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Articles from 2020 In December


Casella's Jason Mead Excels at Creating a Sustainable Recycling Model

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Following a ten-year stint in the finance industry Jason Mead, director of finance at Casella Waste Systems, landed a corporate finance position at the Rutland, Vt.-based waste hauler.

The Waste360 40 Under 40 recipient recalls that the idea of working at a company that began as a one-truck operation in the 1970s was “intriguing.”

“I’ve also always strived to work hard and be of the service mindset which are two of the characteristics that Casella was built upon,” Mead adds.

In 2015, Casella began adding a sustainability/recycling adjustment (SRA) fee onto the bills of residential customers with month-to-month service as well as business and commercial customers with adjustable contracts. The charge also figured into longer-term municipal contracts.

Mead and Waste360 recently discussed his role in fostering Casella’s sustainable recycling service, how far the SRA program has come and his ambitions for 2021.

Waste360: Describe your role as Director of Finance at Casella.

Mead: I am fortunate to be a part of a fairly lean, but efficient and talented, finance and accounting team, so I am involved in a variety of functions in my role. I lead the budgeting and forecasting processes for the organization as well as help organize and develop a multi-year strategy. I’m also significantly involved with investor relations as well as other finance and financial modeling related activities such as running our risk-mitigating fee programs.  

Waste360: Please tell me about your role in the development of Casella’s sustainability/recycling adjustment fee.

Mead: The SRA program has been a real highlight for the Company over the last several years in its effectiveness of offsetting recycling commodity risk and in helping to make recycling a sustainable service offering to our customers and communities that we serve. Our CFO, Ned Coletta, often describes the “epiphany” he experienced in 2015 regarding our recycling programs and the need to further offtake commodity pricing risk. He and I brainstormed and designed a solution with the goal of creating a recycling model that was economically and environmentally sustainable. We then spent a few days modeling the program, which became the SRA, and we moved forward from thereby refining the concept with our teams and then introducing it to our customers over time.

How did this offset all commodity risk for the recyclables the company collects from its residential and commercial customers?

With the SRA program, we were able to introduce a fee based on recycling commodity pricing and certain processing costs. This fee floats each month on our residential collection and commercial smaller container collection customers’ invoices and allows our recycling processing facilities to charge our hauling and transfer station operations intercompany tipping fees in a more dynamic manner. Ultimately, it allows recycling commodity risk to get priced back to the curb where the stream is collected.  

What would you say has been the most successful part of this initiative?

We have had a high adoption rate of the SRA program and have offset much of our recycling commodity risk to your point. The program has helped make recycling a long-term sustainable solution, even in challenging global market conditions. As a Company, we take pride in knowing that we are enabling our customers make a positive contribution to society while helping to meet their sustainability goals. At the same time, we have driven further value and higher returns from our recycling operations even through historically low recycling commodity markets.  

What factors make collaboration between cross-functional teams successful – especially with the implementation of new fees such as the one you worked on?

Strong relationships, organization, trust, and communication are key, while leadership and culture are the underpinnings. The implementation of the SRA was certainly an initiative that required synchronization of many groups across the company. It was a true team effort across customer care, sales, marketing, IT, operations, and so on. Ultimately, the customer-facing groups across the organization have been critical in the successful execution we have had with the SRA program. They do much of the legwork and have done a tremendous job.

What do you look forward to in 2021?

First and foremost, I look forward to the continued good health and safety of our employees and customers. Through 2021, I am hopeful that we continue to see an economic recovery. We are well-positioned and ready to respond to our customers’ changing service and sustainability needs.

 

Need to Know

U.S. EPA, FDA and USDA Renew Commitment to Food Waste Reduction

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SILVER SPRING, Md. - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced the renewal of the joint agency formal agreement including the Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative. The agreement reaffirms the agencies' commitment to improve coordination and communication efforts to better educate Americans on the impacts and importance of reducing food loss and waste. Food loss and waste negatively impact food security, the economy, communities, and the environment. 

Since the Trump Administration launched the Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative, the collaborative effort has achieved great success. Public-private partnerships, like the United States Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions, are key to successfully reducing food loss and waste by implementing proven strategies and sharing best practices. In 2020, the Trump Administration welcomed ten new businesses and organizations to the 2030 Champions.

The renewed three-year agreement will continue to build on these successful partnerships and reiterate our shared commitment to work towards the national goal of reducing food loss and waste by 50 percent by 2030.

"The United States is getting a handle on its serious food waste problem," said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. "The three-year renewal of this joint agency agreement will help our country achieve its ambitious goal of cutting food waste by 50 percent by 2030."

"Our nation's agricultural abundance should be used to nourish those in need, not fill the trash," said U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. "As the world's population continues to grow and the food systems continue to evolve, now is the time to continue to educate consumers and businesses alike on the need for food waste reduction."

"We've seen great strides in food loss and waste reduction since first entering the joint agency formal agreement with our Federal colleagues, and through collaborative efforts with our public and private partners," said FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D. "At FDA, we've encouraged food manufacturers and retailers to standardize the way quality-based date labels are used on packaged foods and developed videos and materials to educate consumers. With these continued partnerships and important efforts, we're on track to see a 50% reduction of food waste by 2030."

As part of the Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative, EPA, USDA, and FDA issued its FY2019-2020 Federal Interagency Strategy in April 2019, which identifies six priority areas on which the agencies will focus their efforts to reduce food loss and waste in the U.S. In May 2020, the Federal Interagency Strategy was updated by listing contributing efforts for each of the strategy's six priority action areas:

  1. Priority Area 1: Enhance Interagency Coordination
  2. Priority Area 2: Increase Consumer Education and Outreach Efforts
  3. Priority Area 3: Improve Coordination and Guidance on Food Loss and Waste Measurement
  4. Priority Area 4: Clarify and Communicate Information on Food Safety, Food Date Labels, and Food Donations
  5. Priority Area 5: Collaborate with Private Industry to Reduce Food Loss and Waste Across the Supply Chain
  6. Priority Area 6: Encourage Food Waste Reduction by Federal Agencies in their Respective Facilities

The agencies also launched partnerships with organizations at the forefront of food loss and waste reduction efforts. In April 2019, the agencies signed an agreement with ReFED, a network of the nation's leading business, nonprofit, foundation, and government leaders committed to reducing U.S. food waste. In October 2019, another partnership with the Food Waste Reduction Alliance, formalized collaboration on education and outreach efforts with three major sectors of the supply chain: food manufacturing, retail, and restaurant and food service.

BACKGROUND

The Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative is a collaborative effort among USDA, EPA, and FDA to reduce food loss and waste through combined and agency-specific actions. Individually and collectively, these agencies contribute to the initiative, encourage long-term food waste reductions, and work toward the goal of reducing food loss and waste in the U.S. These actions include research, community investments, education and outreach, voluntary programs, public-private partnerships, tool development, technical assistance, event participation, and policy discussion.

For more information on agency efforts contributing to the Winning on Reducing Food Waste Initiative, visit:

https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food
https://www.usda.gov/foodlossandwaste
www.fda.gov/food/consumers/food-loss-and-waste

Meeting the national goal of cutting food waste in half by 2030 will take a sustained commitment from everyone. Success requires action from the entire food system.

FACTS ABOUT FOOD WASTE: 

  • EPA estimates that more food (over 70 billion pounds) reaches landfills than any other material in everyday trash, constituting 24 percent of discarded municipal solid waste.
  • Landfills are the third largest source of human-related methane emissions in the U.S.
  • Food waste not only impacts landfill space and emissions, it negatively impacts the economy. USDA estimates the value of food loss and waste for retailers and consumers each year to be over $161 billion.
  • Wasted food also results in unnecessary expenditures of U.S. domestic energy resources. Every time food is lost or wasted, all the energy that went into producing that food is also wasted. 

JOIN THE FOOD WASTE REDUCTION EFFORTS:

Details on becoming a U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champion can be found at www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food and www.usda.gov/foodlossandwaste/champions

Businesses and organizations not in a position to make the 50 percent reduction commitment may be interested in participating in EPA's Food Recovery Challenge: https://www.epa.gov/sustainable-management-food/food-recovery-challenge-frc.

State, local, tribal and territorial governments interested in making a commitment to food waste reduction can sign the Winning on Reducing Food Waste pledge.

Ghost Fishing Gear Gains International Attention and Who’s Doing What to Recover it

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About 70% of heavy plastics floating in oceans may be lost fishing gear, estimates the United Nations, and it’s a problem that is very much on the international radar of both government and industry the past few years. Of all ocean trash, this glut of bulky gear is the most harmful to marine life, threatening both the ecosystem and fishing industry.

Thanda Ko Gyi, a professional diver and director for Myanmar Ocean Project, has seen firsthand how lost gear that’s drifted to sea, as well as gear intentionally tossed overboard, has ravished the waters off Myanmar, a remote but heavily populated country near Thailand.   

She had been diving in that region looking for manta rays to learn how to protect this endangered species.

“Wherever we dived we saw fishing gear, and we started cleaning it up. It’s a problem that few know is going on in Myanmar and similar regions because they are unexplored,” says Ko Gyi.

She got a National Geographic Society grant through The Global Ghost Gear Initiative (GGGI), which is part of the global environmental nonprofit, Ocean Conservancy. And she began working with diving teams and the community to meet the project goal: exploring the waters of the Myeik Archipelago off the coast of Myanmar to assess the issue and recover gear.

In 2019 the muscle behind the Myanmar Ocean Project removed nearly two tons of gear from 87 sites in 43 days. But their effort only went so far in its impact. As quick as the divers could pull gear from the water, plenty more accumulated, and soon they were almost back to where they started.  

The massive buildup is a combination of small bits intentionally tossed overboard and lost gear, caused when larger boats enter the waters and cut through local fishers’ nets. It’s this lost gear that’s most daunting—and deadly.

“It’s made up of multiple layers of nets, which could be several miles long, and they get caught on pinnacles (coral and rocks) and have to be cut out of them. You must be careful not to harm marine life that gets entangled in them … We see a lot of entangled rays, turtles, and other animals,” says Ko Gyi.

She and her team have two immediate focuses. One is getting the local government to enforce regulation around zoning so larger boats will not drive over the nets and create these hot spots of lost gear. The second focus, which they will work on soon, is to train local fishers to dive and retrieve the smaller pieces inundating their region’s waters.

The timing of the later focus is good and will be a win for both the villagers and the environment, Ko Gyi figures.

“The country just started welcoming tourists, so now there are a lot of fisherman that want to become pro divers and take tourists snorkelling. It will be a chance for them to make a livelihood in ways beyond fishing, which is how most people in Myanmar earn income. And they will have an important role. As tour guides, they will be the gatekeepers and can help prevent waste,” Ko Gyi says.

The residents of this otherwise pristine space do not know the harm the gear is causing, so the team enlightens them, hoping to encourage them to control what they can.

They give presentations, sharing photos and telling of what they see when they descend toward the ocean floor. And they invite the community to collect nets on the surface of the water and to free trapped marine life that may still be alive.

The team can’t travel now because of COVID-19, plus the monsoon season, which just ended, held them back.

“But when it’s easier we will establish collection points in villages to help them with their discarded nets and will work with the government in Myanmar to set up collections at ports. We will also work with the government to address the lost gear caused by bigger trollers by enforcing the fishing zones, which has not been consistent,” Ko Gyi says.

The work in and around Myanmar is one of 17 projects that GGGI has supported across six continents and more are underway, all focused on preventing, mitigating impact of, and or recovering lost gear.

The GGGI, based out of Washington, DC, has 115 member organizations around the world. Its latest news is that the U.S. joined this past summer. It is working with the U.S. government to support preventative measures and technology testing in the Caribbean; is collaborating with the Gulf of Maine in trap and big-gear retrieval; and is partnering with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to fund gear retrieval domestically and internationally.

“We want to be a space for everyone around the globe to have a voice and collaborate. Everyone, whether a nongovernmental organization or industry members with vessels, has a different approach, but they all have a role in coming up with real solutions,” says Joel Baziuk, deputy director of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative.

Blue Ocean Gear, a San Mateo, Calif.-based tech startup, is joining the work in the Caribbean to find gear that gets lost during hurricanes and storms. The company develops intelligent buoys with GPS for commercial fishing fleets and will install its technology on lobster traps to see where the gear is moving.

“The ability to locate the gear is a game-changer for these fishers who will be able to call up the information on their smartphones. If you can imagine having hundreds of thousands of dollars of business assets on water; it’s a volatile place. It may not be there when you come back for it,” says Kortney Opshaug, CEO of Blue Ocean Gear.

The sensors mainly detect buoy motion and relay when gear has been underwater, which not only helps locate it, but helps fishers to better understand ocean conditions to plan their trips. 

Blue Ocean Gear’s work extends beyond the Caribbean and its collaboration with GGGI. In December it launched pilots at wild-caught fisheries and aquaculture (fish farms) in Nova Scotia where it is working with the Eastern Nova Scotia Marine Stewardship Society to deploy gear and analyze data. It has done similar work in Alaska.

Other domestic projects will entail working with East Coast lobster fisheries to help with a problem whereby whales get entangled in fishing gear.

The ghost gear problem has devastating impacts on more than one level.

Fishery stocks can be depleted because of ghost fishing where lost gear continues to fish and everything it captures dies. The dead fish then become bait for more fish, luring them into traps.

“That’s the cycle of ghost fishing. It’s terrible for the marine ecosystem, and it’s terrible for the industry that depends on those healthy marine ecosystems,” says Opshaug.

As far as her work with GGGI, she says, “I connected with them because the entire group is focused on the same issues as us, but globally. It made me realize we are part of a solution, but we could be part of a bigger piece and fit into the overall attack on the problem, while working with others.”

That will be important she says, because “There is no one silver bullet.”

Need to Know

Microplastic Particles Found in the Placentas of Unborn Babies

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A study has found that microplastic particles from packaging, paints, cosmetics and personal care products have been found in the placentas of unborn babies.
The particles were found in the placentas of four healthy women who had normal pregnancies and births.
The health impact of microplastics in the body is not yet known, but scientists said they could carry chemicals that could cause long-term damage or disturb developing immune systems.

Read the original story here.

Need to Know

Approximately 1.5 Million Face Masks Have Entered Our Oceans

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We all know by now that personal protective equipment (PPP) is one of the best ways to prevent contracting or spreading COVID-19, but these items are having a negative impact on the environment. It’s estimated that we are using and disposing of an estimated 129 billion face masks and 65 billion plastic gloves every month. (ACS Publications' Environmental Science & Technology Journal)

OceanAsia reports that the number of face masks that made it into the oceans this year may be as high as 1.5 billion. Plastic pollution is devastating the oceans. It kills an estimated 100,000 marine mammals and turtles, over a million seabirds and even greater numbers of fish, invertebrates and other animals each year. It also negatively impacts fisheries and the tourism industry and costs the global economy approximately $13 billion per year.

To help reduce the waste, individuals should use reusable face masks whenever possible to reduce the amount of trash produced. And if that’s not possible, the proper disposal of single-use PPP is critical.

Read the original story here.

Need to Know

U.S. Department of Labor Announces New OSHA Debt Collection Initiative

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WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) today announced a new initiative designed to better collect citation penalties.

OSHA is implementing a series of three penalty payment letters to be sent seven, 30 and 60 days after an establishment fails to timely pay a penalty based on a final order. In addition, OSHA will contact establishments by phone 14 days after the payment comes due. Establishments that pay their penalties by their due date will not receive the new letters or phone call.

If an establishment fails to make a civil monetary penalty payment from an inspection resulting in a citation, and is not on an affordable payment plan, OSHA will place the establishment on a priority list for further inspection. In addition, OSHA compliance safety and health officers will gather employer identification numbers (EIN) as part of the pre-inspection preparation.

"These steps will enhance the effectiveness of OSHA's enforcement program," said U.S. Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia. "The Department will ensure that firms with safety and health violations are held accountable and pay their debts to the United States Government."

OSHA's initiative is part of broader efforts across the U.S. Department of Labor. Today, the Department announced a final rule intended to improve the Department's debt-collection policy. The rule, which builds on a June 2020 Secretary's Order to improve Department's collection of delinquent debts and enhance the deterrence and effectiveness of the Department's enforcement programs, encourages second and subsequent demand letters to be sent more rapidly. Prior to this final rule, the existing rule provided that "second and subsequent demands shall generally be made at 30-day intervals from the first." Today's final rule amends the current rule to more clearly allow agency heads or their designees to send demand letters at intervals separated by less than 30 days.

"By getting demand letters out with quicker action, the Department will maximize collections of delinquent debts owed to the Government," said Chief Financial Officer James Williams. "The Department owes it to the public to ensure we are doing everything possible to hold violators accountable for their actions."

"Expediting the notifications to employers who have not paid OSHA fines will work to improve OSHA's enforcement presence," said Loren Sweatt, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health. "At the conclusion of an OSHA inspection where a final order is issued, employers must abate hazards to protect workers and pay assessed civil monetary penalties."

The mission of the Department of Labor is to foster, promote and develop the welfare of the wage earners, job seekers and retirees of the United States; improve working conditions; advance opportunities for profitable employment; and assure work-related benefits and rights.

Need to Know

Tri-County Landfill to Reopen in Pennsylvania

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The Department of Environmental Protection for the state of Pennsylvania has given the green light for Tri-County Landfill near Grove City to open once again.

Tri-County Inc., the operator, can now build a new site on the 99-acre property, which was previously used as a landfill until its closure in 1990. As part of the agreement, the company must excavate more than 1.5 million cubic yards of old waste and move it to new, lined areas.

The Citizens Environmental Association of the Slippery Rock Area opposed the use of the land as a landfill, calling the approval "a shock" because the permit allows perishable wet garbage with shale gas drilling and fracking waste. The runoff created contains radioactivity.

Read the original article here.

 

Sustainability Talks

Mason & Greens, the D.C. Area's First Zero-Waste Store

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Did you know that Americans throw away about five pounds of trash per person per day and 12 percent of that is plastics? (Environmental Protection Agency) After learning about the impact of trash on the planet, Justin and Anna Marino opened Mason & Greens, the D.C. area’s first zero-waste store.

The shop is a little bit boutique and organic grocer offering plastic-free dry goods to personal care items and drip-irrigated olive oil – it offers a glimpse into low-waste living.

Despite the challenges of starting a new business during a pandemic, Mason & Greens is growing. They are planning to open a second location in 2021.

Read the original story here.

Need to Know

Li-Cycle Turning Refuse into Resource

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Lithium-ion batteries seem to be everywhere from handheld devices to cars and trucks and homes. And as they end their lifecycle recycling them has become a challenge.

Li-Cycle is focused on lithium-ion battery recycling. Because batteries are a fire hazard and can be expensive to transport safely, Li-Cycle is collecting batteries at local facilities, which shred the bricks into three components: plastic casings, mixed metals (like foils), and active materials (like cobalt and nickel), a dust known as “black mass.” The company can sell the materials or send the materials to a central factory to extract the metals.

Li-Cycle currently has facilities in Ontario, Canada and in Rochester, New York, which can break apart a combined 10,000 tons of lithium-ion batteries each year. The company is planning to build an additional facility in Rochester, which will separate 25,000 tons of black mass annually into lithium, cobalt, nickel and other elements starting in late 2022.

Read the original story here.

Need to Know

LA Sanitation and Environment Recycles Christmas Trees with Amazon Alexa

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LOS ANGELES, CA (December 28, 2020) –  LA Sanitation and Environment (LASAN) Christmas Tree Recycling program has begun and encourages residents to properly recycle their tree. Recycling Christmas trees and other holiday items are an important way for Angelenos to help the environment and their community.

LASAN, which oversees this annual program, provides residents with safe and environmentally-friendly options for recycling their holiday tree. The program annually recycles between 90,000-100,000 trees. These trees, which otherwise would end up in a landfill, are turned into mulch and compost available free to residents for gardening and City staff for landscaping.
 
“Our Christmas Tree Recycling is one of our most successful and important environmental programs each year,” said LASAN Director and General Manager Enrique C. Zaldivar. “Angelenos do a great job in properly recycling their trees and we appreciate the support as they are reused as mulch and compost that is available free to residents.”
 
New this year is a pilot program where residents can request a free curbside tree collection through Amazon Alexa in English or Spanish by downloading the app onto their smartphone or Amazon assistant device. For more detailed information, visit: http://lacitysan.org/treerecycle .  LASAN partnered with Salesforce, Amazon, Slalom and Scale Capacity on this pilot, which is the first in the country.

Below are the various options to properly and safely dispose of trees:

  • Green Bin – Residents can follow an easy three-step process to recycle their trees:
    • Remove decorations and stand;
    • Cut the tree into pieces, if needed, to fit into green bin; and
    • Place in green yard trimming bin and put out on your weekly collection day. 
  • Curbside – Residents, who are unable to cut and place in their green bin, may leave their tree at the curb on their weekly collection day.
  • Drop-off locations - 
    • 13 Los Angeles Fire Department stations.
    • 6 Recreation and Parks sites on Sunday, January 3, 2021 from 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
    • Lopez Canyon Environmental Education Center or Harbor Sanitation District Yard weekdays from 9:00 a.m.-4:00 p.m.
    • 4 Sanitation District yards and Central Los Angeles Recycling and Transfer Station: January 9 from 8:00 a.m.-4:30 p.m.

 
For more information on this program and a complete list of drop-off locations with dates and times, go to: http://lacitysan.org/treerecycle or call the LASAN Customer Care Center at (800) 773-2489.

Residents of multifamily buildings are requested to place their Christmas trees curbside for collection day in their neighborhood by LASAN. For collection day information, visit www.lacitysan.org or call the LASAN  24-hour Customer Care Center at (800) 773-2489.

In addition to Christmas trees, holiday wrapping paper, cartons, cardboard, Styrofoam® and other expanded polystyrene products, plastics and gift boxes are also recyclable and should be placed in the blue bin. However, it is illegal to place household hazardous waste, such as electronics (i.e. televisions and computers) and batteries into the collection bins. Please take those items to one of seven S.A.F.E. Centers for safe disposal and recycling.
 
Ribbons should be placed in the black bin because they often get tangled in recycling equipment.