based accounting.

Game-changer: Consumption-based accounting

We know that consumption affects climate change: The bigger your house, the more stuff you buy, the bigger your climate footprint.

Yet most greenhouse gas (GHG) inventories don't measure the impacts of consumption. Nor do they measure the benefits of recycling and composting, which help reduce GHG emissions. For example, a community that recycles 100 percent of the scrap metal in their town, which would save a huge amount of energy and significantly reduce carbon emissions in producing the next metal product, doesn’t get any credit for this impactful program. We just aren’t measuring the right things if we’re only looking at emission sources like smokestacks while ignoring all the energy that is not burned thanks to recycling. According to Dr. Jeffrey Morris, a resource economist, around four barrels of energy are saved for every ton of municipal solid waste (MSW) that is recycled.

The EPA published a groundbreaking report in 2009 that described how “materials management and food systems” in America are responsible for 42 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Let that sink in for a moment: The way we manufacture, use and dispose of our “stuff,” is responsible for nearly half of our climate impact.

Since that big news, some communities are starting to change the way they look at consumption and waste in their climate action plans. Places like San Francisco and Washington’s King County have published consumption-based inventories and are changing the conversation about how zero waste can be a short-term climate solution priority.

Portland, Ore., is leading the pack. Their 2015 Climate Action Plan offers both a traditional GHG inventory and a consumption-based inventory. As a result of looking at their emissions from both angles, Portland has more options on the table, and zero waste actions are included as important short-term priorities. A few of the climate action steps in Portland include expanding business and multifamily recycling, promoting reuse opportunities like thrift stores, fix-it clinics and tool libraries, as well as product stewardship. The city is aiming to reduce waste generation by 33 percent and has seen per capita generation drop 10 percent below 1996 levels.

How you can get started

The counting of “consumption emissions” is still in its infancy and there’s no standard protocol for communities to use. That’s the first thing we need to change on the local, state and national levels.

We also need to change the conversation about greenhouse gas emissions and what is it that is driving those power plants and truck tailpipes so hard? Eco-Cycle Solution’s new 6-minute video, The Zero Waste-Climate Solution, helps you understand the issue and introduce zero waste into your local climate discussions. And visit the West Coast Climate Forum for a great series of webinars and background reports on climate and materials management.

The escalating climate crisis is enough to make a person feel overwhelmed and helpless–but for waste management professionals it is also an opportunity to be part of the solution by recreating our industry into a “resource management” industry. It’s time that we sit at the grown-ups table in the fight against climate change. Zero Waste offers fast, cost-effective, ready-to-implement solutions to help reducing greenhouse gases quickly and in large numbers. The world needs to hear our good news stories and consumption-based accounting will help us tell it.

Eric Lombardi is the executive director of Eco-Cycle International and has had a long career in community resource conservation, social enterprise development and non-profit (NGO) organizational management since 1980.

Eight Insights from the NWRA’s Latest Business Conditions Report

Economic indicators generally were strong in the first half of 2015, and industry officials are optimistic on the near future, according to a business conditions analysis by the National Waste and Recycling Association (NWRA).

The Washington-based association published its analysis of the industry’s second quarter based on data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s Quarterly Services Survey (issued in September) and response to the NWRA’s quarterly business conditions survey conducted among its member companies, according to a news release.

Here are eight highlights from the NWRA report:

  1. Second quarter revenue climbed 10.3 percent to $21.76 billion. The increase follows a first-quarter decline of 11.7 percent, which the association attributes largely to the winter weather and depressed global commodity prices.
  2. Revenue for the first half fell 5.3 percent to $41.5 billion compared with the first half of 2014.
  3. More than half (58 percent) of the respondents to the business conditions survey said the believe conditions will improve in the next three to six months.
  4. Nearly half of the respondents reported increases in employment in the second quarter.
  5. Two-thirds of the respondents expect employment to hold steady, while 30 percent anticipate increasing employment.
  6. The assessment by Bret Biggers, NWRA’s director of standards and statistics: “The industry data for the quarter shows solid economic conditions for the industry. While the industry continues to be subject to increased costs and the extreme fluctuations in global commodity markets, we are seeing strength in the sector in terms of increasing revenues and only 4 percent of survey respondents expecting to reduce employment as we head into the winter months.”
  7. The analysis fits the report of Leone Young, in her review of second-quarter results in Waste360’s Business Insights. She wrote that of the largest publicly traded solid waste companies, all executives cited an improving economic environment that was driving generally higher volumes. The outlook for special waste and construction and demolition was favorable as well.
  8. Waste and recycling industry employment reached a record high in 2014, according to data from the Labor Department's Bureau of Labor Statistics released earlier in the year. Employment increased by 8,700 for year, bringing total waste and recycling industry employment to 383,300.
Need to Know

Mack Trucks Still Sees Strong Sales Ahead

Commercial truck sales should finish strong in 2015, with sales expected to be good in 2016 as well, noted Stephen Roy, president of Mack Trucks North America, during an event celebrating the addition of drive axles production and carrier housing machining to engine and transmission assembly here at the Volvo/Mack powertrain factory in Western Maryland.

“I think we’ll have a good year [in 2016]; we don’t see a real big dip occurring in sales next year,” Roy told Fleet Owner. “Replacement demand is still driving a lot of sales but we’re also seeing the new companies entering the market, too; there’s a lot of acquisition activity going on in trucking right now.”

The major factor limiting truck sales right now and for the foreseeable future, however, remains the ongoing – and increasing – shortage of drivers, Roy stressed.

Continue reading at Fleet Owner

Need to Know

UCLA Puts Issue of Food Waste on Front Burner

A former White House chef, the host of a popular food-focused radio show and a Slow Food Los Angeles leader are gathering at UCLA on Oct. 21, to discuss the 1.3 billion tons of edible food that are discarded globally each year, the impact this has on communities and ways to reduce such waste.

“Save the Food! From Farm to Table” will be held in Hershey Hall, Room 158, starting at 5:30 p.m. The event and reception that follows are being organized in support of national Food Day 2015. The evening program is sponsored by the UC Global Food Initiative, the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative, UCLA’s Science and Food organization and UCLA Division of Life Sciences.

“Food waste is emerging as a focus for food activists and chefs across the country,” said Amy Rowat, an assistant professor in UCLA's Department of Integrative Biology and Physiology, who will moderate a conversation with KCRW radio personality Evan Kleiman, host of Good Food.

Continue reading here

Need to Know

Delray to Consider Adding Kiosks Aimed at Boosting Textile Recycling

Planet Tracker, Laudes Foundation to Launch Textiles Tracker

Donation kiosks, aimed at keeping certain recyclable materials from landfills, could be installed in Delray Beach under a new proposal.

At a workshop Tuesday, commissioners will consider partnering with Florida Textile Recycling Programs, a Weston-based company that would pay the city a franchise fee in exchange for allowing it to provide the kiosks.

Representatives from the organization approached the city with the idea in April. The program pairs the company with the city, and a contract outlines how many recycling bins the city receives, where they are located and when they are unloaded.

The bins have a sensor that notify the company when they are full and ready for a pickup.

Continue reading at SunSentinel.com