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Articles from 2012 In April


WasteExpo 2012: EIA's Golf Invitational

The Environmental Industry Associations' Golf Invitational was held on Monday, April 30, with an 8 a.m. shotgun start. A mix of WasteExpo exhibitors and attendees took to the links for a little friendly competition. Take a look through our photo gallery to see who was out at the Siena Golf Club in Las Vegas.

The Heap
Recycled Rides

Recycled Rides

San Francisco-based waste services company Recology has found a clever way to facilitate charitable activity. It all began when David Nanney, a superviser at Recycle Central, the company's material recovery facility, began noticing BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) tickets appearing among the the recyclables. The thin plastic cards are considered a contaminant since they are difficult to recycle, but tickets with unused fares can be redeemed for cash. So Nanney tasked workers to collect any BART tickets they saw, yielding more than $1,400, which was subequently donated to two nonprofit organizations, the San Francisco Food Bank and Friends of the Urban Forest.

Now the company has expanded the program, encouraging customers with BART cards with remaining rides they wish to donate to tape them to their recycling bins, where they are collected by Recology workers. It is hoped the program, which the company is calling "Turning Tiny Tickets into Trees," will ease charitable redemption of the cards, which previously had to be mailed in or deposited in designated donation boxes.

What are some ways in which you help make it easier for your customers to do the right thing?

The Heap
WasteExpo Wise

WasteExpo Wise

Headed to Las Vegas for WasteExpo 2012? Not attending the show but still curious about what's going down? There are a number of digital resources available to you that will help you get the most out of the show.

First and foremost, make sure you are subscribed to the WasteExpo Show Daily. You can subcribe to it and the rest of Waste Age's e-newsletters here.

Next is a robust mobile app that will help you find your way around and keep you aprised of events and alerts during WasteExpo. Instructions for downloading across each platform:

  • For iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad Users: From your mobile device, visit the iOS App Store and search for "WasteExpo 2012."
  • For Droids and other Android-based phones: From your mobile device, visit Google Play and search for "WasteExpo 2012."
  • For all other phone types, including Blackberry and other web-enabled phones: Point your mobile device’s browser to http://m.core-apps.com/wasteexpo2012 (from there you will be directed to the proper app download for your specific device).

You can also follow our WasteExpo coverage on Twitter or like us on Facebook.

Finally, just stay tuned to waste360.com and The Heap for updates from the show.

Hope to see you on the show floor!

Bulk Handling Systems Buys National Recovery Technologies

Waste and recycling sorting equipment company Bulk Handling Systems (BHS) has acquired National Recovery Technologies Inc. (NRT), which makes optical sorting equipment.

The Eugene, Ore.-based BHS bought the Nashville, Tenn.-based NRT for an undisclosed amount, BHS said in a news release. NRT designs and manufactures optical sorting equipment for the solid waste and recycling industries, among other sectors.

“We’re pleased to add NRT to the BHS family,” said BHS CEO Steve Miller. “Today NRT produces the best optical technology on the market, which strengthens BHS’ position as a global leader in providing the most state-of-the-art and durable material recovery systems in the industry.”

NRT developed the NIR, X-Ray, Laser and Line Camera sorting systems, and is a leader plastic bottle and flake sorting technology.

BHS said the acquisition gives the company an additional resource to use to provide processing solutions for the solid waste, recycling, waste-to-energy, and construction and demolition industries.

 

Progressive Waste Sees First Quarter Profits Decline

Progressive Waste Solutions Ltd. reported a decline in net income of 4.5 percent for its initial quarter.

The Vaughan, Ontario-based Progressive Waste posted net earnings for the period ended March 31 of $22.1 million, or 19 cents per diluted share, compared with $23.1 million, or 19 cents per diluted share, in the year-ago quarter.

Revenue increased 3.7 percent to $438.3 million compared with $422.9 million in the first quarter of 2011, the company said in a news release.

"The results of our first quarter were in line with our expectations, and our performance is on track with our outlook for 2012,” said Joseph Quarin, Progressive Waste vice chairman and CEO. “Our 2012 guidance anticipated lower comparative first quarter results due in large part to the rollover impact of the weak economic environment in the U.S. Northeast that we faced in the latter part of 2011.”

Republic Services to Identify Gaps in Recycling Infrastructure

Republic’s Net Profits Drop 10 Percent for Period

Republic Services Inc. reported a 9.7-percent drop in net income for its first quarter.

The Phoenix-based waste and recycling company said in a news release net income totaled $142.9 million, or 38 cents per diluted share, for the period ended March 31. A year ago Republic posted net earnings of $158.2 million, or 41 cents per diluted share.

Revenue for the first quarter rose 0.9 percent to $1.98 billion compared with $1.96 billion in the year-ago 2011 period.

"We are updating our full-year guidance to reflect higher costs and current business conditions," said Donald Slager, Republic president and CEO. "We will continue to invest in our core business including recycling, fleet maintenance, automation and natural gas initiatives. In addition, we have a robust pipeline of potential acquisitions and have completed approximately $65 million of acquisition activity through April."

Slager said the company reduced its expectations of diluted earnings per share for 2012 to the range of $1.86 to $1.90.

 

Toast of Texas

Toast of Texas

Giraffes. A landfill. Monkeys. A retail compost operation. An on-staff scrap artist. An eco-industrial park. A fundraising event center. Tigers.

Texas Disposal Systems Inc.’s 1,750-acre headquarters facility in Creedmoor, just south of Austin, is not your typical waste company operation. But it’s all by design and it all fits together, says President and CEO Bob Gregory. “We don’t have to run a landfill in a way that’s bad,” he says. “You can run a landfill and operate at peace and harmony with the surrounding property owners.”

Started up by Gregory and soon joined by his brother, James, in 1977 with one truck and one account, Texas Disposal Systems (TDS) now has revenue just less than $100 million and employs more than 600. James is co-owner, vice president and landfill manager. TDS provides waste collection for more than 91 cities in central Texas, 71 of which also use the company to collect recycling. It processes all the recyclables for more than 175,000 homes in Austin.

The privately held company handles landfill disposal for the cities of Austin and San Antonio. Last year the TDS landfill processed about 575,000 tons with almost 32 years of remaining capacity. The company also operates a two-year-old material recovery facility (MRF) that processes 300 tons per day of residential and commercial recyclables. The composting operation produces material sold under the Texas Organic Products and Garden-Ville brands.

In addition to Austin and San Antonio, the company has expanded into the Texas cities of Georgetown and Alpine. TDS’ services also include construction and demolition (C&D) recycling, scrap metal recycling, green building consulting, carbon forestry development, alternative fuel production, disaster cleanup, greening schools and citizen drop-off and resale centers.

Starting From Seeds

Like many working in the waste and recycling industry, the Gregory brothers were born into the business. Their father, James Sr., owned a scrap yard that never had more than 20 employees. The volatility of the business made an impression on Bob.

“I wanted something more local, less susceptible to international market fluctuations,” he says. “And that was the collection of waste and recycling.”

Gregory helped put himself through college with an electronic scrap company he started called Texas Alloys. By the time he graduated from the University of Texas he had 10 employees and decided he wanted to diversify into solid waste collection.

As befitting his penchant for finding uses for old materials, Gregory hasn’t cast off his roots. He bought his father’s company in 1984, still owns Texas Alloys and now operates their first account: a transfer station in the town of Bee Cave, Texas.

TDS started as a roll-off hauler. The Austin area has a lot of cedar and oak trees, so the company hauled a lot of brush. “I wanted to do recycling. I had a vague idea of what composting could be. I knew there was a product there.  I’m always looking for ways to do something out of nothing,” he says.

With the scrap metal business TDS landed a recycling contract with IBM, and that revenue helped the Gregory brothers buy equipment and build up the company over time.

In 1988 TDS got a permit not only for a landfill but also for a recycling and composting facility. It opened in 1991. It was the first permit on all three activities in the history of the state. TDS already had been grinding wood waste and composting and was well on its way to having an integrated facility. “We were using whatever resources we could rather than just landfilling it,” Gregory says. “That has been our philosophy since day one. It just was slow getting the money to pay for it. Our family was a pretty poor family. And when you don’t have much you can’t borrow much.”

Solid Waste Safari

Growing up, the Gregories didn’t have land. But they wanted some — specifically a ranch. They learned that the Texas legislature provided an agricultural exemption for commercial businesses that included animals as part of the operation. The Gregories tried cattle but their facility was too small to make money. But the exemption also applied to exotic game animals. The idea clicked.

“We wanted to show our facility off, that we’re doing composting, recycling, landfilling in a way that’s not adverse to our neighbors. [The animals] will draw people out here. We’ll have more fun.”

And as the exotic game ranch grew, TDS began hosting more events and developed a large party center for the purpose. “Neighbors loved it. The city loved it,” Gregory says. “Nobody had seen a situation in central Texas where people wanted to come to a landfill.”

Now Gregory estimates TDS has up to 3,000 animals – they hide, he says, so it’s hard to get an accurate count – and more than 100 species. And it’s become a personal passion: In March, Bob and his family made another of his many trips to Africa, to hunt and view other game preserves.

The ranch currently is only open to private visits. Gregory says TDS is considering opening the game ranch up to the public, but that prospect is a long ways away.

TDS has been hosting non-profit events for 11 or 12 years, Gregory says, and those organizations combined have raised $18 million. TDS offers the event facility at no charge to the organizations it chooses, which is about one in five that ask. He says they choose which organizations receive this treatment based on whether or not they would feel compelled to make a personal contribution to them.

While the ranch and events are near to the Gregories’ hearts, Bob acknowledges that the ranch is particularly expensive to keep up, and brings in little revenue except for the sale of animals that are born on the facility.  He says they are looking at adding commercial events to bring in more money. “We want to eventually make every part sustainable, to pay for itself,” he says.

But in the meantime, there are financial pluses. “There’s no question it benefits the business; people come out here that otherwise would never in a million years come out to a landfill.” It’s a combination of public relations, advertising, family philanthropy, good stewardship, “and a demonstration to the community of your commitment to operate the facility right,” Gregory says. “We basically have an open house every day.”
In a twist on the usual NIMBYism, the landfill’s neighbors don’t want to move even though TDS has made offers to buy. “It’s got to be managed in a way that ‘s not detrimental to the surrounding property owners,” he says. “That is negative to my business. It’s not sustainable if you’re stinking up the neighborhood. That’s huge to Jimmy and I.”

Public Perception

TDS built its MRF in 2010, with some unintentional incentive from Austin. The city wanted to build its own MRF, and its city council decided it would cost $72 million. TDS thought that was way too high, and built its own facility — for $17 million — in 121 days.

Bob’s son, Adam, spearheaded the project as TDS business development specialist, visiting other facilities to determine what would work best. The 107,000-sq.-ft. facility handles residential and commercial single-stream materials. The facility processes 90 percent of the material that comes in; the rest, Adam says, is contaminated and “mostly wasn’t supposed to come in the first place.” The MRF runs two shifts, with 40 people on a shift.

Adam hopes the TDS MRF will earn Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) silver status. The facility features 174 skylights. Open transport doors help keep the air flow regulated and the high ceilings keep the building from getting too hot, even during oppressive Texas summers.

On some issues, such as the MRF, Austin and TDS don’t always see eye to eye. But city officials offer a good deal of praise for the company for how it operates.

“Their help in encouraging other businesses to recycle, encouraging the public about recycling, all the different things they’re doing with reducing the waste that goes to the landfill has been helpful and moves us closer toward zero waste,” says Jessica King, strategic initiatives division manager with Austin Resource Recovery, the city’s solid waste department. The city hopes to develop other private-public partnerships similar to its relationship with TDS.

Austin is an event-oriented city, and King has been impressed with company’s active role in those efforts. “They have their containers and they’ve been educating organizers about the proper way to recycle and compost at the events to divert as much material from the landfill as possible.”

As Austin’s grown and evolved, so has TDS, adds Tammie Williamson, assistant director for Austin Resource Recovery. “They’ve done an excellent job of looking at their policies and embracing Austin’s policies,” she says. “I think they’ve been a great business partner in that way.”
TDS has 30-year contracts with Austin and San Antonio for landfill disposal, and a 20-year pact with Austin for recycling. Long-term contracts with municipalities are a key part of TDS’ business strategy, Bob Gregory says. “You don’t have to buy a company if you get a big contract.” It’s a model TDS would like to expand elsewhere in the country.

TDS processes 100 percent of Austin’s recyclables, but in October it will go down to 40 percent. Austin, a city in the center of a metropolitan region that totals 1.7 million, wanted a vendor that would help take over the recycling of the surrounding cities so Austin could get more revenue, Gregory says. TDS said no because it already held a lot of those contracts, so Austin hooked up with another vendor, Austin-based Balcones Resources Inc., to process 60 percent of its recyclables.

Adam Gregory says TDS hopes to eventually replace each ton lost in that transition, but acknowledges that it will take time.
It’s symptomatic of what Bob Gregory sees as the “biggest single issue facing private operators in the nation: Can they survive without any control over their markets or will they be relegated to taxi cab operators,” operating with strict controls exerted by cities.

Austin passed a bag law in March restricting the types of bags that retailers and customers can use. It’s different than the city’s initial proposal that banned most single-use bags and imposed a 25-cent interim bag fee. But Gregory says that and the recent waste flow control move in Dallas reflect a new attitude on the part of municipalities, fueled by a need to generate new revenue.

Bag bans are projected to be about recycling, he says, “but it really has nothing to do with recycling. It’s just an excuse to do a money grab.” Likewise, public zero waste goals often are about “using the public’s consciousness of the environment with a little bit of guilt, how we must pay a fee to change our habits,” says Gregory. “It’s a different verse of same song from what Dallas officials tried to do.” Eventually that could backfire and turn people off of recycling.

He agrees recycling is the right thing, both ethically and financially. TDS’ MRF helps protect the company against market fluctuations. “I’m not driven by that number of what goes into the landfill,” he says. “Frankly, I’m happy if that number continues to go down. Our goal is to make money from what material gets diverted. We make money by charging at gatehouse and doing something with it. Why would I want to landfill it if I can compost it?”

He believes companies like TDS can operate more competitively and cost-efficiently than the public sector. But they have to prove it. “If we don’t raise the bar and show the public that they’re better off with us than without us, they’ll replace us.”

Family Guy

TDS has had its struggles with the private sector as well, including a 15-year ongoing lawsuit with Houston-based Waste Management Inc. In 1997 TDS sued Waste Management, claiming it made defamatory remarks about TDS when the two companies were competing for a landfill contract with Austin. In the fall of 2010 TDS won a $25.5 million judgment. Waste Management is appealing the decision.

TDS also weathered litigation with Reading, Pa.-based Penske Truck Leasing Co. L.P. for nearly as long over some hazardous waste spilled by a company truck that Penske eventually cleaned up. “We’ve spent a lot of time over the past 15 years defending ourselves,” he says. Asked about his biggest business disappointments Gregory says, “Waste Management trying to put sticks in our spokes has been one.”

TDS remains a fiercely independent waste and recycling company. “We’ve never given financials to any companies. We have no interest in being bought, no desire whatsoever,” Gregory says.

His intention is to keep it a family business. He has three children in the business; brother James has two. He says he has a great relationship with his brother. TDS is up front that it operates according to Christian values. Gregory believes that’s reflected in the fact that both his kids and James’ want to be a part of the business when they grow up. It’s also reflected, he says, in the quality employees the company attracts. “The goal is not to grow per se, but grow with a quality of growth that were proud of and supports the business model.

“It’s a good honest business,” he says. “There should always be an opportunity for the little guys and the middle guys like us.”

Allan Gerlat is News Editor for Waste Age and waste360.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Requiem for Disposal

Requiem for Disposal

Editor’s Note: The following article was compiled by Alice Jacobsohn working with members of the Healthcare Waste Institute. It contains opinions and predictions formulated by that organization and its members.

In the United States, regulations on the transport and disposal of hazardous materials, including infectious substances, regulated medical waste and hazardous waste, are based on international standards and recommendations. The first recommendations were published in 1956 by the United Nations Economic and Social Council’s Committee of Experts on the Transport of Dangerous Goods.

That same council issued a resolution on April 26, 1957, that allowed for subsequent recommendations to consider developments in technology and the changing needs of nations that would decide to adopt an international approach. The Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes was adopted in 1989 and became effective in 1992 with significant U.S. influence.

Today, the international community is beginning to focus more on the disposal of pharmaceutical waste because of recent studies suggesting that this waste causes feminization of male fish and sluggish activity, or reduced appetite in fish populations.

Defining the Problem

Pharmaceuticals have been detected in water samples collected from U.S. waterways that are considered susceptible to contamination from various wastewater sources, such as those downstream from intense urbanization or livestock. Abuse of prescription drugs is on the rise with one-third of the abuse by teenagers between the ages of 12 and 17. Crime associated with prescription drug abuse also is on the rise.
Many federal and state agencies are responsible for pharmaceutical materials’ management, but unlike infectious substances and regulated medical waste requirements, pharmaceutical waste does not fit easily within the regulations or is unregulated. The result is the common practice of flushing these wastes down sinks into wastewater treatment systems that are not equipped to manage them, or directly into waterways. In addition, pharmaceutical waste often goes directly to solid waste facilities that are not designed to manage them.

Many states and local law enforcement agencies have created drug collection and disposal (“take-back”) programs for pharmaceutical waste to prevent flushing and abuse, but gaps and a lack of consistency have limited these programs. For example, controlled substances such as morphine and oxycontin cannot be easily collected in take-back programs because of existing management restrictions put in place through the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

A New Approach

In 2010, President Obama signed the Secure and Responsible Drug Disposal Act amending the Controlled Substances Act with the goal of encouraging the DEA to set controlled substance diversion prevention parameters that will allow public and private entities to develop a variety of methods of collection and disposal in a secure and responsible manner. These parameters, when published as final, will address the management of controlled substances by ultimate users and long-term care facilities. Since passage, the DEA has held stakeholder meetings and received preliminary comments on how these regulations should function. A proposed rulemaking is expected before the end of 2012.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is deciding what it will do to manage pharmaceutical waste that is hazardous waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Only five percent of pharmaceuticals are considered hazardous waste by the EPA. Initially, EPA considered a universal waste approach, but many states commented that they would not adopt this method of management. The agency is expected to issue a proposed rulemaking in the spring of 2013 outlining a new approach. At this time it appears EPA is considering the management methods themselves, not whether to include more pharmaceuticals on the RCRA hazardous waste list.

EPA’s water division published a draft guidance document, “Best Management Practices for Unused Pharmaceuticals at Health Care Facilities,” on Sept. 8, 2010, in an attempt to provide recommendations on how to manage drug waste. However, the guidance was fraught with problems surrounding the impacts of suggested practices. This guidance is on hold until after the RCRA-approach is finalized.

Seeking a Cure

The Healthcare Waste Institute (HWI), a policy-making group within the National Solid Wastes Management Association, commented on these agencies’ activities and spent considerable time examining pharmaceutical waste management. HWI’s members own and operate healthcare waste collection and disposal operations and manufacture and distribute equipment and products used for healthcare waste management throughout the United States. Members either manage pharmaceutical materials as part of their business plan or are faced with pharmaceutical management issues because of current disposal practices by customers.

The discussions centered on three key elements:

  • Reducing the negative impact that improper disposal of pharmaceutical materials has on the environment and human health;
  • Ensuring a fair trade approach that allows for the use of all viable options for proper management of pharmaceutical discards, including waste-to-energy, regulated medical waste (bio-hazardous waste), healthcare waste and hazardous waste disposal; and
  • Encouraging the creation of a task force or forum for sharing information on the management of non-hazardous pharmaceutical waste.

In addition, discussions focused on the non-hazardous pharmaceutical waste that comprises 95 percent of drugs for disposal. These drugs fall within an area of waste management that is largely unregulated, are often managed as solid waste and are the greatest source of conflict for the regulated community in terms of defining proper management.

Despite the controversy, most healthcare interests agree that the practice of pouring or flushing pharmaceutical discards down drains must be eliminated. While this does not eliminate the concern of discards through excretion, the changed practice will focus attention on altering the habits of healthcare workers and consumers and reduce the amount of material going to publicly-owned treatment works.

To reduce the risk of exposure, discussions on best management practices (BMPs) should be based on sound scientific reasoning. While mixing pharmaceutical discards with undesirable materials, such as coffee grounds and kitty litter (a recommendation in EPA’s draft BMP guidance) and then disposing of it as municipal solid waste may appear to be a good approach, this option is not practical for commercial healthcare facilities, including hospitals, doctors’ offices and clinics that cannot store these undesirable materials.

The most widely accepted BMP currently available for pharmaceutical waste management is through incinerators regulated by the Clean Air Act, including waste-to-energy facilities, hospital/medical/infectious waste incinerators and hazardous waste incinerators. Because of clean air regulations and other concerns, the number of hazardous waste incinerators remaining in operation today in the United States is limited. Therefore, to ensure that as many communities as possible have access to incinerators for pharmaceutical waste, decision-makers should not limit disposal of pharmaceutical waste to specific RCRA-permitted hazardous waste facilities.

As noted earlier, only five percent of pharmaceuticals on the market are RCRA listed or are considered characteristic hazardous wastes and only six hazardous waste facilities are commercially available. The other 95 percent of pharmaceuticals can be managed effectively through other permitted incinerators, of which there are approximately 100 commercial facilities.

A Practical Prescription

Ultimately, regulations and guidance documents should not require any particular technology or method of disposal. Instead, the requirements should be performance-based, allowing any technology to be proven viable for proper management of pharmaceutical waste.

Commercial markets should not be so open that anyone without experience or knowledge is allowed to manage pharmaceutical discards. Therefore, methods also should include performance-based requirements that prevent diversion and reduce the risk of access to non-prescribed users. This may include the use of tamper-resistant packaging and labeling; handling by trained personnel (e.g., healthcare waste management employees); and improved methods for monitoring, tracking and reporting, such as documenting the number and weight of pharmaceutical waste containers.

While the pharmaceutical discards at issue are the same between commercial and home users, the ability to manage these generation points, enforce regulations and educate participants are different. Therefore, fair and secure practices for consumer take-back programs will likely look different than for commercial facilities. For example, consumer drop-off points should be designed to prevent people from reaching into containers, management of collection events should be by knowledgeable personnel (although not limited to law enforcement officers as currently required by the DEA), mail-back systems should use secure transport through the U.S. Postal Service or other licensed delivery companies, and there should be public awareness campaigns to inform people about the program.

One of the greatest obstacles to properly managing pharmaceutical discards is conflicting information and competing interests among stakeholders. This creates confusion and leads to mismanagement such as the current practice of placing non-hazardous pharmaceutical waste in regulated medical waste or sharps containers that go to autoclaves or other facilities not designed to dispose of pharmaceutical materials.
A single approach to the management of non-hazardous pharmaceuticals is unlikely because there will always be multiple jurisdictions. The importance of communication and cooperation among stakeholders is critical. The development of a federal task force or forum where those with an interest (federal, state, and local governments and industry) can share ideas, discuss regulatory approaches, and determine successful collection programs may help to create an ongoing dialogue as issues evolve. This task force or forum also can be used to assist healthcare waste generators, transporters and disposal facility operators in educating their employees about best management practices and regulations. Regardless of stakeholder decisions, education is the key to implementation.

Regulatory Side Effects May Include…

For solid waste operations, the regulatory activity on pharmaceutical waste management could lead to bans on disposal. For example, if the DEA’s parameters make take-back programs easier to implement, more of these programs may become available and states may encourage their use by forcing compliance. Proposed bills are in play in Colorado, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Washington and West Virginia on home-generated pharmaceutical waste and take-back programs. California, Massachusetts, New York and Washington are looking for manufacturer responsibility. Illinois, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, Washington and West Virginia also are looking at donation and reuse options. New Jersey is considering “no flush” legislation.
Some states have either added regulations or are making regulatory changes to pharmaceutical waste regulations, including Michigan, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. For example, North Carolina’s regulations state that outdated drugs must be accepted by the manufacturer.

Solid waste facilities should watch for these changes because they may be asked to refuse to accept loads with pharmaceutical waste — especially coming from commercial healthcare facilities. They also may be asked to help by participating in take-back programs. Employers should watch for employee pilfering of pharmaceuticals for personal use or for illegal sale if they decide to accept waste loads from healthcare facilities where landfill disposal is an option.

For solid waste collection companies, when this waste is unregulated, there is no compliance problem with finding non-hazardous pharmaceutical waste in loads. Haulers should work closely with commercial healthcare customers to make sure hazardous drugs and controlled substances are not found in solid waste loads. These discussions also may include options for non-hazardous, unregulated pharmaceutical waste to help customers implement appropriate disposal options.

Alice Jacobsohn serves as director of education, and director of the Healthcare Waste Institute at the National Solid Wastes Management Association. You can email her at alicej@envasns.org.

Interested in delving deeper into the issues surrounding medical waste management?

Attend the 2012 Healthcare Waste Conference, held May 2–3, collocated with WasteExpo in Las Vegas. For more information, visit www.healthcarewasteconf.com.

Stericycle Posts 17-Percent Earnings Jump

Stericycle Inc. reported a 17-percent increase in net income for its first quarter.

The Lake Forest, Ill.-based medical waste company said in a news release that 2012 first-quarter net income reached $64.9 million, or 75 cents per diluted share, compared with $55.7 million, or 64 cents per diluted share, in the year-ago period.

Revenue for the quarter ended March 31 advanced 15.6 percent to $460.1 million compared with $398.1 million in the 2011 period.

Acquisitions added approximately $41 million to the 2012 revenue, Stericycle said.

 

Signal to Noise

Signal to Noise

For several years we have seen a steady increase in the number of states with laws on electronics recycling. However, we may have now have hit a plateau since in 2011 and so far in 2012 only one new state has been added to the list.

Half of the states have electronics recycling program laws, meaning that the law establishes a program or set of programs, for which the responsibility is almost always assigned to the manufacturer. A handful of other states have also taken action to ban certain electronic devices from landfill disposal in their state without an overall program or set of programs.

This does not mean, however, that there is a lack of interest in or decreasing need for electronics recycling programs. Some activity has shifted to manufacturer and retailer voluntary programs as well as nascent federal activities that are providing expanded options for electronics recycling efforts apart from the state mandates. States with laws already in effect have also been active by making modifications to existing requirements and working on efforts to harmonize common elements with other states.

First, let’s review the situation among the 25 state program laws for electronics recycling. Taken together, these laws cover two-thirds of the U.S. population. Beginning in January 2012, all programs required by the laws were in effect. In all but California, which is funded by an advance recycling fee, manufacturers are responsible for establishing and funding electronics recycling programs. Typical electronics covered by these programs include desktop computers, laptop computers, computer monitors, printers and televisions. However not all of these five product types are covered in every state, and some states such as Illinois and New York have incorporated broad sets of 14 different product types that can be recycled under their programs.

It is also important to note that these regulated programs are not open to all; in many states the programs established by the law only are required to accept e-waste from households. Other states allow entities such as small businesses and schools to participate, while only a couple programs are open to all organizations no matter their size.

25 States, Five Approaches

There are five basic structures under which the state programs can be grouped. First is the advanced recycling fee model that is only found in California, the first state to pass an electronics recycling program law in 2003. Under this structure, sellers of covered electronics add a fee of $6 to $10 to the price of the product and remit the fee to the state. Recyclers can then bill the state for the costs of collecting and recycling covered devices that are returned by in-state residents and organizations.

The second structure is recycler authorization for manufacturer funding. The state approves a set of recyclers that are allowed to bill their approved rates to manufacturers for collected pounds based upon the returns or market share of the manufacturer. This approach is limited to two states, Connecticut and Maine.

Under the third approach, default or opt-out, recyclers are not directly approved by the state, but rather work under a default program for manufacturers or any programs that “opt-out” and decide to work with their own network of collectors and recyclers. There are currently four states with this model: Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

There is some overlap in the final two program structures due to differing approaches taken for (and at one time advocated by) television and information technology (IT) equipment manufacturers. Together, they also represent the greatest number of states. The fourth structure involves the setting of individual pound targets for each manufacturer covered by the law based on its market share. In some cases the actual pounds sold in a given year is the basis for the collection target for the manufacturer, and in other cases divides a statewide collection target proportionally among the manufacturers based on their market share.

The fifth structure encompasses a limited take-back program approach whereby manufacturers are required to file plans (in most cases to a state agency) describing their take-back program and report annually on the results. Some programs involve annual fees that are reduced for the manufacturer based on the presence or extensiveness of its take-back program. None of the state laws under this structure require manufacturers to take more than their own brand of covered devices or include mandatory collection targets.

Types of Electronics Recycling Program Laws (States in parentheses fall into more than one category.):

1. Advanced Recycling Fee

  • CA

2. Default and opt-out

  • OR, RI, VT, WA

3. Recycler approval, then bill manufacturer, return and market share

  • CT, ME

4. Pounds sold/share

  • IL, IN, (MI), MN, (NC), NJ, NY, (SC), WI

5. Limited take-back programs

  • MD, (MI), MO, (NC), OK, (SC), TX, UT, VA, WV

There are three states, and potentially one more, that also ban the recycling of electronic devices but are not considered to be one of the 25 states with program laws. These are Arkansas, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Colorado is also on the verge of joining this group if a bill on the Governor’s desk is signed.

This does not include states where local governments have the authority and have decided to ban electronics disposal within their jurisdiction. These bans have proved controversial in some cases, including one state where a group has introduced legislation to repeal it, but states agencies have generally not taken enforcement efforts out on consumers, instead focusing first on education. There are also several states with program laws that decided not to implement a disposal ban when enacting a program, bringing the total to 19 (not including Colorado).

So Who’s Left?

Some within the electronics recycling community used to regularly speculate as to when we would have 50 different state laws. However, the lull in new states adding program laws for the past two years has dampened these expectations. In reality, it was unlikely we would ever reach 50 states with electronics recycling program laws as some states would not be likely candidates to pass these bills for various political and other reasons.

Looking at the states and regions that are left on the map, it appears that major sections of the country that aren’t covered include the Southeast (below the Carolinas), the Mountain West, the Southwest, and a handful of states in the Midwest and Northeast. Of these, the states with the most likely prospects for adding electronics recycling program legislation in the next year or two are Massachusetts and New Hampshire as they are completely surrounded by other states in the region with program laws, and they have already demonstrated a willingness to address electronics recycling through legislated or regulated landfill bans. Other states not in orange have seen legislation introduced in 2011 or 2012, including Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Nevada and Ohio.

Tinkering and Harmonization

The issue of electronics recycling is still a hot topic in state legislatures as state programs evolve and learn from their experiences. Many times, changes in the existing laws are needed to achieve better program performance or allow more flexibility.

In 2011, Illinois dramatically altered the structure of manufacturer targets and expanded the scope of products covered. Maine also expanded its law to cover more entities than just households. In addition to tinkering, state programs are working to find joint solutions to common challenges through the Electronics Recycling Coordination Clearinghouse (ERCC). ERCC works with state agencies and impacted stakeholders to identify technical challenges that could be solved through coordinated activity, and has been able to reduce the burden on their individual resources and make the implementation of electronics recycling laws more of a collaborative effort.

The World Beyond State Laws

The electronics recycling community is seeing a rise in the importance of two other types of activity beyond regulated state programs. First, there has been a marked increase in the rollout of voluntary programs from electronics manufacturers and retailers. Several voluntary programs now exist that include a network of drop-off locations across the country, including at many government, non-profit and retailer sites.

In April of 2011, the Consumer Electronics Association announced its eCycling Leadership Initiative that includes “Billion-Pound Challenge” industry participants. This represents an attempt to provide an overall framework to the varied manufacturer programs and introduces a public yardstick by which they can measure progress. Many of the manufacturer programs provide collection opportunities in states that have not passed e-waste legislation while at the same time fulfilling requirements in mandated states.

The federal government is also stepping up activity on electronics recycling as a result of National Strategy for Electronics Stewardship released in July of last year. Many of the projects in that report, which was the result of an Interagency Task Force created by an Executive Order in November 2010, focused on actions that could be taken by federal government agencies to increase federal recycling programs. The report also highlighted actions to promote the use of recyclers certified to one of two standards now available that attempt to ensure environmentally sound management of used electronics. Finally, it included provisions for gathering better data on e-waste exports and working with voluntary industry programs in public/private partnerships.

These types of activities may have just as great if not greater impact than the state laws themselves. Federal government agencies and manufacturers are significant customers for electronics recyclers and can demand high performance from their vendors as well as shape national infrastructure for electronics recycling. However, all programs will be needed and should be evaluated with consistent performance measures to ensure that used electronics are collected as efficiently as possible while adhering to strict environmental management practices.

Jason Linnell is the executive director of the Parkersburg, W.Va-based National Center for Electronics Recycling.

Interested in learning more about trends in e-waste regulation and recycling? Check out the “E-fficient E-Recycling” session, hosted by Jason Linnell, at WasteExpo 2012 in Las Vegas. The session, which is part of the Recycling Commodities Track, will be held Tuesday, May 1, from 3:15 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.

For complete information on the 2012 WasteExpo lineup, visit www.wasteexpo.com.