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Articles from 2012 In March

Profiles in Garbage: Scrap Tires

Sixty percent of the rubber consumed  in the United States is used to make tires. Raw materials used to make tires include rubber (41 percent), carbon black (28 percent), steel (15 percent) and other materials (16 percent).

In 2011, 287 million new tires were shipped for use by cars and trucks. Of these, 80 percent were for passenger cars and 20 percent were for trucks. In addition, 15 percent were “original equipment” tires and 85 percent were replacements for used tires. Tire shipments have increased over previous years, but are still below their peak of 321 million new tires in 2000.

In 2009, 291.8 million scrap tires were generated. Two-thirds were from passenger cars and the remainder came from trucks, heavy equipment, aircraft, off-road and scrapped vehicles.

Scrap tires present unique recycling and disposal challenges because they are heavy, bulky and made from a variety of materials. Forty percent of recovered scrap tires are used as tire-derived fuel (TDF), which is a low-sulfur, high-heating value fuel. Scrap tires can be recycled as crumb (ground) or shredded rubber or as whole or split tires. Whole tires are used for artificial reefs and playground equipment. Split tiresare for floor mats, belts and dock bumpers; crumb rubber for mudguards, carpet padding, tracks and athletic surfaces, and rubberized asphalt; and shredded tires for road embankment or roadfill material.

Chaz Miller is state programs director for the National Solid Wastes Management Association, Washington. E-mail him at: cmiller@envasns.org.


Food Waste Facts*


  • 5.19 million tons or 2.1% by weight.
  • Almost one scrap tire per person per year.
  • A new car tire weighs 25 pounds.
  • A scrap car tire weights 22.5 pounds.
  • A new truck tire weighs 120 pounds.
  • A truck scrap tire weighs 110 pounds.


  • 1.84 million tons for a 35.5% recovery rate.
  • 84.9% market/utilized rate by weight (2007 industry figures).

Recycled Content:

  • New tires can have a small amount of recycled rubber.
  • Retreads contain 75% recycled content.


  • Shredded tire chips can be used as a bulking agent in composting wastewater treatment sludge.

Burned or Landfilled:

  • 3.35 million tons or 2.0% of discarded MSW by weight.
  • 15,000 btus per pound, slightly higher than coal.
  • Unlandfilled scrap tires can be a mosquito breeding area.
  • If landfilled tires fail to compress they can rise up and resurface.
  • 38 states ban whole tires from landfills.
  • 14 states ban all scrap tires from landfills.

Scrap Tire Stockpiles:

  • 111.5 million scrap tires remain in stockpiles.
  • 89% reduction since 1990.

Landfill Volume:

  • EPA landfill volume data does not include tires.

Source Reduction:

  • Rotate and balance tires every 6,000 miles, and keep at their recommended air pressure levels to ensure longer life.
  • 16.3 million tire casings retreaded in 2005.

Scrap Tire Markets:

  • 40% of recovered tires go to tire-derived fuel (TDF).
  • Ground rubber (26%) is the next largest market. Only 2% are exported.

Scrap Tire Market Specifications:

  • Each market has its own specification.

Scrap Tire Value:

  • Generators usually pay a tip fee.


“Municipal Solid Waste Generation, Recycling, and Disposal in the United States: Facts and Figures for 2010,” U.S. EPA, Office of Solid Waste, 2011, www.epa.gov/msw/msw99.htm

“Scrap Tire Markets in the United States,” Rubber Manufacturers Association, 2009, www.rma.org

Tire Retread Information Bureau, www.retread.org

* Data is from 2010 EPA estimates, except where noted.


EIA: Shining Lights

There is no shortage of great reasons to attend WasteExpo, but one of the most popular events is Environmental Industry Associations’ (EIA) annual Awards and Inspirational Breakfast. In 2012, more than two dozen men and women in the solid waste industry will be honored for their service to our industry at this special awards ceremony, sponsored EIA and its two sub-associations, the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA) and the Waste Equipment Technology Association (WASTEC).

“It’s an honor to recognize the achievements of these award recipients,” says EIA and NSWMA President and CEO Bruce J. Parker. “The careers of these committed professionals are filled noteworthy service to their companies and the overall solid waste industry. They have helped our industry better serve its customers, be more safety conscious and be more environmentally innovative.”

At the ceremony, Jim O’Connor of Phoenix-based Republic Services will be honored with a Special Trustee Award from EIA.

Don Williamson, president of West Central Sanitation and chairman of NSWMA stated, “The NSWMA awards recognize individuals who have shown a continuing, high-level of commitment to furthering the goals of the association through chapters, councils, committees or working groups.”

Those being honored by NSWMA in 2012 are:

NSWMA Member of the Year

Tom Brown, Progressive Waste Solutions (Fort Worth, Texas).

NSWMA Distinguished Service Award

Ken Binnix, Days Cove Reclamation Co. (Annapolis, Md.).
Robert Eisenbud, Waste Management Inc. (posthumously, Washington)
B.J. Harvey, E.L. Harvey & Sons Inc. (Westborough, Mass.)

NSWMA Special Governor’s Awards

Kenneth Burkett, American Waste Control, Inc. (Tulsa, Okla.).
Jeff Crate, Draper Aden Associates (Blacksburg, Va.).
Robert Lee, Eco-Tech Environmental, LLC (Jeffersonville, Ind.).
Andy Moss, Progressive Waste Solutions (Lyndhurst, N.J.)
Fred Radandt, Manitowoc Disposal and Recycling (Manitowoc, Wis.)
George Wayne, Waste Connections Inc. (El Paso, Texas)

Robert J. Mecchi, II, Vice President of Big Truck Rental and chairman of WASTEC said the following about WASTEC award recipients, “With the WASTEC awards we recognize hard-working individuals who have given extraordinary service to the mission and goals of their companies, our association, and the products and equipment produced for the waste industry.”

Janice Bradley, WASTEC’s executive vice president added, “We are fortunate to be part of an industry with such a dynamic and praiseworthy workforce. We salute all of the award recipients.”

Those being honored by WASTEC in 2012 are:

WASTEC Member of the Year

George Fink, Volvo Construction Equipment (Asheville, N.C.).

WASTEC Employees of the Year

• Production - Mike Goodman, The Curotto Can (Sonoma, Calif.).
• Sales and Marketing - L.T. Beale, Otto Environmental Systems North America, Inc. (Charlotte, N.C.).
• Engineering - James Robbins, Marathon Equipment Co. (Fort Payne, Ala.).

WASTEC Distinguished Service Award

Sean O’Brian, O’Brian Tarping Systems (Wilson, N.C.).
Craig Williams, Labrie Environmental Group (Madison, Wis.).

For more information about EIA, NSWMA, WASTEC and its award programs, visit environmentalistseveryday.org/awards.

Majoring in Recycling

Universities and waste and recycling organizations have teamed up on several fronts.

Casella Waste Systems Inc. is partnering with Green Mountain College on a closed-loop recycling program.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Georgian Court University formed an agreement for improved environmental practices at the school, including recycling and reuse goals.

And finally, three organizations partnered to provide 20,000 recycling bins to colleges and universities during the RecycleMania academic competition.

Green Mountain College, in Poultney, Vt., agreed to participate in Casella’s Power of Three initiative, according to a news release. Under the Power of Three program, the Rutland, Vt.-based Casella picks up a customer’s recycling, processes it into new products and returns those products – new hand towels, tissue paper and toiletry items – to the customer.

The Green Mountain partnership also includes SCA Paper, Foley Distributing and UGL Services.

The Lakewood, N.J.-based Georgian Court University will participate in EPA environmental stewardship programs and get technical assistance from the agency, according to an EPA news release.

The university agreed to at least double its recycling rate; promote reusable water bottle use; implement a composting program ; and other initiatives.

On the annual RecycleMania college competition, Stamford, Conn.-based Keep America Beautiful, the Pittsburgh-based Alcoa Foundation and the College & University Recycling Coalition in Washington awarded 33 grants to U.S. schools. Those academic institutions can use the recycling bins in a variety of on-campus locations, the partners said in a news release.

Good Day Sunshine

Good Day Sunshine

The solid waste industry is happy in Florida, after the state legislature passed two bills the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA) had targeted as key pieces of legislation.

The first piece, House Bill 503, would double the term of permitting extensions for solid waste facilities to 20 years from 10. Facilities without leachate collection systems could extend their permit terms to 10 years from 5. The bill was sponsored by Rep. Jimmy Patronis (R-Panama City), the NSWMA said in a news release.

The second bill, House Bill 7003 sponsored by Rep. Steve Crisafulli (R-Merritt Island), would create a statewide environmental resource permitting system. The legislation would provide consistency to the five Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) districts with regard to the permitting process.

The bills have to go through the formality of being signed by the speaker of the House and the president of the Senate. Then they go to Gov. Rick Scott to be signed into law, says Keyna Cory, longtime Florida Chapter lobbyist for NSWMA, in an interview.

She says the hope is for the governor to have the bills by mid-April and that they are signed in time for WasteExpo. The NSWMA people worked closely with the Florida DEP, “So we feel very comfortable this legislation will be signed into law.” She adds that the current administration is more business friendly than past administrations.

NSWMA Florida Chapter Chairman John Clifford expressed his pleasure with the passage of the two bills. “Our chapter’s two top priorities were passed this session, and both of them were unanimously approved,” he said. The association said each bill protects the environment without presenting a burden to industry.

The pending laws will mean significant financial savings for solid waste companies operating in the Sunshine State, Cory says. The longer extensions could mean savings of from $15,000 to more than $75,000. Small waste companies can invest those savings in equipment or their facilities. For larger companies it could translate into additional hiring and/or more equipment.

The bills also make participation optional, Cory says. Companies still will have to pay for their permits, but they’ll have a longer time over which to pay.

“It was a significant victory for the Florida chapter,” she says. “We have a lot of people that will be able to take advantage of this extension.”

Passage of the bills was a long process for the NSWMA effort. It began last year, Cory says, when they were able to include language about an extension to 20 years in a larger environmental bill. That bill did not make it out of the Senate, however.

This year NSWMA went to the same sponsor of a big environmental permitting bill and put the same language in. There was a snag with the proposal for facilities without leachate collection systems; the DEP did not want to grant permits without groundwater monitoring. Cory says through working with the DEP they came up with the extension to 10 years, but those companies need to be on site for four and a half years prior to the application for permit and have had no violations. “We agreed with that, because our NSWMA members are in compliance and good stewards.”

But to be safe, the NSWMA asked for a separate bill just with the permit extension, because bills often get combined or stalled, Cory says. And that paid off. The extension-only bill, House Bill 663, nearly passed, but one senator added an amendment that the DEP couldn’t permit a landfill in an environmentally sensitive area of central Florida known as the Wekiva Study Area.

“We would never do that, but once you start putting into statutes that you can’t put a landfill [in certain places] you throw up red flags for companies that want to come to Florida trying to build a landfill,” she says. NSWMA let that bill die.

Cory says she wasn’t the only lobbyist that got the bills passed. “I really have to congratulate the Florida chapter of NSWMA. They talk to their members, and when it came to key votes in the process they would pick up the phone and call their own local legislator. And that made a big difference. We always say grass roots efforts are still important and that shined through on that.”

The Heap

Poo at the Zoo

When Paul Simon wrote that it’s all happening at the zoo, he probably didn’t have animal waste being converted to a power source in mind. But that’s what the folks at the Denver Zoo are doing.

According to an article from the “Popular Science” magazine website, three zoo employees along with the National Renewable Energy Lab and some other parties, developed a gasification technology that turns waste generated by zoo residents and trash generated by zoo visitors into fuel for a modified rickshaw to travel around the zoo.

The vehicle runs on gasified pellets composed from the waste material. The zoo also will use the technology to generate power at the zoo’s soon-to-open 10-acre elephant exhibit. The zoo believes it eventually can turn 90 percent of its waste into energy, including about 1.5 million pounds of traditional waste.

Come to think of it, those Simon & Garfunkel song lyrics do go at the end, “What a gas!"

Commingled Conversation: Robin Wiener

Commingled Conversation: Robin Wiener

Robin Wiener, president of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, loves her family, despite the fact that they mercilessly deprive her of sleep. But as you’ll learn in our informal Q&A, that doesn’t stop her from occasionally retreating to an alternate dimension, Starbucks in hand.

Waste Age: What is your pet peeve?

Wiener: I can’t stand surprises, especially at work. In the office I am always emphasizing the need for red flags to be thrown up as early as possible. Mistakes happen, the news isn’t always good, but it is always easier to manage if you are made aware of problems sooner rather than later.

Waste Age: What is your idea of the perfect day?

Wiener: Hanging out with my husband and daughters. It doesn’t matter what we are doing, just being with them makes for a perfect day!

Waste Age: What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

Wiener: The importance of taking a few hours every once in awhile to disappear from the world in order to recharge your batteries.

Waste Age: What was the last book you read?

Wiener: “The Submission” by Amy Waldman.

Waste Age: What is your favorite movie?

Wiener: “Henry V” with Kenneth Branagh. This was one of his first films where he both directed and acted, and he did a wonderful job with both.

Waste Age: What is your favorite TV show?

Wiener: That is hard. I am addicted to “The Good Wife,” “Homeland,” and “Once Upon a Time.” And I am looking forward to “Mad Men” finally returning!

Waste Age: Beatles or Rolling Stones?

Wiener: Definitely Rolling Stones!

Waste Age: What is the strangest piece of trash you’ve ever come across?

Wiener: I only come across recyclable commodities … never trash!

Waste Age: Do you prefer the beach or mountains?

Wiener: The beach, although truthfully I love swimming pools overlooking the beach the best. Watching the waves is incredibly peaceful, as is walking along the beach.

Waste Age: What is the one thing you couldn’t live without?

Wiener: My family … and Starbucks!

Waste Age: If you could invite three people — living or dead — to a dinner party, who would they be?

Wiener: Katherine Graham (former owner/editor of the Washington Post), Sheryl Sandberg (Chief Operating Officer of Facebook) and Nicholas Kristof (columnist for the New York Times).

Waste Age: If you weren’t serving in your current role, what would you like to be?

Wiener: An archaeologist. I always dreamed of being one when I
was young.
Waste Age: What is your favorite sports team?

Wiener: The New York Yankees!

Waste Age: If you could have one superpower, what would it be?

Wiener: The ability to go without sleep.

Waste Age: What’s the most adventurous thing you’ve done?

Wiener: Giving birth to children at age 40 and 45. They were both wild adventures (see previous answer), but with amazing endings!

If you have suggestions for future interviewees, send them along to saverett@wasteage.com.

Jilting Junk Mail

Jilting Junk Mail

Asking people to change behavior that leads to solid waste is often an uphill battle. Regardless of the collective benefit, educating and persuading people to change the way they do things is difficult, which is why a program that tackles advertising mail, referred to by many as “junk mail,” is intriguing.

Historically, cities did little more than recognize that unwanted advertising mail was part of the waste stream, noting that only 40 percent of postal mail and 20 percent of telephone directories are recycled. Then, some communities decided to promote ways to stop the mail, providing links to Catalog Choice and the Direct Marketing Association. Unfortunately, links from a city website to third-party services just did little to move the needle in terms of waste reduction.

A year ago, Catalog Choice for Communities was launched to empower citizens to reduce unwanted advertising mail, which amounts to 10 billion pounds annually across the country, costing upward of $1 billion for collection and disposal. The program provides each community with their own tailored website, like chicago.catalogchoice.org, where residents can opt-out of unwanted mail. Residents can also opt out by taking a picture of junk mail with their iPhones or using a special postage paid envelope. Catalog Choice and the city work together to educate citizens about the program. To measure success, partner communities have real-time access to reports by zip code and date that show citizen participation, solid waste diversion, CO2 reductions and other environmental benefits.

In the city of Seattle, a fee levied against phone book directory distributors primarily finances the opt-out registry. In other communities, the city or county governments pays a small annual fee to offset the cost of setting up the website, managing the service, assisting with outreach and providing the reporting. With as few as five percent of the households participating, the program costs can be fully recovered by reductions in landfill disposal costs. Essentially, the per-ton cost of reducing paper waste through the program is less than most landfill tipping fees.
Though Catalog Choice had been successful in helping 1.5 million households, or 1.5 percent of the nation, before launching the Communities program, it was unclear whether the new approach would drive more paper reduction than a website link or doing nothing at all.

The results are in from the first year and the answer is a resounding “yes.” Cities participating in the program – including Chicago; Santa Fe, N.M.; San Jose, Calif.; Seattle and dozens more – stopped five times more unwanted advertising mail through Catalog Choice than other cities across the nation. In the 12 months since the inception of the Communities program, the participating cities produced more than 530,000 opt-outs, equating to more than 3 million pounds of solid waste prevented, 20,000 trees saved,19 million gallons of water conserved and 8 million pounds of greenhouse gas avoided.

Participation was particularly strong in Seattle, with 40 percent of households having submitted at least one opt-out through the program. As zero waste pioneer and Eco-Cycle Executive Director Eric Lombardi says, “It’s not just about recycling your junk mail at the end of the day, it’s about stopping the waste before it starts.”

Proactively addressing the issue of unwanted mail is critical for communities in pursuit of zero waste and landfill diversion goals. This program is unique in that it is measureable and it provides a compelling product that solves a problem citizens are acutely aware of – junk mail. Now that communities across the country are seeing results, interest in the program is growing and our collective reduction of solid waste is poised to reach new heights.

Chuck Teller is the executive director of Catalog Choice, based in Berkeley, Calif. The nonprofit corporation launched in 2007. For more information about Catalog Choice or their program for communities, email team@catalogchoice.org.

BASIC Instinct

BASIC Instinct

It’s now been almost six months since the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s CSA (Compliance, Safety, Accountability) system went live. In that time, many waste companies have racked up violations and seen their scores rise in several of the CSA’s “BASIC” categories. By looking at some of the most commonly cited violations, a waste hauler should be able to take proactive steps to reduce the likelihood of having CSA problems.

To review, the CSA’s Safety Measurement System (SMS) rates motor carriers in seven different categories called BASICs. These categories are: Unsafe Driving, Fatigued Driving, Driver Fitness, Controlled Substances/Alcohol, Vehicle Maintenance, Cargo-Related and Crash Indicator. With the exception of Crash Indicator, a waste company’s measurement (score) for each BASIC is based on the number, severity and date (more recent violations are weighted more heavily) of the violations.

What follows is a look at each BASIC category (with the exception of Crash Indicator) that indicates what types of violations are common for waste haulers and what can be done to avoid them.

Unsafe Driving. Obviously, having drivers cited for speeding and other moving violations is one way for a hauler to develop problems with this BASIC. Since having a truck pulled over for a moving violation provides the enforcement officer an opportunity to find other violations, having drivers obey all traffic laws is the best way to avoid issues with this BASIC as well as many of the others.

It should also be noted that many waste companies have developed problems with the Unsafe Driving BASIC for something as simple as seatbelt violations. The severity weight for a seatbelt violation is a 7 (out of 10), which is higher than most other moving violations. It is also important to remember that texting or use of a handheld cell phone has violation severity of 10 in addition to the significant fines incurred for engaging in those activities behind the wheel.

Fatigued Driving. Fortunately, most waste collection companies do not have many problems in this area because of the local scope of their operations. However, those companies involved in refuse transfer operations that travel over 100 air miles should be aware that more violations are issued to over-the-road tractor-trailer drivers based on the Fatigued Driving BASIC than any other BASIC. Violations stemming from inadequate or missing driver’s record of duty status (logbook), general logbook violations and exceeding permissible driving hours are among the most frequent violations issued to the transportation industry as a whole.

Driver Fitness

A waste company can run into problems with this BASIC for allowing someone to operate a commercial vehicle without a valid commercial driver’s license (CDL) or without the proper CDL endorsement, such as air brakes. A driver who forgets to bring his or her CDL to work can also result in this violation.

Similarly, many waste companies are getting dinged on the Driver Fitness BASIC because their drivers are failing to carry their medical cards with them or are carrying an expired medical card. Even those drivers who have submitted their medical examiner’s certificate to their state department of motor vehicles (DMV) as part of the new self-certification process should still carry their medical cards with them just to be on the safe side. Making sure that all drivers have a valid CDL and medical card with them before they hit the streets will go a long way to avoiding these two most common violations.

Another source of violations under this BASIC comes from a driver failing to wear his eyeglasses or hearing aid if it is shown as a restriction on his license. Finally, allowing someone who cannot speak English or cannot understand road signs in English to operate a commercial motor vehicle can also result in a violation under this BASIC.

Controlled Substances/Alcohol. Any driver found using or in possession of illegal drugs will result in a violation that carries a severity weight of 10 under this BASIC. Additionally, being under the influence of, being in the possession of or using alcohol within four hours of beginning work will result in a violation with a severity weight of 5. Making supervisors (who have had reasonable suspicion training) available to greet drivers as they show up for work is a good way to identify and head off potential problems in this area. Since the alcohol standard prohibits any possession of alcohol, it is important to remind both drivers and helpers not to accept any gifts of alcohol from customers.

Vehicle Maintenance. There are more than 200 separate violations relating to the maintenance of a commercial motor vehicle, and the CSA has assigned a severity weight for each one. It is no surprise that issues with tires or brakes are the most common violations within this BASIC. Most violations with brakes carry a severity weight of 4, while most violations for tires carry a severity weight of 8. Because of the high severity weight associated with tire violations and because tires are so easy for an officer to inspect, it is vital that a waste company have a strategy to ensure that all their trucks have good rubber at all times.

While there are a myriad of other maintenance violations affecting waste haulers besides brakes and tires, a couple others stand out as common problems. One is not having a fire extinguisher or having a discharged or unsecured fire extinguisher. Another relates to burned-out bulbs and lamps.

When it comes to avoiding as many violations as possible under the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC, most waste companies have found that what works best is doing quality pre-trip inspections, having a strong preventative maintenance program and keeping trucks as clean as possible.
Cargo-Related. The Cargo-Related BASIC is the most misunderstood BASIC and often the most punitive for waste haulers. Two types of these violations seem to make up the vast majority of violations for this BASIC, and both carry heavy severity weights. The first relates to the improper securement of the rear of a roll-off box, which has a severity weight of 7. Companies that operate roll-off trucks need to make sure they fully understand the requirement and have trained their drivers on what constitutes proper securement.

The second common violation in this category relates to leaking/spilling/blowing/falling cargo. This can be especially punitive and seemingly unfair to waste haulers as the discretion as to what constitutes a violation (e.g., one piece of paper flying out of a truck) is left up to the enforcement officer. To make matters worse, this violation carriers a severity weight of 10. While no company will ever be 100-percent successful in preventing any debris from blowing out of the truck, it is still vital to take precautions to reduce this from happening. Roll-off boxes and transfer trailers need to be adequately tarped. The doors on roll-off boxes and transfer trailers should be in adequate alignment so that no debris can escape. The top door on a front-load truck should be closed when not in the process of dumping a container. And the hoppers of rear-load trucks should be free of any refuse or have the blade completely covering the hopper when the truck is traveling at any appreciable speed.

Bruce Hooker works for Mattei Insurance Services Inc. based in Sacramento, Calif.



Rethinking Recycling

Rethinking Recycling

It's been six months since Waste Management announced its strategic partnership with the eight-year-old recycling incentive program Recyclebank. Ian Yolles, Recyclebank's chief sustainability officer, and Joseph Vaillancourt, managing director of Waste Management's investment and strategic partnership division, recently took time to provide updates on the partnership and what it holds for the two companies.

Under the terms of the partnership, Recyclebank gets access to the 18 million residential customers within Waste Management's vast network and assumed responsibility for Greenopolis, Waste Management's consumer-facing website and recycling incentive program (a former Recyclebank competitor). In exchange, Waste Management is accessing something central to its goal of harvesting more value out of the waste stream: a proven method of boosting recycling rates.

Recyclebank is a web-based recycling incentive program that aligns consumers with consumer brands in rewards-based relationships, through what the company calls its green rewards program. As consumers reach certain milestones in terms of the amount or type of packaging they put into recycling collection systems, they earn points, coupons or other rewards from Recyclebank's network of brand and business partners.

The partnership is one of many forged in recent years by Waste Management's Organic Growth Group, which has $2.2 billion invested in a range of emerging technologies and service companies. The group's focus is divided into four categories, says Vaillancourt: renewable energy, recycling technologies, waste conversion technology (such as fermenting organic material to create biogas) and consumer-facing developments, which is where Recyclebank fits in.

While Waste Management calls itself the country's largest recycler, it's always looking to boost the volume of recyclables it collects. Waste Management sees linking with Recyclebank as a direct tool for increasing and sustaining the density of take-back.

Among the 300 communities where Recyclebank has established its services with recycling collection providers, there are some impressive success stories. In Cincinnati, where Recyclebank launched in 2010 in tandem with an expanded curbside collection system, participation increased by nearly 75 percent and the city increased the amount of recyclables collected by nearly 50 percent. This kind of result attracted Waste Management's attention, but so did the partnerships that Recyclebank was forging with major consumer brands, such as Unilever and Kraft.

"We developed Greenopolis into a pretty big business," says Vaillancourt, and while the company was aware of Recyclebank, it wasn't losing business to the startup. There are around 1,500 Greenopolis kiosks in schools, community centers and other public spaces around the country, where consumers can drop off their recycling and scan each container, thereby getting credit based on the specific items they recycle.

That connection between the consumer and the specific brands they purchase is key, because it's a way in which brands such as PepsiCola, which sponsors many of the kiosks, can connect directly with their loyal consumers. "We knew that one thing was clear: measurement matters," says Vaillancourt. "Consumer packaged goods companies would only give rewards based on activity." Waste Management saw that Recyclebank had honed its ability to not only measure recycling activity, but also create a unique marketing platform for consumer brands to reach consumers.

Under the partnership agreement, Recyclebank will harvest and expand the measurement platform Waste Management has already established through Greenopolis. And in return, Waste Management earns discounted equity in Recyclebank, though the exact financial terms of the partnership have not been disclosed.

Single-Stream Strategy

Yolles observes that since they announced their partnership last fall, "there has been tremendous activity to align [Recyclebank's] sales programs with Waste Management's sales, to socialize the meaning and the potential of the partnership within both organizations." As for those millions of Waste Management customers that Recyclebank now has access to, Recyclebank has launched its green rewards program in a couple small California municipalities and plans to roll out to cities in Arkansas this month, including Little Rock, North Little Rock and Jackson. Many more deployments made possible through Waste Management are in the works, the company says.

For Waste Management, the Recyclebank alliance helps in bidding for municipal contracts as well, says Vaillancourt, as about half of the requests for proposals that municipalities issue also ask for affinity programs. And while Waste Management already offers curbside recycling collection and in many communities has installed its Greenopolis kiosk collection points, "from a municipality [perspective], we have a more robust set of partners now with Recyclebank."

While Recyclebank is now operating the Greenopolis website, it hasn't changed the look or branding of Greenopolis just yet. "At the moment, the intention is to keep these brands separate and distinctive," says Yolles. But the Greenopolis site will benefit from Recyclebank's approach to reaching consumers.

"There is one particular patent that we own; it relates to the methodology of improving recycling through financial incentives," says Yolles. "There are a number of other patents [we've filed] that are pending." As far as the competitive landscape goes, he says, with Greenopolis now under the Recyclebank umbrella, a main competitor has been turned into a collaborator. "There are one or two other smaller players that have emerged in this space, but whether their activity infringes on our patent…I've not taken a look at that.

We want to protect our intellectual property, but equally important is that we are continuing to look forward and innovate the product and consumer experience."

Redeeming Relationships for Consumer Brands

Indeed, Yolles and Vaillancourt are each very focused on the future, and the role that Recyclebank and Waste Management can each play in it. This goes beyond simply diverting recyclables from landfills and providing a new marketing platform for consumer packaged goods companies. It's about dwindling resources.

"As we run out of landfill," says Vaillancourt, "People will start competing for the same waste streams." And when that happens, says Yolles, "supply chain security enters into this. The more enlightened companies are absolutely thinking in those terms."

Amid growing consumer interest in packaging with higher recycled content and less waste, consumer packaged goods companies are also looking for more consistent and secure packaging supply. But they're also looking ahead to possible legislation that would require them to reclaim and reuse their packaging materials. While no U.S. state has passed an extended producer responsibility (EPR) law for packaging, bills were introduced in Rhode Island and Vermont and a number of other states are considering them, says Bill Sheehan, executive director of the Product Policy Institute.

"It's becoming apparent that it just doesn't make sense to have local governments responsible for recycling," says Sheehan. They're cash-strapped and they don't benefit from recycling the way that businesses would. By reclaiming packaging they could reuse it in their own supply chains, he says.

Nestle Waters has been perhaps the most vocal manufacturer to take a proactive stance on EPR laws, which it sees as a path toward higher recycling rates. Coca-Cola has also supported EPR laws. It's no coincidence that beverage companies, which are beholden to beverage deposit laws in 10 states, want to advance EPR laws, says Sheehan, since they'd like to "share the love" with manufacturers of non-beverage packaging.

"I think most consumer packaged goods companies are aware of or involved in EPR-related discussions," says Yolles. "Our point of view is that the goals of EPR are to minimize waste, influence the design of products for disassembly. We support the goals of EPR and we believe we have a unique engagement platform to help both government bodies and CPG companies to achieve the perspectives of EPR.

"We are not in a position to evaluate different funding mechanisms, or how the legislation should be designed, but at some point the consumer needs to decide what to do with packaging at the end of its useful life. Since our system uses incentives to encourage the consumer to do the right thing, we think we can help [implement EPR] in a meaningful way."

The Heap

Reality Check (with video)

Waste Management Inc. is no stranger to reality shows, having already been featured on “Undercover Boss” and “Project Runway.” And now, the company’s advertising account will take center stage.

The Houston-based solid waste company is back on screen April 30 in the debut episode of “The Pitch,” a new AMC network series about advertising firms competing for a company’s account. Waste Management’s Dave Aardsma, chief marketing officer, said in a news release that it’s a better way to explain the brand than a traditional ad campaign.

The new show is from the same network that brings you “Mad Men,” so maybe they’ll cross-promote and we’ll get to see Don Draper driving a garbage truck.