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Waste Connections’ McDonald is a Role Model for Servant Leadership

Waste Connections’ McDonald is a Role Model for Servant Leadership

For 15 years, Doug McDonald, eastern region controller for Waste Connections, has helped maintain the financial integrity of the businesses he serves within the waste and recycling industry, but his biggest accomplishment stems from serving others.

“Doug is the most humble man you will meet. He is always willing to serve anyone he can. Drivers, admin, whoever needs him,” says Tammy Holtzman, district manager for Waste Connections Canada. “There is nothing he won't do. He just will not say no to anyone. He cannot be rattled—he's calm and cool under pressure, which are the characteristics of a true leader.”

McDonald is part of the company’s Servant Leaders program aimed at supporting colleagues and employees.

“He will continue to motivate, mentor and promote any individuals who cross his path. He is all about our industry and people,” says Holtzman.

Waste360 recently sat down with McDonald, a Waste360 2019 40 Under 40 award winner, to discuss his career in the waste and recycling industry, his goals for the future and why servant leadership is important. 

Waste360: Describe your career in the waste and recycling industry.

Doug McDonald: My career of 15-plus years in the industry has been an extremely exciting and fulfilling one. I’ve had the opportunity to live and work in different parts of the country, which has allowed me to learn the business from different viewpoints, experience the local culture in those communities and understand how much that impacts the business. The best part has been the people I’ve met along the way. We have some fantastic people who work for us. I now have many good friends across North America.

Waste360: How did you end up as eastern region controller at Waste Connections?

Doug McDonald: Being part of a growing company created an opportunity for me to step in as the region controller following the merger with Progressive Waste in 2016. One of my mentors had prepared me several years before by allowing me to take on many challenging projects as assistant region controller and supporting me along the way by telling me what to focus on to be prepared. Before that, I held various positions in the company in multiple locations, which also allowed me to learn the business from different angles. But all this was driven by people who cared about my success and took the time to put in the effort to help me.

Waste360: What does the eastern region controller do?

Doug McDonald: Number one is to ensure the financial integrity of the financial statements for the region. To accomplish this, the region controller ensures we have the best people in the right spots. Second, the region controller’s job is to assist those team members and help them with whatever they may need. There are 42 controllers in the eastern region, and they are my number one priority. I’m here to help them grow.

Waste360: What is a servant leader at Waste Connections?

Doug McDonald: A servant leader at Waste Connections is a person who does whatever is necessary to support those around them, or serving them to help them be successful. It’s not about you at Waste Connections; it’s about all of us and doing whatever we can to help each other be successful.

Waste360: What does being a servant leader mean to you?

Doug McDonald: I feel very fortunate to have found a company and industry that lines up with how I like to operate, and I don’t take anything for granted. So professionally, it means everything to me. I really learned this from my father. He always worked extremely hard but treated people fairly and was always willing to help those around him. So coming on with Waste Connections in early 2004 felt natural. We work as a team at Waste Connections. It’s not about me here; it’s about we and working together to do the right thing at the right time for the right reason. Additionally, I have the ability to get involved in the business under our decentralized business model and to help out where needed.

Waste360: What makes you passionate about the waste and recycling industry?

Doug McDonald: Hands down, the people. You’ll be hard-pressed to find another industry with more hardworking, down-to-earth, passionate people than in the waste industry. This is an extremely dangerous, necessary and tough business. The people in it do it day in and day out, putting themselves out there to help keep our communities clean. That is something special and really takes a servant’s heart to do. It’s not for everyone. We have fantastic, hardworking people that I’m lucky enough to get to work with every day.

Waste360: What is your greatest achievement?

Doug McDonald: It’s having the opportunity to take what someone has taken the time to teach me—both from before Waste Connections, from my mother and father and from multiple mentors I’ve had since joining the team—and then be able to share that with others and watch them succeed in this industry. I feel that is my greatest achievement. There are multiple specific examples, but the greatest is having the chance to explain opportunities to people interviewing from outside the industry and then see them grab it, work hard and grow within the company. Nothing’s more rewarding.

Waste360: What are some of your career goals for the future?

Doug McDonald: That’s easy for me: do whatever I can to keep the servant leadership culture alive and growing at Waste Connections, along with helping the company and those of us fortunate enough to work here be successful.

Waste360: If you weren’t in this industry, what else can you see yourself doing?

Doug McDonald: Good question. For me, it’s about the culture, the team and doing something with a purpose that’s important—to be part of something special. This industry is an exceptional one, a very necessary one and has the best people. I’m glad I found it.

Waste360: What is your favorite thing to do outside of the office?

Doug McDonald: Spend time with my family, whether it be visiting my family back home or attending my children’s events—cheerleading, dance and baseball—along with a good Waste Connections party are my favorite things outside of work.

AEPW Joins Project STOP to Tackle Plastic Waste in Indonesia

Alliance To End Plastic Waste Twitter AEPW Joins Project STOP to Tackle Plastic Waste in Indonesia

The Alliance to End Plastic Waste (AEPW) recently announced a partnership with Project STOP to further scale up the development of more sustainable and circular waste management systems in Indonesia. Through Project STOP, AEPW aims to dramatically improve waste collection, bring collection services for the first time to households, create permanent local jobs in the waste management industry and clean up areas littered with plastic pollution.

AEPW’s three-year collaboration with Project STOP will focus on the regency of Jembrana, located on the northwest coast of Bali. The alliance will support a feasibility study to achieve a future free of unmanaged plastic waste throughout the island and to assess how to extend the approach, as well as provide financial support and technical expertise.

AEPW said the island leaks 33,000 tons of plastic into the ocean every year. A major challenge is the lack of appropriate waste management services to keep households and businesses from open burning or dumping waste into the environment. Jembrana is estimated to leak 13,200 tonnes of plastic into the environment each year, due to its population size and lack of waste and recycling infrastructure.

Launched in 2017, Project STOP is an initiative co-founded by Borealis and SYSTEMIQ that designs, implements and scales circular economy solutions to prevent plastic pollution in Southeast Asia. Working with companies, local governments and community groups, Project STOP supports cities with technical expertise to achieve zero leakage of waste, improve circular economy systems, create new jobs in waste management and reduce the harmful impact of mismanaged waste on public health, tourism and fisheries. Project STOP's long-term ambition is to establish new solutions and models that can be rapidly scaled up across the whole plastics chain, from the uses of plastic through to waste collection and recycling.

"The alliance is focusing on areas where the need to improve the management of plastic waste is urgent and where our member companies across the plastic value chain can offer technical and business expertise," said David Taylor, chairman of the board, president and CEO of Procter & Gamble, and chairman of the AEPW, in a statement. "Project STOP therefore fits perfectly into the Alliance's strategy that focuses on the four pillars: infrastructure, innovation, education and clean up. In Jembrana, we have an opportunity to work with the local community to build new waste and recycling infrastructure to prevent plastic from leaking into the environment." 

The partnership in Jembrana is Project STOP's first city partnership on the island of Bali. The project is designed to be economically self-sufficient within three years, so the system can be operated by the local municipality and community, both of which will be closely consulted and involved throughout the project.

"We are proud to welcome the Alliance to End Plastic Waste as a strategic partner of Project STOP as we share a strong commitment to addressing this major global challenge and stopping the leakage of plastics into the environment," said Alfred Stern, CEO of Borealis and the co-founder of Project STOP, in a statement. "Plastics can be reused and recycled into new products, and clearly we have to develop sustainable waste management systems and circular economy models to support the socio-economic development of communities in this region."

Need to Know

Global Initiative Aims to End Plastic Pollution

Getty Images Global Initiative Aims to End Plastic Pollution

Minderoo Foundation, a global philanthropic organization, announced a $300 million commitment to a new industry-focused initiative to end worldwide plastic waste.

The initiative, called “Sea The Future,” is projected to raise in excess of $20 billion annually for global recycling, collection and environmental remediation.

“Industry, fully supported by governments and regulators, is the only sector that can drive the urgent, global shift needed to save our oceans from plastic waste,” said Andrew Forrest, founder and chairman of Minderoo Foundation, in a statement. “This existential threat requires a global solution able to transcend borders, politics and corporate responsibility. We have less than five years to make this happen. Only a broadly adopted, international industry-led approach will keep plastics in the economy and out of the environment.”

Current efforts to stem the increase in global plastic waste are disjointed and inadequate, with most of the 350 million-plus tonnes of plastic produced every year entering the world’s terrestrial and marine environment. Estimates suggest that plastic costs humanity more than 2.2 trillion a year in environmental and social damage.

The Sea The Future initiative will attach a greater value to fossil fuel plastics, through a voluntary contribution payable on plastics produced from fossil fuels. The voluntary contribution is not payable on recycled plastics, immediately making it a cheaper alternative feedstock. This drives demand that dominoes through the value chain and turns plastic waste into a cashable commodity, driving collection efforts, poverty alleviation through dignified work and recycling, particularly in Southeast Asia where the waste problem is at its worst.

The initiative launched at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. Governments, nongovernmental organizations and major companies, many of which were in attendance, have expressed support for the initiative.

“This bold yet attainable industry-driven solution is exactly what is needed to match the scale of the problem,” said Dr. M. Sanjayan, CEO of Conservation International, in a statement. “Adopting this initiative can help ensure we have #NoPlasticWaste in our lifetime. After all, no one company or country wants to shoulder the burden on their own. The ‘Sea The Future’ initiative brings us all together to be the solution our environment demands.”

“This Minderoo Foundation initiative represents exactly the type of systemic thinking needed to build a circular economy, by creating value for used plastic and helping decouple our economy from fossil fuels,” said Andrew Morlet, CEO of the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in a statement. “It’s well aligned with the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s vision to eliminate the plastics we don’t need and to circulate those we do. Together, we can make plastic pollution a thing of the past.”

Funds raised by the initiative are projected to amount to at least $20 billion annually. The funds will be collected and co-managed by a global environmental and industry body with appropriate regulatory approvals. The funds raised will be channeled into new recycling technologies, collection infrastructure and the recovery, where possible, of existing marine and terrestrial pollution.

The global plastics supply chain—including major producers and users of plastics such as The Coca Cola Company, Walmart Inc, Tesco plc, Unilever plc and India’s largest plastics group Reliance Industries, among others—has responded positively to the initiative, which would drive systemic and industry-led change on a global scale.

The initiative is also expected to make a material contribution to reducing plastic-induced climate change by some 70 percent in the context of the global community’s targeted temperature increase range by 2050.

Minderoo Foundation said it has committed to underwrite up to five years of audit fees for a total cost of $260 million, plus $40 million in establishment costs, subject to appropriate conditions. The results of this audit and verification will be posted to a central database, accessible online to anyone around the world.

Analytical support was provided by SYSTEMIQ, a consulting organization on environmental matters. McKinsey & Company also provided research and analytical support.

A new digital and social media campaign, #NoPlasticWaste, has been simultaneously launched to explain the realities of plastics production, highlight the opportunity that exists and galvanize public support for the initiative.

“We need the world to treat plastic like other commodities, and we can do this if we eliminate the price disparity between fossil fuel plastic and recycled plastic,” added Forrest. “The ‘Sea The Future’ initiative will be the catalyst needed to shift the entire economic system from bad, environmentally detrimental plastic to good, permanently recycled plastic, and the market will then take care of the rest. It puts a world with no plastic waste in clear sight.”

Need to Know

Kirksville, Mo., Approves New RTS Waste Services Contract

RTS Waste Services LLC Facebook Kirksville, Mo., Approves New RTS Waste Services Contract

The Kirksville, Mo., City Council just approved a five-year waste and recycling contract with RTS Waste Services LLC.

The city received two bids for the service for the first time in at least two decades, according to a Kirksville Daily Express report. And longtime provider Advanced Disposal was challenged—and defeated—by RTS this time around.

RTS will charge a fee of $11.55 per month for residential trash and recycling service, while Advanced Disposal would have cost $12.27 per month, with a possible fuel surcharge if the price of fuel reached $4 per gallon.

Kirksville Daily Express has more:

Residents in the City of Kirksville will have a new trash and recycling service provider beginning next month after the City Council approved a 5-year agreement with RTS Waste Services.

The contract was approved by a 4-1 vote on Monday evening at City Hall.

Kirksville received two bids for the service for the first time in at least two decades. Longtime provider Advanced Disposal was challenged - and defeated - by RTS in the process.

Read the full article here.

Need to Know

CBC Marketplace Investigates Lifecycle of Canadian Plastic

CBC Marketplace Investigates Lifecycle of Canadian Plastic

In an effort to track the lifecycle of Canadian plastic waste, CBC's Marketplace bought bales of film plastic ready for recycling, secretly placed trackers in the bales and then put the plastic back into the recycling stream in British Columbia (B.C.).

Using an alias email, Marketplace reached out and commissioned three major waste collection businesses—Merlin Plastics, Waste Connections of Canada and GFL Environmental Inc.—with ties to municipal programs in B.C. to process the material.

As part of the project, the Basel Action Network also installed tracking devices into nine bales. CBC’s investigative team found that only one company actually recycled the plastic.

According to CBC, two trackers in Merlin Plastics' bales ended up at a recycling processing plant in Delta, B.C., suggesting it was recycled. Both of the GFL trackers went straight to a waste-to-energy facility, while trackers in the Waste Connections bales showed that the bales ended up in a junkyard in Surrey, B.C., as well as a landfill in Richmond, B.C., the report notes.

CBC’s Marketplace has more information:

Do you know where your recycling really goes after it's been picked up?

After several instances of Canadian plastic waste turning up overseas in places like the Philippines and Malaysia, CBC's Marketplace wanted to track the lifecycle of Canadian plastic.

Journalists bought bales of film plastic ready for recycling, hid trackers inside them, and then re-inserted the plastic back into the recycling stream in British Columbia — the province known for having the most efficient recycling program in Canada. 

Read the full article here.

Need to Know

EPA Partially Removes Novak Sanitary Landfill Site from Superfund List

EPA Twitter EPA Partially Removes Novak Sanitary Landfill Site from Superfund List

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (PADEP) announced that they have removed the groundwater portion of the 65-acre Novak Sanitary Landfill in South Whitehall Township in Lehigh County, Pa., from the Superfund National Priorities List (NPL).

“EPA is focused on making substantial and meaningful progress cleaning up Superfund Sites,” said EPA Regional Administrator Cosmo Servidio in a statement. “Partially delisting the Novak Sanitary Landfill Site from the Superfund list is an important milestone that marks the completion of years of cleanup work and collaboration across many levels of government.”

The site was once contaminated with hazardous chemicals due to past disposal practices.

Beginning in the mid-1950s, municipal, residential, commercial and industrial wastes were disposed of in the landfill. This continued in various sections of the landfill until it was closed in 1990 by the state. The site was contaminated with volatile organic compounds, semi-volatile organic compounds and metals in a variety of media and was added to the NPL in 1989.

Since that time, an extensive cleanup has occurred, and regular sampling activities have confirmed that no further Superfund response actions for groundwater are necessary to protect human health and the environment.

The site’s long-term remedy included construction of a multilayered cap, leachate collection and landfill gas monitoring systems, well monitoring, institutional controls and construction of a fence around the site. Construction of the remedy was completed in 2004. Groundwater monitoring, operation and maintenance of the cap and the gas monitoring system remain ongoing.

EPA has conducted several five-year reviews of the site to ensure that the remedies put in place continue to protect public health and the environment and function as intended. The most recent review in 2016 concluded that the remedy continues to be protective of human health and the environment. The next five-year review is scheduled for 2021.

On August 8, EPA announced its intent to partially delete the groundwater portion of the Novak Sanitary Landfill Superfund Site from the NPL. EPA partially deletes sites from the NPL, with state concurrence, when all cleanup goals pertaining to a specific portion of the site have been met.

The public had an opportunity to comment on this proposed partial deletion during a 30-day public comment period from August 8 until September 9.  No adverse comments were received during the public comment period.

This partial deletion pertains only to the groundwater portion of the site. The landfill and landfill gas components of the site will remain on the NPL, and operation, maintenance and monitoring of those parts of the site will continue.

Need to Know

Nova Scotia, Canada, to Ban Plastic Bags

Nova Scotia, Canada, to Ban Plastic Bags

The government of Nova Scotia, Canada, introduced legislation on September 26 that would ban single-use plastic checkout bags in a year. The legislation will also allow government to regulate other single-use plastic items in the future.

If passed, industry will have a year to prepare for the legislation. Retailers will still be allowed to use single-use plastic bags for live fish and bulk items. There also will be exemptions for food banks and charities. The legislation won’t require retailers to charge for alternatives to plastic bags.

“Nova Scotians are already leaders in protecting the environment, and they want us to do more,” said Gordon Wilson, minister of environment, in a statement. “We agree it’s time to move forward. This ban will help keep plastic out of our landfills, our waterways and our environment.”

Nova Scotians sent an average of 423 kilograms of waste per capita to landfills in 2017-18. That’s almost half the waste Canadians dispose of, on average. In addition, the province has set one of the most ambitious targets in the country for reducing greenhouse gas emissions: 45 to 50 percent below 2005 levels by 2030.

WTE Upgrade Will Carry ‪‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬Long Beach, Calif., Plant Through 2024‬‬‬

WTE Upgrade Will Carry ‪‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬‬Long Beach, Calif., Plant Through 2024‬‬‬

Large waste-to-energy (WTE) plants come with steep costs to operate and maintain. But after extensive research, the city of Long Beach, Calif., concluded investing in a major overhaul of the 30-plus-year-old Southeast Resource Recovery Facility (SERRF) was the best of its limited options to continue processing the 1,380 tons a day of waste it receives.

Each person in Long Beach generates 3.9 pounds of trash per day, according to the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle).

The SERRF was designed to operate until December 2018, at which time the bonds for its construction had been paid and the city’s contract with the utility expired.

In 2017, Long Beach commissioned engineering firm HDR to determine what upgrades would be needed to operate the facility through 2024. That upgrade penciled out to about $13.7 million.

As part of HDR’s preliminary condition assessment report, it made estimates for capital investment to continue operations even longer—through 2039. HDR estimated a range of $40 million to $60 million.

“We looked at continuing operations, and we looked at other options that might bridge us to our zero waste program,” says Charlie Tripp, an employee of the city of Long Beach and manager of the Southeast Resource Recovery Facility. “We concluded there were only two options: landfilling or waste-to-energy. We felt waste-to-energy was more beneficial from a greenhouse gas perspective than trucking to distant landfills in outlying areas. We told the council we need to make this investment to carry us to 2024 to continue to operate the facility as it is now.”

Long Beach City Council voted unanimously for the upgrade to the SERRF, which is owned by JSERRF, a joint powers authority made up of the city of Long Beach and the County Sanitation District of Los Angeles. Under terms of agreement between those entities, Long Beach leases the facility and Covanta operates it.

This is the first major upgrade to the plant since its 1988 launch, says Tripp.

There will be no substantial differences in capabilities; rather the project entails performing maintenance that’s required over time, according to James Regan, director of corporate communications for Covanta.

"Projects like these are very typical at this stage of operation. It’s all about ensuring continued reliable operation of the facility," he says. "Take conveying systems, for example. With new systems, there will be less of a chance for equipment breakdowns; therefore, the associated time/manpower required for a repair would be reduced."

The upgrade includes new chutes that feed waste into the combustion chamber; new equipment that discharges ash and metal that remains after combustion onto conveyor belts; and new conveying systems that move the ash residue and metal to a separate area to be sorted.

Power made at SERRF is sold to California ISO, which maintains the power grid and operates a wholesale energy market.

Tripp estimates the operation will generate approximately $8 million in revenue in 2019, which helps to support operational costs to run the facility.

In addition to processing Long Beach’s municipal solid waste, SERRF works with federal, state and local law enforcement agencies to destroy narcotics and drug-related paraphernalia. In Fiscal Year 2017, more than 533,000 pounds of confiscated material were destroyed.

“The facility helps keep Long Beach refuse rates competitive in the market and provides a positive alternative to the environmental impacts of sending waste to a landfill,” says Tripp.

He says among the objectives the system was designed for are ensuring compliance with AB 939 and supporting that legislation’s priorities of waste avoidance, reduction, reuse, recycling and recovery, as well as providing what he calls an “environmentally sound management of waste” that is not diverted for reuse or recycling.

As with other WTE facilities, there has been controversy around this one, with East Yard Communities for Environmental Justice among its most adamant opposers. The organization, with many low-income members living within a few miles of the facility, had pushed for the city to consider other options over the upgrade.

As far as whether Long Beach will invest in further upgrades to run the SERRF past 2024, that decision will be made by considering a multitude of factors, “including but not limited to commercially available waste management disposal options, quality of service to our community, costs and others,” says Tripp.

The city of Long Beach will invest $8.7 million from a dedicated SERRF fund within the city's Energy Resources Department, and Covanta will supply the remaining $5 million.

But this is far from the costliest upgrade to a WTE facility. At the Pinellas County, Fla., facility, Covanta is managing more than $240 million in capital projects designed to ensure the plant can run efficiently into the future, says Regan.