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Articles from 2020 In April
Landfill Liability and the Future of Recycling: An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure (Commentary)
By hiding the real costs of landfills to the public, the true value of recycling is hidden, as well as the critical gains from avoiding environmental disasters associated with releases from waste containment. Bad decisions will follow from incorrect price signals to public decision makers when the cost of prevention cannot be compared to the future costs of managing environmental calamities.
A major cause of under-pricing landfills is the failure of landfill companies or the municipalities to account for the long-term liability of existing landfills, in contravention to the most basic rules for recognizing future costs that will be incurred by failing to act prophylactically today.
The waste in landfills is dangerous and will be a long-time threat as old landfills become local and regional disasters. Critical safety components are only warranted for decades. In the U.S. landfill companies only need monitor landfills for 30 years. After this relatively brief period, the taxpaying public remains liable for the degradation of facilities and their environmental impacts and costs. In Canada by contrast landfills must be monitored for up to 400 years and are reevaluated every three years.
Europe directly addresses the major reason why landfills are a long-term threat to the environment: Nearly half of buried discards are left to decompose and mobilize the pollutants, as well as produce huge volumes of methane. The EU Landfill Directive prohibits landfilling untreated food scraps, paper and yard debris.
In the U.S., under the Superfund law, municipalities will ultimately be legally responsible for waste they send to landfills. If the future cost to remediate failed landfills is not included in tipping fees, residential and commercial customers will not get the proper signals from the market price for dumping. To realize that the real value of recycling, which diverts discards from the current obsolete and failed system, all responsible managers should address the real costs of storing waste until landfill failure.
Introduction to a grave problem
Because landfills remain an ongoing threat to human health and the environment at present, and until they fail, they are intrinsically more dangerous than the typical factory that closes. When that landfill has filled up it must be carefully maintained, essentially forever at significant cost. And and when something goes seriously wrong because of inadequate maintenance, natural disaster or the natural failure of containment components, there will be catastrophic costs and damage. Many current Superfund sites are old landfills.
Even if landfills are well maintained there still will be capital expenditures. The larger the landfill With larger landfills the costs increase exponentially. This is an ominous sign for U.S. cities as the last 40 years have seen a dramatic increase in the size of landfills, which are reaching 3,000-6,000 tons per day, while smaller public landfills have declined. Leachate collection, methane collection and containment failures at large landfills built by waste companies are financial and environmental calamities waiting to happen.
It is much harder to find the problems in mega-landfills. Because of these long-term risks, the U.S. EPA rules require that landfill owners have some form of financial assurance for known issues as well as minor and predictable maintenance for generally 30 years after they stop taking in waste.
Municipal planners are not ready for what may be coming. No one wants to address this issue of extremely high risk. By avoiding the calculation of future risk current accounting methods artificially underpriced the cost of using landfills today. If cities and businesses or waste companies had to account for these future costs, the cost of landfill would increase considerably, making source reduction, recycling, composting and reuse an economic windfall for the public. Albert Einstein pointed out that a smart person solves a problem, but a genius avoids a problem. Avoidance (recycling) is the name of the game when it comes to safe and cost-effective landfill disposal.
The fundamental fallacy of the entirely arbitrary 30 years post-closure care period is that the prospect of catastrophic site failure increases as the containment components age and deteriorate.
Furthermore, the EPA does not address the fact that containment components age and deteriorate. In light of the reality of component failure, inadequate financial assurances leave the public ultimately responsible for ecological and financial disasters. The current false sense of assurance does not reflect that a once-strong waste company can go bankrupt at any time when its landfill liabilities exceed assets. That already may be the case, because the true liability is not on the books yet.
In many cases, the taxpayer will be compelled to bail out the landfill company’s responsibilities or suffer the perils of unchecked pollution release. The landfill disasters experienced so far are tiny compared to the massive volume of pollutions that these monster landfills can and will eventually unleash. There is no statute of limitations, no maximum cap on liability, liability and no current remediation concept for the municipality that experiences a landfill failure.
Even if the landfill is privately owned, cities and businesses that sent garbage to the landfill and paid someone to take are still liable, even if the private operator paid fees for closure and post-closure care. The Superfund law holds the cities and businesses legally responsible to pay for post-care a second time, no matter how much more it costs. There is no statute of limitations or maximum cap on liability. Insurance companies insist on waivers of pollution liabilities in their policies. Insurance coverage is not going to pay for landfill failures under general liability insurance policies or any other policy we are aware of. If a city sends waste or incinerator ash to a landfill and the landfill fails, the city likely will be held as responsible party for its prorated fair share of waste/ash sent to the particular landfill. If the original landfill owner has gone out of business or is protected by corporate structure, the municipality will be required to pay, based on the idea it can generate sufficient revenue through taxes.
The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) is the national trade association for private and public waste and recycling managers with a mission to protect the water, land and air from waste and to advance solid waste management to resource management.
In 2013, SWANA’s long-term management committee was tasked to gather information from other experts in the field to prepare recommendations for policies based on its findings. Rick Aho, a landfill engineer and member of the Wisconsin Chapter of SWANA, chaired the committee, which worked from 2013-2017 gathering data from SWANA membership, regulatory agencies and other sources. In 2017 the committee recommended a policy to serve as a resource for its members. The policy’s point was that without pretreatment as required by the European Union, landfill liability and therefore the need for protective long-term care will effectively continue forever.
Proposed Technical Policy For Consideration For Adoption By SWANA 2017
The Long-Term Care of MSW Landfills
The landfill long-term management committee of SWANA's Landfill Technical Division said it believes that SWANA should advocate a position regarding the long-term care (beyond the end of the post-closure care period) of Subtitle D landfills.
The committee’s conclusion is that the liability of closed Subtitle D landfills will likely exist beyond the end of the post-closure care period. Based on our findings we overwhelmingly agreed to the following policy statements:
There should be a regulatory oversight of facilities in long-term management.
- There will be costs associated with facilities in long-term management.
- The length of the post-closure care period should be defined by the state involved and be based on site-specific testing.
The committee said it believed that state government should continue regulatory oversight during the post-closure care and long-term care period to ensure that any environmental controls deemed necessary for the continued protection of public health and the environment are effectively and continuously implemented at the site. In other words, a policy of perpetual containment. No unmonitored landfill can withstand the test of time against nature’s relentless attack on human-made structures. Constant vigilance is required.
The committee policy was to be a “line in the sand” for the association to address the looming public liability of perpetual waste “containment.” “If the liability of the waste is not experienced in post-closure timeframe, then all the liability will be experienced during long-term management, the undefined timeframe after current regulations,” said Anderson of the Center for a Competitive Waste Industry, Madison, Wisc., who has been focused on these landfill issues for decades. “Rotting waste is a liability forever, and the cost to address the damage – particularly large, undetected long-term damage can financially cripple a community.” Aho adds, “Organics are the liability in the landfill.”
“Everyone certainly seems to be shying away from the obvious questions,” Anderson said. Until the landfill liability issue is settled the general public, businesses, cities and landfill owners as well as the membership of SWANA will be in the dark regarding their concerns about environmental and financial vulnerability. “The degradation of plastic landfill liners is the weakest link in protecting the environment. It is virtually impossible to track leaks in large landfills.” While plastic liners underground themselves may last 500 years, one slice by pipes, sharp edges under pressure from water, or pressure from gas or heat are factors that can ‘unseal’ the containment system. So too can the failure of other components within thousands of square feet of plastic material: faulty tie-ins, weak seems, weak links between leachate collection and gas intersections. There is no perpetual storage. Degradation of complex landfills will always occur. There are weak links throughout the system. Currently stable landfills remain a future threat.
EPA needs to establish perpetual care regulations to replace its 30-year limit on legal responsibility.
Costs will increase in time if there is no treatment. Anderson concludes, “The reason why perpetual storage is not good science is because physical studies have shown that more than 50-70 percent of the original discarded carbon remains entrained in the waste mass after closure with a final cover, which – until the cover eventually degrades – minimizing bioactivity that mobilizes releases. Any cover that is not maintained will soon deteriorate, permitting moisture to re-enter the site that will ignite further biodegradation.”
Aho believes current SWANA policy contains vague, undefined terms and does not address looming long-term liabilities and the costs that current landfills are expected to face, per the findings of the 2017 technical committee recommendations.
Clearly, inclusion of these liabilities on the books as required by standard accounting practice will lead to long-term costs for cities and landfill companies and will have an adverse effect on value and stock price. Current accounting of landfills must be modified to cover generational costs. This will finally give the public realistic measures of current costs vs. future risks, including future costs and future impacts on climate change.
Determining the real-world financial risks of the current system is absolutely necessary for the public and officials to make the choices that will govern the laws on post-closure management and liability for the next generations. It is impossible to evaluate future municipal financial health without these inclusions.
Both Aho and Anderson call for governors to aggressively step into the fray to correct the obvious failures of the Superfund and RCRA Subtitle D policies. They fear that without this intervention, the unsuspecting taxpayer will bear the brunt of the accumulated problems. The existence of mega-sized landfills hundreds of feet high with tens of millions of tons of rotting waste and failing containment systems will be both financially staggering and ecologically devastating.
Sustainability requires that we no longer kick the problem that is the current landfill liability policy down the road to our heirs. The risks are escalating as we deliberate. Unsustainable landfill policies and hiding costs also impact and undermine proper investments in comprehensive waste and environmental damage policies and programs. By investing in reduction recycling, composting and reuse, the public greatly reduces future liabilities and contributes to environmental and economic health of the country.
COVID-19 Pandemic Reveals True Importance of Recycling and the Supply Chain
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security deemed waste collection an essential service, but they needed more information as to why recycling should be included. And the industry was loud and clear -- recycling is an essential service now more than ever, as part of the manufacturing supply chain.
In a recent webinar hosted by the Southeast Recycling Development Council (SERDC), representatives from paper, plastic, metal and glass recycling companies discussed why processing recycling is especially important to the supply chain in order to keep essential products like grocery and healthcare items stocked during a pandemic.
“I think we’re at a unique point in time,” said Susan Robinson of Waste Management Inc., who moderated the webinar. “We have the opportunity to help consumers connect the dots about why recycling is important. Instead of thinking about recycling as something that happens in kitchens and garages, we’re seeing that placing recyclables in our cart is only the first step in the manufacturing process that we rely on for our grocery and healthcare items, among other things.”
Robinson said markets and trade organizations worked together to ensure that emergency orders included recycling and processing. The Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries (ISRI) sent a letter to the U.S. vice president’s office that highlighted many reasons why recycling is imperative for U.S. manufacturing. Once the federal government included recycling, states soon followed.
“At Waste Management we were reminded of our essential role in the packaging chain when mill customers started calling to ask what we would do to ensure we keep their pipeline full of the essential products they manufacture,” Robinson said. “It led to a collective ‘ah-ha’ moment for our top leaders at Waste Management and a commitment from top to bottom to do our part to help keep our nation’s manufacturing industry in business.”
Robinson said that relying on recyclables as feedstock for products is not new; there’s just more visibility now. During World War II President Roosevelt asked Americans to contribute to the war effort by recycling metals, paper and rags.
“I guess I see this as our World War II moment, and it’s an opportunity to highlight the role of recyclables in our nation’s manufacturing industry,” she said.
Shawn State, president of Pratt Recycling, gave a full-circle insight into how mixed paper recycling and curbside recycling are essential to the supply chain.
“We’re essential because we need boxes to pack all the supplies that have to get to people,” said State. Sanitary supplies like toilet paper and paper towels, food products and medical supplies all arrive to their destination in boxes.
“So just about everything moves in a corrugated box,” he said. And the majority of materials used to make boxes are from mixed paper and old corrugated cardboard (OCC) from recyclers.
“Pratt is the largest consumer of mixed paper in the country. So of the material collected at the curb, a good portion of that is mixed paper. Fifty percent of what is put in that bin is mixed paper, and we need that feedstock for mills,” he said. “Material collected at the curb, collected in distribution centers, collected behind storefronts is what we need in order to run our business.”
But with many commercial businesses closed, State said “curbside recycling is important now more than ever.”
“If you take that box out of the supply chain and you don’t consider a corrugated box company essential and then a recycling company essential, which is in the same supply chain, it will disrupt the supply chain and keep some of these materials from getting” to where they need to go.
Greg Wall, the general manager of the southeast region for Greif, talked about the significance of fiber recycling and its role in the supply chain. As State said with mixed paper, fiber recycling is key to producing boxes that ship and store essential products during this pandemic.
Wall said the fiber recycling industry was already facing challenges as a result of China’s National Sword policy, “which largely prohibited the import of recycled fiber, which significantly shifted global demand for OCC, generally the brown fiber that recyclers and mills need. This created a supply glut, driving down price and realigning the playing field in recycling by reducing the number of recyclers. Decreased global demand also shifted some recycled fiber away from reuse to disposal.”
“The pandemic has taken this a step further by constricting supply of brown fiber ultimately required to produce packaging, potentially breaking a link in the supply chain if there is insufficient fiber to maintain packaging demand in the manufacturing and distribution sectors,” Wall said. “The pandemic has shown how complex and interwoven our supply chain is. A single broken link in the fiber portion of the manufacturing and distribution supply chain can become a bottleneck that limits the entire supply chain from functioning.
“Critical products and tools needed to help those with COVID-19 and prevent its spread in the workplace and at home, would not be readily available without recycled fiber to help produce the packaging required,” he said.
“Robinson mentioned this is our World War II moment, and I think that’s very true. In response, there are dots to be connected residentially, commercially and industrially. We believe education is key,” Wall said.
“As we face economic and budgetary hurdles and recover from COVID-19, recycling can be a means of solidifying and strengthening the supply chain, minimizing cost and protecting the environment as a whole. Our economy will need this,” Wall said. “Recycling is not just beneficial, it’s absolutely necessary, and despite the destructive nature of COVID-19, the pandemic can provide the impetus to build a brighter and better future for recycled products.”
If mixed paper and fiber recycling are at the beginning of the supply chain, “we consider ourselves to be right there in the middle where supply meets demand,” said Stephanie Baker, the director of market development for KW Plastics.
Baker said KW Plastics purchase bales of high-density polyethylene and polypropylene from all over North America then the company cleans and reprocesses it into a post-consumer resin pellet that is sold to molders that make a wide range of products. Markets include major automotive, beauty, personal care, packaging and more.
“When we started seeing COVID-19 in full effect and quarantine taking place, we immediately received letters from many of our suppliers that they were naming us as an essential supplier,” Baker said. “Long before the federal government confirmed that.”
Before COVID-19, Baker said a lot of brands were making sustainability commitments to include more recycled content in packaging, specifically for plastic.
“All of that has come to stop right now,” she said. Brands are scaling back to manufacturing products that are essential, leading to a higher demand in natural resin.
“Unilever, Procter & Gamble – they’re all brands that keep us clean. People are home, taking more showers, particularly those in essential jobs. We’re seeing there’s an increased demand for detergent, soap, obviously household cleaning agents. We know where we are there, we can’t keep that on the shelf,” Baker said. “So, we’re going to ship 9.5 million pounds this month of our natural resin specifically to support the household product market, and personal cleaning and care items. That is a significant amount for us in that particular resin.”
Baker said that before the pandemic, plastics had a bad name, but they do serve a healthy and safe purpose in the marketplace and culture. “Anything COVID-19 has done specifically for plastics has reminded us of the hygienic and disposability aspects of plastics, specifically single-serve plastic, and there’s an appropriate time and appropriate application for that.”
Much like boxes and plastic packaging, the manufacturing of cans and glass also relies on a circular system, with the majority of its content being recycled material from deposit states.
“So, when you drink out of a U.S. beverage can, what you’re holding on average is made of 73 percent recycled material,” said Scott Breen, vice president of sustainability at the Can Manufacturing Institute, a trade association which represents U.S. can manufacturers and suppliers.
“We recycle more than 5 million aluminum beverage cans in the U.S. every hour, so it’s 45 billion cans every year in the U.S., and those cans are worth $800 million,” Breen said. “About 95 percent of those cans get turned into new cans, so there is a lot of can-to-can recycling going on, and that’s why we have this high level of recycled content and it’s why we’re the textbook example of the circular economy.”
But because of COVID-19, Breen said there has been fewer used beverage cans (UBC) flowing through the circular system, mainly because the deposit states like California, Michigan, Connecticut and others aren’t accepting returns. Deposit states are important since “40 percent of recycled cans come from just those 10 U.S. deposit states.”
“So given our high levels of recycled content, this drop in UBC flows means we won’t be able to make can sheets with the same kind of inputs as we have been, and we’re proud of the high recycled content. We want to maintain it,” Breen said. “And the can sheet is needed now to make essential food and beverage can containers during this crisis.”
“During a time when outsized demand for everyday canned foods, beverages and disinfectant products is straining supply chains, can manufacturers need to be able to continue manufacturing iron-clad containers that supply quality food and sanitizing products to American consumers,” Breen said.
Scott DeFife, president of the Glass Packaging Institute (GPI), said “much like Scott Breen was sharing, glass is already an essential part of the standard batch mix for glass containers around the country, averaging right now about 35 percent of any glass package-- -- bottle, jar – is likely going to be recycled content.”
The problem is, about 60 percent of the recycled content comes from deposit states that aren’t accepting bottle and can redemptions currently.
“Redemption laws are still in place but retailers aren’t doing as much redemption, except for Michigan, which suspended bottle drop rooms,” DeFife said. “And that is having a significant impact on the supply of cullet that is going through most of the processing operations across the country, so it’s essential we start to pick that up and find other outlets to do what we can to improve the amount of glass that is captured in the material recovery facility (MRF) and recycling stream.”
DeFife said they’ve done “significant outreach to states, the governors and the state operators and state officials where we had glass plants and cullet processing to talk about the essential nature of the entire supply chain and to point out the need to continue to move glass through the recycling system during this time of crisis.” Especially when more than 90% of glass containers are used for food and beverage purposes.
“I think it was, as Robinson mentioned in the beginning, it really is a key opportunity for us to make that connection with the consumer and, quite honestly, with many public officials who don’t realize necessarily how important that the recycled glass is to making new glass bottles and jars.”
“Every challenge is an opportunity,” DeFife said.
SWANA and Glad Partner to Provide Financial Assistance to Front-line Collection Workers Affected by COVID-19
The Sanitation Workers Support Fund established by Glad and the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) will provide financial assistance to front-line solid waste and recycling collection workers in the United States and Canada adversely impacted by COVID-19. Glad has provided $200,000 to the Fund, to be administered and distributed by SWANA.
“SWANA is very pleased to be collaborating with Glad to provide money to front-line collection workers and their families who have been adversely affected by the coronavirus,” said David Biderman, SWANA CEO and Executive Director. “We’re very proud that Glad chose SWANA as its trusted partner in this important, timely, and generous effort. We expect to distribute needed financial assistance to hundreds of sanitation workers throughout the United States and Canada, at a time when they really need it most.”
“Glad is proud to support front-line collection workers through this partnership with SWANA and the Sanitation Workers Support Fund,” said Eric Schwartz, General Manager of Glad. “These men and women are on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic, working to keep us all safe, and are too often underappreciated during this time. Through this Fund, we’re honored to support those workers and their families, who have been negatively impacted by this pandemic.”
Front-line solid waste and recycling collection workers will potentially qualify for assistance if they: (1) have tested positive for COVID-19; (2) were laid off because of COVID-19 and continue to be unemployed; or (3) if an immediate family member was a front-line solid waste or recycling collection worker and passed away as a result of the coronavirus. Individuals directly impacted by COVID-19 by testing positive for the coronavirus or who lost their job due to the coronavirus and are currently unemployed can receive US $500. Immediate family members (spouse or minor children) of a solid waste and recycling collection worker who died due to COVID-19 can receive US $2,500.
SWANA will begin accepting applications to the Fund on May 1, 2020.
For more information and applications for the Sanitation Workers Support Fund, visit SWANA.org.
Hybrid Packaging is a Huge Headache for Recyclers
What do kids’ light-up sneakers, detergent pods, and singing greeting cards have in common? They’re all made of “horrible hybrids” says Heidi Sanborn, Executive Director of the National Stewardship Action Council (a group that seeks to get manufacturers to take responsibility for the proper disposal of products they sell). And they are nearly impossible for today’s recyclers to break down and process.
“One of the biggest problems for recyclers right now is all the products containing lithium ion batteries,” notes Kate Bailey, director of research at Eco-Cycle, a Colorado recycler. These batteries can spark easily and lead to fires in recycling facilities.
In addition, manufacturers are increasingly using and touting hybrid packaging, which mixes materials like foil, paper and sometimes multiple plastics in one product or container. These show up in flexible pouches used to package rice, baby food, juice, and more. And, there is also the issue of companies using non-recyclable wrappers around otherwise recyclable bottles and cans. To effectively recycle these, consumers must know they have to remove the printed plastic wraps, and then do so—which can be tricky. Sanborn observes that, “We’ve made recycling too complicated. Who has the time to read a manual for everything they get rid of?”
“We should have it so these companies have to have an end-of-life system for all their products,” said Sanborn. “That’s producer responsibility.”
Texas Disposal Systems is Offering Eco-Minded Resources for Families
Texas Disposal Systems (NYSE: TDS), a locally owned and managed group of Texas-based waste and recycling companies, has announced that it will offer free access to the first lesson of its Eco Academy online elementary curriculum.
The TDS Eco Academy program is designed “to help minimize waste in Central Texas schools by educating K-12 students about trash, recycling and composting options.” But, after the recent announcement that schools in the state will be closed for the remainder of the school year, TDS decided to make part of this curriculum—and other online resources—available for all. The resources include videos and “virtual field trip” ideas, nature-themed games to play outdoors, and coloring pages that celebrate Mother Earth.
“Whether they are learning at school or learning from home, the future starts with today’s students,” said Leticia Mendoza, Texas Disposal Systems’ Director of Marketing and Communications.
For more information and links to TDS' educational ideas and resources, view their blog here.
Industry Leaders Launch Plan to Close the Loop on Postconsumer Plastic Bottles
Half of Americans have access to recycling that is automatically provided to them, but of those households, 30 percent don’t participate, estimates The Recycling Partnership. The nonprofit recently joined forces with Closed Loop Partners, the American Beverage Association (ABA) and the World Wildlife Fund to improve that participation figure, narrowing in on polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles.
With $100 million in backing from ABA members Coca-Cola, Keurig Dr Pepper and PepsiCo, to be allocated through Closed Loop and The Recycling Partnership, the goal is to support a new ABA initiative to return postconsumer plastic bottles to the supply chain to make new bottles.
The partners set up a multipronged approach, leveraging technology and education as their tools, with a lot of thought devoted to strategy.
“We are working to identify opportunities and turn them into projects,” says Bridget Croke, managing director of Closed Loop Partners. “We have started by identifying certain geographic focus areas around the country and have developed a set of criteria to be sure we will have the most impact. We are talking to material recovery facilities (MRFs) and municipalities to see where there may be opportunities to deploy our capital.”
While the $100 million will be allocated over 10 years across multiple cities, the partners are starting in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to increase collection, recycling and processing of plastic bottles.
“We have criteria based on need and opportunity in a given region,” says Sarah Dearman, vice president of Circular Ventures for The Recycling Partnership. “We want to ensure there is a strong end market, and there is one in that region.”
Dearman points to a large bottle-to-bottle facility in Dallas, CarbonLITE.
“Reclaimers like CarbonLITE provide bottle-grade material, and we want that material to go to the highest and best use as part of the circular economy,” she says.
Of the total to be allocated, $2 million will go to Balcones’ MRF in Dallas for sorting technology improvements to be able to supply reclaimers.
With regard to community education and access efforts, the industry initiative has three focus points:
- In Fort Worth, carts will be allocated to the city and citizens will be educated on how to recycle and reduce contamination.
- In Dallas, the effort will be aimed at improving access to collection in multifamily housing and providing community education.
- Across the entire North Central Texas Council of governments, which includes 230 communities, a public service campaign will be undertaken to educate residents on best recycling practices.
“The idea is to marry investments in infrastructure improvements so bottles are sorted properly, with improvements in community collection to get more materials through the system and ultimately fed through bottle reclaimers to produce more bottle-grade recycled PET for new bottles,” says Kevin Keane, ABA’s executive vice president for government and public affairs.
Each partner has a defined role in the project. ABA’s three largest members are providing the funding for the broad initiative. Closed Loop will administer loans to upgrade MRFs to increase PET yields from the facilities’ front to back ends. The Recycling Partnership is working on the community access piece, awarding grants for carts and focusing on education around how to recycle and reduce contamination. And the World Wildlife Fund will provide scientific guidance to help measure the reduction in plastic footprint.
Over the years, ABA members have made investments in community recycling individually, from providing carts to helping with education, and those efforts will continue, says Keane.
“But we wanted to see if we could create scale, so each company is not out there doing their own thing,” he says. “In the past we have worked with Closed Loop and The Recycling Partnership individually on community projects. Now we come together through this initiative to create a system to provide more scale and focus on collection in a way that feeds bottles directly through reclaimers. Thus, we can reach toward our goal of producing more bottle-grade recycled PET to make new bottles and reduce use of virgin materials on the front end.”
This type of collaboration is needed to accelerate the development of a circular economy, says Dearman.
“This is a unique combination of expert organizations coming together with industry to improve recycling in the U.S.,” she says.
Technology Company Partners to Source, Track PPE for New York Healthcare Providers
RecycleGO, an Irvington, N.J.-based technology provider in the waste and recycling industry, has partnered with Mask Force NYC, a community relief project, to provide masks for healthcare providers and other essential service workers in the New York area.
“In early March, I went to the Dominican Republic to make a presentation at a sustainability event. While there, I met other New York area professionals making a difference in their sectors,” says Stan Chen, CEO and co-founder of RecycleGO. “When we all arrived back to New York, the state was already undergoing a rapid upswing of COVID-19 cases, so we decided to build on the inertia of our overlapping missions and form a group to that would optimize its supply chain networks to fast-track masks to those in need.”
Established by the RETI (Resilience, Education, Training and Innovation) Center, a New York-based nonprofit that was started to help NYC communities better prepare for disasters caused by climate change, its Mask Force initiative is a platform for personal protective equipment (PPE) campaigns throughout the U.S. Through its network, it is helping bring PPE to seven cities.
The RETI Center is dedicated to building strength in communities through resiliency focused economic development by following the guidelines set by OneNYC and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, according to its website.
Mask Force NYC volunteers connect with hospital and healthcare workers to gauge their PPE needs. RecycleGO uses the donations received from the Mask Force NYC Go Fund Me campaign to buy and transport masks to New York. So far, the group has raised more than $50,000.
According to the Go Fund Me website, Mask Force has identified a disconnect between large-scale suppliers, freight services, centralized hospital administration, and the frontline medical staff who have an urgent need for comparatively small quantities of PPE.
“Mask Force is positioned as the ‘triage’ solution, delivering fast and direct to healthcare workers with immediate needs,” says the website. “Within less than 1.5 weeks of starting, Mask Force delivered 8,000 masks directly to more than 15 public hospitals and healthcare centers. More PPE is sourced on a weekly basis and is immediately brought to those who need it.”
Volunteers are routed to that location, and confirm with a photo that they have successfully distributed the masks. Tracking each step of the supply chain like this allows RecycleGO to report this information on its blockchain, which verifies the overall process and the transactions involved at each step.
Tapping into the company's international supply network, RecycleGO is able to source KN95 masks from China.
“It's amazing how far our networks really reach these days. While my connections from years of international metal trading started the process of creating a supply chain, once the Mask Force Campaign went public, I also had a wide variety of friends and colleagues come to me with their own suggestions,” says Chen. “Together, we were able to build a supply chain that would efficiently transport masks to New York in time to meet the growing needs of our healthcare providers here.”
Once the materials reach the U.S., RecycleGO uses its logistics software for dispatchers, Mission Control, and its route optimization application, Chariot, to coordinate the pickup of masks. After the shipment of masks are disinfected, the Chariot app optimizes the routes for volunteers' distribution to medical providers, notifying dispatchers on Mission Control when volunteers start and end their route.
Chen says his background and education led him to get involved in a solution for the PPE shortage in New York.
“Although I ended up following my father into the recycling industry, I originally went to school for medical science. Seeing how quickly the virus overwhelmed other healthcare systems, in Italy and elsewhere, I knew we were likely to face the same situation here in New York,” he says. “I knew my colleagues in the medical sector would be facing extreme shortages in PPE supplies. So when cases started to rise here in mid-March, I reached out to my networks to see how we could get masks to healthcare providers and what I could do to help.”
As of April 9, the partnership has distributed about 29,000 masks to hospitals in New York.
“It would be phenomenal if the recycling industry would like to work with us to set up a recycled material supply chain for mask production or reuse. We also welcome support from anyone who would like to donate money to our cause,” says Chen.
NWRA Backs Effort to Suspend Excise Tax on Heavy-duty Trucks
The National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) and several of its member companies joined with dozens of other national, state, and local organizations and companies on a letter to congressional leaders urging the suspension of the 12 percent Federal Excise Tax (FET) on the purchase of new heavy-duty trucks and trailers. The FET increases the cost of new trucks and trailers by $22,000 on average.
“Suspension of the FET would serve as an effective means to immediately spur sales of newer, cleaner trucks, which would retain jobs in the trucking sector and help rebuild our economy,” said NWRA President and CEO Darrell Smith. “We urge Congress to include this measure in future COVID-19 legislation to assist with the economic recovery.”
Truck sales in the United States are predicted to decline by 50 percent in 2020 due to the current global health crisis. In March, truck orders dropped 52 percent compared to last year. A suspension of the FET would increase sales of trucks and, in turn, save or bring back the livelihoods of almost 8 million Americans employed in jobs related to trucking.
Publix Increases Feeding America Donation to $2 Million and Launches New Initiative to Help Farmers, Dairies
Last month, as part of Publix Super Market Charities’ ongoing support of hunger relief efforts and to help communities its area during the coronavirus pandemic, Publix Charities donated $1 million to Feeding America member food banks across the Southeast.
On April 16, Publix announced a second donation of $1 million to Feeding America member food banks to support food pantries and meal programs in the communities surrounding Publix stores.
“As we continue to see an increase in the number of people facing food insecurity during this pandemic, we are grateful to Publix Super Markets Charities for this additional contribution in support of Feeding America member food banks,” said Publix CEO Todd Jones. “This donation will provide meals and essential supplies to our neighbors and continues to support our ongoing commitment to alleviating hunger in the communities we serve.”
As the pandemic continues, new issues are arising. The closure of restaurants, hotels and schools have left produce farmers and dairies with no where to send their food leaving it to go to waste. Publix stepped in and launched a new initiative to support farmers and families.
Publix began an initiative to purchase produce and milk directly from farmers and donate it to Feeding America® member food banks in our communities. The initiative is expected to run for several weeks; we’ll donate 150,000 pounds of produce and 43,500 gallons of milk in the first week alone.
“In addition to providing much-needed produce and milk to food banks, this initiative provides financial support to farmers during this challenging time,” said Jones. “We’re honored to be able to work with these groups and do good together for our communities.”