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Articles from 1998 In May
"Protected Activities" Questioned
Estelle Davis (not her real name) took a page from the Linda Tripp book. She surreptitiously tape-recorded a conversation with an unsuspecting target. Not a friend, though, but her supervisor.
Davis, who works for a waste company in the Mid-Atlantic area, did so because she suspected that discrimination was the reason why she had lost out on a promotion. When the area manager heard about the recording episode, he fired her on the spot.
Here's the rub: Title VII of the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 forbids "retaliation" against an employee for "assisting or participating" in the investigation of a workplace discrimination complaint.
To claim retaliation, an employee must prove three things: (1) he or she engaged in a "protected activity," (2) an adverse employment action happened and (3) a causal relationship exists between (1) and (2).
The intent is to protect employees who simply use the law to protect their rights. If secretly recording workplace conversations is a protected activity, then an employer cannot punish a worker for doing so without incurring liability.
Take the case of Irwin Heller who got word from a departing manager that he would be demoted. Suspecting age discrimination, Heller decided to tape-record future meetings with his boss, John Parker.
Sure enough, Parker demoted Heller, who then told some co-workers that he had recorded his encounter with Parker. He also boasted he had talked with a "big-time lawyer" who could make a "big-time case" against the employer. One of these co-workers told Parker about Heller's plans, and Heller was sacked soon afterwards.
Heller sued the company in federal district court for age discrimination and breach of an employment contract. The jury didn't think Heller proved age discrimination, but felt he had been wrongfully discharged. The district judge, however, ruled for the employer despite the verdict, saying that the company had "good cause" to fire Heller based on his "deceptive and thoroughly unprofessional" behavior.
An appeals court overturned the decision. It brushed aside the employer's argument that "an employee would never be justified in tape-recording conversations with his superiors and discussing a possible lawsuit ... with ... his colleagues." On the contrary, the court stated that Heller indeed may have been "justified" if he believed that he was merely gathering evidence in support of a possible age-discrimination claim.
However, things don't always work out in the employee's favor. For example, a federal appeals court in San Francisco upheld a ruling against an employee who removed confidential files from his supervisor's desk, photocopied the contents and showed the materials to a co-worker.
The court said that, although the employee was justified in preserving evidence, he failed to explain why he showed the pilfered documents to a co-worker who was about to be laid off or why he needed evidence of the company's layoff policy where he himself had not been slated for lay-off.
Before punishing an employee for secretly tape-recording workplace conversations (which is different from punishing an employee for ignoring orders not to use a tape recorder at work), the employer should consider why the employee decided to tape the conversation, whether confidential matters were discussed, whether the actions were disruptive, how the employee used the information and whether state law prohibits such surreptitious activity.
Making secret recordings can cost an employee more than losing a job and walking away from a lawsuit empty-handed. The employee risks a countersuit by the employer and co-workers.
A bank employee in California sued his employer and co-workers for sexual harassment. During pre-trial proceedings, he turned over numerous tapes containing more than 100 secretly recorded conversations with his supervisors and co-workers. The defendants fired back, claiming invasion of privacy and violation of the California Privacy Act. The trial court threw out the plaintiff's claims, and awarded judgment to the defendants for $132,000. The decision was upheld on appeal.
Three thousand miles eastward, a Connecticut court ruled in similar fashion when an employee was sued by her employer and co-workers for invasion of privacy. The defendant had secretly recorded their confidential conversations.
In denying her motion to dismiss their suit, the court said: "An employee retains some zone of personal privacy, particularly vis-a-vis conduct of fellow employees motivated by ... personal concerns. It may be a practical reality that employees have little reasonable right to expect that business-related discussions with fellow employees will remain protected from disclosure to their employer. But employees do have a reasonable expectation that discussions will not be secretly recorded by fellow employees with whom they are chatting."
Developing Landfill Gas Projects without Getting Credit
You don't have to be an alchemist to turn landfill gas into gold, but you may have to change your formula after June 30. That is the magic date when Section 29's tax credits will disappear for landfill gas-to-energy projects (LFGTE), an event that has many landfill owners and project developers worried. However, incentives to start new projects may be reappearing.
For example, global warming issues are heating up (no pun intended), and this could be good news for LFGTE. International representatives agreed last December at the Kyoto Climate Change Conference to measures that would reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions significantly in developed countries, and landfill methane is a potent GHG that can be reduced cost-effectively through LFGTE projects.
Further, "emissions credit trading" is expected to be one of the cornerstones of the nation's GHG reduction policy, both domestically and internationally. While no formal market is yet in place, investors such as Centre Financial, Chicago, and Trexler & Associates, Portland, Ore., see LFGTE projects offering significant GHG reduction potential and are investigating the market for trading credits based on reductions in landfill methane emissions.
In addition, the Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), Silver Spring, Md., has quantified the amount of potential projects that are undeveloped and has contacts with key LFG developers.
In fact, two organizations already are working on an emissions reduction credit trade that involves landfill gas (LFG): Northeast Utilities (NU), Hartford, Conn., and Canada's Greenhouse Emissions Management Consortium (GEMCo), a group of nine Canadian utility and energy companies.
In a sale that may be the first of its kind in the world, NU intends to sell GHG emission reduction credits generated by its LFGTE project in Connecticut to GEMCo. GEMCo is interested in investing in GHG mitigation projects as a way to get "insurance" against future GHG reduction requirements.
Among other things, this potential deal illustrates a new way to add value to LFGTE projects by creating a monetary value for methane emission reductions generated by LFG combustion.
To find out if your landfill can take advantage of these opportunities, contact David Tubman at SWANA at (301) 585-2898.
Green Power Another viable alternative for LFG will come in an old, familiar form: energy sales. Soon, customers will be able to choose their electricity or gas provider from one of many energy companies, and LFG will be among the "green power" options.
The good news is that a significant segment of this new "retail market" for energy is willing to pay a premium for green power, which is generated by non-polluting or renewable sources.
Early retail access pilot projects, existing green power programs and consumer surveys suggest that LFG-generated power will fare well in this type of market since it offers double benefits:
* it is the only renewable energy source that addresses air quality concerns by removing pollutants from the atmosphere and
* it allows communities to capitalize on a local resource that would otherwise go to waste.
The Pacific Northwest Generating Cooperative (PNGC), Portland, Ore., was one of the early adopters of green power marketing, allowing it and its eleven member cooperatives to gain experience in competing and developing strategies to meet consumer demands.
Although PNGC has been operating the Coffin Butte Resource Project, a 2.5 megawatt LFGTE facility, since 1995, the energy costs were higher than the low market prices in the Pacific Northwest.
Working with the EPA's Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP), PNGC realized that green power marketing would enable it to make up the cost differential by enlarging its customer base, meet other business objectives, such as being recognized as a good corporate citizen, and even allow it to expand the project's capacity.
In a workshop in fall, 1997, the cooperative's members learned how to establish a green power marketing program and about its potential benefits. Since then, two cooperatives have launched green marketing programs, with as many as four to follow this summer.
"Our green power marketing program allows us and our members to develop a community-based renewable resource, [be] responsive to our customer's demands for renewable energy choices, and gain important marketing experience," says Kevin Watkins, PNGC's vice president of engineering.
Is Green Power for Your Landfill? What can green power offer economically to your LFG marketing program? Following are some steps for determining the price of the LFG product and an example of how to apply it to a 3-million-metric-ton landfill:
1. Decide the megawatt (MW) generation capacity of your LFGTE project. Based on an 80 percent capacity factor, a 3-million-metric-ton landfill, which can generate 2.4 MW of capacity, can generate about 16,820 kilowatts (kWh) annually.
2. Through market research, determine the price premium target customers are willing to pay (usually expressed in dollars per month). Most residential customers are willing to pay a monthly premium between $3 and $5 for "green" power, according to recent surveys.
3. Determine the incremental cost using avoided cost and LFGTE costs (less potential incentives and tax credits). If a utility's avoided cost is 2.5 cents/kWh, and a LFGTE project developer needs 3.5 cents/kWh (including incentives), the incremental cost is 1 cent/kWh.
4. Using the incremental cost information (cents/kWh), identify the total annual incremental cost the green pricing program should cover. For our model, the green marketing program for LFGTE must recover $168,200 per year.
5. Determine green pricing premium and number of participants necessary. A $5 monthly premium would require participation from about 2,803 residential customers.
6. Investigate other pricing options if necessary. You may wish to solicit donations from commercial and industrial sources/customers. The donors will benefit from the public recognition associated with their contributions to enhance the environment.
In our landfill example, if four commercial sources contribute $5,000 each and residential customers are charged a $5 premium, 2,470 residential customers must participate.
Although the evaporation of Section 29 tax credits present challenges to LFGTE development, other opportunities for capturing the economic value of these projects are coming online.
Are there opportunities for your community to cash in on your landfill gas? A total of 170 U.S. landfills already are economically converting their methane into a marketable energy source.
In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that 500 additional landfills are large enough to support a LFGTE project.
EPA can help you assess whether landfill gas-to-energy (LFGTE) is right for your facility and what opportunities are available through its Landfill Methane Outreach Program (LMOP).
For more information on a specific project opportunity, contact the LMOP territory manager responsible for your state:
Territory 1 (Conn., Del., Mass., Md., Maine, N.C., N.H., N.J., N.Y., Pa., R.I., S.C., Tenn., Va., Vt., W.V.): Shelley Cohen, (202) 564-9797. E-mail: [email protected]
Territory 2 (Ill., Ind., Ky., Mich., Ohio, Wis.): Ed Coe, (202) 564-8994. E-mail: [email protected]
Territory 3 (Ariz., Calif., Colo., Hawaii, Kan., La., N.M., Nev., Okla., Texas, Utah): Mary Schoen, (202) 564-9058. E-mail: schoen. [email protected]
Territory 4 (Alaska, Ala., Ark., Fla., Ga., Iowa, Idaho, Minn., Mo., Miss., Mont., N.D., Neb., Ore., S.D., Wash., Wyo.): E-mail: Nabilah Haque, (202) 564-9758. [email protected] epa.gov
For general information and document requests, call 1-888-STAR-YES (782-7937) toll-free or log onto the LMOP's website at http://www.epa.gov/lmop/
Once the landfill gas is out of the ground, where do you find the customers?
Several types of facilities became users of the medium British thermal unit (BTU) landfill gas (LFG) generated at the Fred Weber Inc. Landfill in St. Louis County, Mo.:
Hot Oil Boiler. Since 1983, a 4-million BTU per hour gas boiler has used LFG to heat oil for two on-site asphalt plants. The hot oil boiler operates year-round, 24 hours a day.
Aggregate Dryer. Since 1988, LFG has been used to supply a portion of the fuel to fire the 90-million BTU per hour aggregate dryer. The unit, which dries sand and rock for an asphalt plant, has dual burners for using both LFG and natural gas.
In 1996, a larger, multi-stage centrifugal blower was installed to deliver approximately 2,000 standard cubic feet per minute (SCFM) of LFG to the dryer.
The supplemental natural gas volume supplied to the dryer, which is determined by the moisture in the aggregate, is regulated by the asphalt plant operator to maintain the necessary temperature.
The LFG supply of 2,000 SCFM at approximately 500 BTU per cubic foot will supply two-thirds of the dryer maximum heat capacity.
The plant generally operates 12 hours a day, five days a week for approximately nine months a year.
Ready-Mix Plant. Since 1988, an on-site concrete ready-mix plant has been using LFG to heat the process water and portions of the plant structure during winter - allowing the plant to operate from November through March. The hot water boiler burner is rated at 6.5 million BTU per hour.
Greenhouses. Since 1981, LFG has been supplied to greenhouses adjacent to the landfill. Eight space heaters, rated at 350,000 BTU per hour, are supplied with LFG.
Pattonville High School. In January 1997, the Weber landfill began donating LFG to nearby Pattonville High School to use with its heating system, which includes two 65 horsepower hot water boilers.
A 3,600-foot pipeline and a multi-stage centrifugal blower delivers the LFG to the boilers. The same blower system supplies LFG to the greenhouses and the hot oil boiler.
For safety, the LFG is odorized, similar to natural gas, prior to delivery.
The school expects to save $40,000 annually by using the free LFG for heating in lieu of natural gas.
BFI's Safety Program Payback
"To be or not to be" may have stumped Hamlet, but it is a question that Browning-Ferris Industries (BFI) has an answer for when it comes to its safety program.
Almost two years ago, the Houston-based company, which employs 30,000, has 14,400 solid waste trucks and serves 1,600 communities, decided it wanted to be the epitome of safety in the industry. By prioritizing safety, this 31-year-old company has changed its entire corporate culture, attitude and behavior.
Dave Buckner, vice president of the environment, safety and health division, was charged with re-organizing programs and redesigning management procedures to reduce the 1,500 to 1,700 monthly claims - injuries that translated to about $100 million spent annually.
"A number of our large customers told us that our accident and injury rates were too high," Buckner says. "The massive number of claims were not good for business. They meant we were hurting our own folks and damaging our customers' property. We just had to get better."
At the start of BFI's 1996 fiscal year, Buckner began re-assessing its safety programs, emphasizing more accountability among management and employees.
The company became "leaner and smarter," he says. The corporate staff was pared as more people were put out in the field to get a closer look at what was going on in its 300 North American collection districts.
Safety literature was incorporated into the company's annual report and employee handbook and was tucked into bonus plans, "to drive home the message that we care about employees and safety," Buckner says.
The first signs of improvement came in January 1997, when the company started to see injuries and claims decrease. Just one year later, the number of monthly claims had declined by almost 600 - after four years of escalating claims.
For fiscal year '97, a remarkable 2,100 fewer claims were reported, and $5 million less in claim costs. The trend has continued into '98: In the first four months of this year, claims have plunged 2,200 below last year's total, and Buckner anticipates a savings of $8 million to $10 million in reduced claim costs by the end of this fiscal year.
BFI tracks its safety progress - especially its total injury rate or the number of reported injuries per 100 employees - with pie charts and graphs. The 1996 rate was 18 to 19 injuries for every 100 employees. In December 1997, that number dropped to below 10.
Reduced accidents and costs associated with claims have re-invigorated the company, Buckner says. "The key is selling the concept that we 'gotta' have trucks and we 'gotta' have people, but we don't 'gotta' have accidents."
Safety First BFI's employee safety is focused in three areas: truck drivers, mechanics and helpers on trucks and in facilities. For drivers, safety on city streets, highways and customer property is essential. Its employees are trained in safe-driving techniques, including mapping out the safest routes (which often means minimizing left turns) and asks its drivers to list the unsafe stops. Buckner says the company even has given up customers because collection was too risky for drivers.
Another way safety is promoted is through the company's "VORS," or vehicle observations, in which managers observe drivers, who are unaware of the surveillance, and then reinforce what they did right and show them what they could do better.
For helpers, personal protective equipment is provided, including reflective vests, protective footwear, safety glasses and gloves. Employees also are given training in proper lifting techniques to prevent back injuries.
Buckner says the mechanics operate in properly stocked shops with the right tools. The mechanics also perform preventative maintenance on vehicles. As a result, very few cases of crashes are attributable to mechanical failure, Buckner reports.
In addition to the collection training that is required by law, BFI conducts annual internal hazard assessments, where managers observe employees at work, including their daily hazards and how they deal with them. Ultimately, this program allows employees to have more control over their jobs. "People will behave safely if they take ownership of their own safety," Buckner explains.
Employees earn rewards for good safety practices, including awards and bonuses that recognize drivers and operators with exceptional records. For example, during the safety program's kickoff in '96, BFI gave away everything, including hats, T-shirts, television sets and Ford Explorers. "It was a way to show people we care, all the way up the ladder," Buckner says.
The company, concerned about its customers' perception of its safety, distributes surveys to track customer opinions. Initiated last year, BFI's customer surveys ask two questions: "How safe are BFI drivers on city streets?" and "How safe are they on your property?"
All types of customers - commercial, municipal, industrial and residential - are then asked to rate the company from one to 10, and the findings are published quarterly. Although safety is only one of 12 performance factors to gauge overall customer satisfaction, so far, customers have rated BFI's safety in the 90th percentile, Buckner says.
BFI also works directly in the districts through its breakthrough teams. Here, employees meet after hours with a facilitator to address issues in that district and meet as often as necessary for three to four weeks to solve problems.
For example, in Tyngsboro, Mass., back injuries and strains were a big problem for collectors. The company hired an exercise professional to train the crew in proper stretch methods, and the 23 injuries in Tyngsboro in '97 have been reduced to only two so far this year.
And, in Boston, where too many vehicles were being hit, truck signs and mirrors were changed because of employee suggestions.
"The first step is to improve the overall awareness of safety and get the tools people need to show improvement," Buckner says. "Once you have a general awareness of what you're looking for and [you are] measuring improvement, you can focus on those marketplaces that aren't keeping pace."
With potential losses from claims estimated at $100 million annually, Buckner says the money they invest in the program is worth it. "Time and salaries are only 2 percent of cost, and the safety initiatives already have paid for themselves in the first few months of '98," Buckner explains.
No matter the cost, Buckner says that the response to the safety programs "has been terrific, but more important has been the leadership assumed by management and the ownership taken by employees for their safety and the safety of their peers."
True Blue Safety BFI also is looking out for the communities in which it operates. Through its 5-year-old "True Blue Looking Out For You" neighborhood watch program, drivers, in partnership with communities, are trained by emergency service providers to watch for emergency situations and serve as the eyes and ears of the local police, fire and medical teams.
Drivers have two-way radios in their trucks so that they can alert dispatchers of any emergency they spot while on their route. The dispatchers, in turn, notify police, fire or rescue teams.
In dozens of communities, from British Columbia to Orlando, Fla., the neighborhood watch program works in conjunction with local officials to report accidents, fires, hazardous road conditions or suspicious activities.
Support for a new initiative called "SafeAmerica," resulted from the company's re-assessment of its corporate safety focus, according to Bonnie Moss, BFI's divisional vice president of community affairs (see "Safely Covering the Bases" above).
This is a philanthropic program that meshes with the company's goal of identifying a "worldwide cause, creating a primary focus for civic engagement, charitable giving and employee involvement in the community," Buckner says.
Meanwhile, the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC), a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in Atlanta, was looking for support for a new program. This intersection of interest brought BFI and NCICP together, resulting in "safety-through-injury-prevention" as the focus of BFI's new worldwide cause.
BFI became the first corporate member of SafeAmerica, which was launched last November in Washington, D.C. With pilot programs now in three cities - Atlanta, Detroit and Minneapolis - SafeAmerica identifies ways to prevent death and injury in homes, schools, workplaces, on streets and highways, and in communities.
BFI's role is to guide national SafeAmerica programs and ensure they are in line with local and regional needs assessments, as well as to help recruit other corporations.
The company works with nonprofit and government groups to raise awareness of injury prevention programs. In addition, it contributes to reducing injuries by steering the pilot projects and helping form coalitions in each city that include state health departments, local emergency services, businesses, nonprofit groups and residents.
But BFI is not just writing checks. It also is going into communities and working with their coalitions to identify an issue. Then, the group devises a plan to be completed within one year.
Atlanta's focus is "safety on the move" (car safety seats). Likewise, in Detroit, this program promotes safe driving, focusing on issues such as booster seat awareness, teen driving/prom night and elderly driving skills. Minneapolis' focus is "safe at home," which includes a door-to-door assessment of 300 homes.
BFI's safety program is making a statement that falls to the bottom line. And, with plummeting injury rates, significantly lower claim costs and the budding SafeAmerica partnership, BFI now is willing to use its research and data to help other companies - including competitors - improve their safety records, according to Buckner.
"If BFI can help improve the safety of the entire industry, we're happy to do that," he says. "But the important thing is to send our people home safe at the end of the day."
"We can't accept injury as a way of life," says Mary Ann Fenley, associate director for communications for the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control (NCIPC), a division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta.
As a result, her agency created the SafeAmerica program, whose message covers five "bases": safe at home, at school, at work, on the move and in the community.
Preventable injuries are among the top 10 causes of death for Americans of all ages, and more than 150,000 people die each year from injuries.
To help curb these numbers, SafeAmerica is:
*delivering community programs that prevent injuries or control the effects after an injury occurs;
*conducting research to seek new ways to prevent injuries;
*monitoring injury problems and documenting successes in injury reduction; and
*developing an information campaign to make people aware of methods to keep themselves safe in the five "bases."
UPDATE: Waste Scraps Net Bird-Free Landfill
ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY, MD. - The only municipal landfill in Anne Arundel County, Md., (AACo.) has devised a unique way to effectively battle the bird blues. Situated near the Chesapeake Bay, the landfill already was a seagull magnet. However, the real trouble began during summer 1997, when the county constructed a new 7.5-acre subcell.
Simultaneously, changes in the local waste industry allowed AACo. to take advantage of a new transfer station to divert 350 tons of curbside collected waste and to "lose" most of the commercial waste.
While this arrangement substantially increased the landfill's life, it also gave the county a larger subcell than it immediately needed.
To control storm water in this new subcell, AACo. decided to berm off 3.5 acres and cover it with an impervious liner to collect rain water and minimize leachate generation and treatment. The seagulls, attracted to the white color and collected water, loved the rain bonnet.
Seagulls are messy birds, and in large concentration, can deposit considerable amounts of litter, feathers, food scraps, paper and bodily waste. AACo. had to devise a cost-effective solution - and fast.
To ward off the gulls, AACo. first welded scrap pipe, metal bars, rebar and other miscellaneous metal pieces to 70 old tires with rims to form pipestands. These tire/poles then were placed in 50-foot grids on the rain bonnet area. Two strands, one high and one midway, of 20-pound monofilament fishing line (300,000 feet of line total) were tied to the poles to form 50-foot by 50-foot grids that criss-crossed each other diagonally to form Xs.
This simple bird deterrent worked, and AACo.'s rain bonnet has been bird-free ever since.
Turning Brownfields into Green
If you're a private contractor looking for new business opportunities or a local government trying to encourage the redevelopment of contaminated property, then think "Brownfields."
The Brownfields Initiative (A.K.A. the Brownfields Economic Redevelopment Program) aims to revitalize cities through the environmental cleanup and economic redevelopment of contaminated sites.
Since the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency conceived the initiative in 1995, more than 40 states and hundreds of counties and cities have complemented it with more regulatory flexibility and economic incentives.
Brownfields sites are typically commercial or industrial properties with actual or perceived contamination and a realistic potential for redevelopment. Classic brownfields sites are abandoned or unused former factory lots and buildings in urban areas.
The astute management of solid and hazardous wastes is critical to the successful brownfields restoration and reuse in three areas:
*building decontamination and demolition,
*industrial ecology processes and
Cleaning up, Tearing down Decontamination and demolition costs are one of the most significant factors influencing brownfields redevelopment. Federal and state regulations governing asbestos abatement, demolition debris disposal and disposal of petroleum products and hazardous waste affect the methods - and the cost - for decontamination and demolition.
Some building decontamination does not necessarily lead to demolition (for example, building renovation). However, before any demolition or renovation can begin, a building should be decontaminated to comply with environmental regulation and to plan for waste management. Here, recycling can help offset cleanup costs.
Proper decontamination procedures help to:
*reduce future liability based on improper disposal of contaminated materials;
*identify hazards to site workers; and
*facilitate the recycling of waste.
Identify contaminated materials prior to renovation or demolition to prevent their mismanagement. This step will reduce the chance of sudden, significant impacts on project costs, schedules and liability.
However, note that identifying all contaminated materials can be difficult because some may be hidden in structures where they cannot be sampled easily.
An appropriate pre-demolition survey or a hazardous materials inventory and characterization includes:
*a records search,
*querying former employees,
*an inspection and
*a sample collection and analysis.
Following are waste management options for decontaminating material:
*Asbestos-Containing Materials. Asbestos often is found in specific building components: insulation over boilers and pipes, boiler room walls and ceilings, vinyl floor backing, roofing material, plaster, boiler brick and mortar, window caulking, and fireproofing material. In nearly all cases, asbestos is landfilled and never recycled.
*Lead. Analytical testing can determine the presence of lead-based paint. A portable x-ray fluorescence detector measures lead levels in the field or samples are sent to a laboratory for analysis by more sophisticated techniques such as atomic spectrometry or inductively coupled plasma-atomic emission spectrometry.
Lead-painted metal often can be recycled. Lead contained in batteries can be sent to a metal recycler. Other hazardous waste materials are disposed of in a RCRA permitted secure landfill or other treatment, storage and disposal facilities.
*PCBs. Building-related uses of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) include:
*electrical equipment (transformers, capacitors, light ballasts);
*heat transfer systems;
*manufacturing by-products; and
PCB presence is verified in laboratories using packed column gas chromatography with electron capture detection. Field-screening kits are used for initial assessments.
Many specialty companies will dismantle light ballasts and incinerate the PCB-containing components and properly dispose of or recycle the non-PCB portions.
*Abandoned Chemical and Petroleum Products and Waste. The types of chemical-laden materials that can be present are numerous (paints, oils, pesticides, herbicides and cleaning solvents are only a few examples).
Liquid petroleum products usually are recycled by contractors who process and blend the waste oil to produce a waste oil fuel which is burned in industrial boilers and furnaces.
Solid materials either are landfilled, chemically separated or thermally treated. Thermal desorption facilities can treat soils and other materials at a cost competitive with landfilling.
*Mercury. Mercury can be found in: electrical switches, fluorescent light bulbs and heating or manufacturing equipment gauges.
Specialty contractors process fluorescent light bulbs to separate the mercury for refining. The remaining glass and steel components are recycled. *Demolition Wastes. Recycling methods are preferred for demolition wastes because they conserve resources and minimize the long-term liability of landfilling, which does not destroy the specific contaminants.
In some cases, the revenue from selling demolition debris can offset decontamination and demolition costs substantially. For example, during the demolition of a coal-fired power plant, more than 15,000 tons of metal and more than 2,000 truckloads (or approximately 40,000 tons) of building debris was recycled.
More than 70 percent of the $5 million project bid award for decontamination, demolition and removal was recovered through recycling the materials.
Following are some demolition material management options:
*Asphalt can be recycled by using it (along with earth components) in manufacturing new asphalt pavement. It also can be used as clean fill (on- or off-site) if allowed by local and state regulations.
*Electrical Wiring and Fixtures: Metal components are recycled; other components typically are landfilled.
*Insulation traditionally is found in non-asbestos building, rigid polystyrene, fiberglass bat and roofing materials. It is disposed of in bulky waste or landfilled, depending on state and local regulations.
*Masonry and Rubble, which includes bricks, cinder blocks, concrete, mortar, porcelain, rock, stone and tile, can be used as clean fill or can be recycled.
Processing such as crushing may be required, if allowed by state and local regulations.
*Metal, which is usually found in plumbing, electrical, gutters, sheet metal, structural steel, rebar and stud products, can be recycled profitably. It usually is sold to a scrap-metal dealer who, in turn, sells the scrap to a smelter for recycling.
*Plastics often are found in pipe, styrofoam, vinyl siding and laminate. These items can be recycled economically if a local market exists. Otherwise, they may be disposed of in a bulky waste landfill.
*Roofing materials, including non-asbestos shingles, built-up roofing material and tar paper, can be recycled as an aggregate in asphalt pavements or can be disposed of in a bulky waste landfill.
*Vinyl is obtained frequently from siding, flooring, doors and windows. Some if these items can be reused if they are removed intact. Otherwise, they may be disposed of in a bulky waste or solid waste disposal area as allowed by local or state regulations.
Industrial Ecology Processes Waste-based manufacturing is a vital component of what some environmental policymakers call "industrial ecology." A growing number of businesses are using industrial wastes (such as paper, plastic, wood, sediment, agricultural matter and building demolition debris) as feedstock for new products.
Since the feedstock for recycling-related manufacturers often is generated from municipal waste collection programs, cities can direct feedstock to industries that will benefit their communities. (Since the recycling/ reuse business is labor-intensive it also leads to more jobs for lower-skilled workers.)
While cities benefit from lower volumes of wastes being landfilled, businesses can benefit from lower disposal costs. Take, for example, the case of a former steel plant in Bridgeport, Conn., a 60-building facility that was decontaminated, demolished and removed.
Due in part to the site's proximity to the ready markets for paper in Boston, New York City and Philadelphia (600 tons of used newspapers and magazines could be transported to the facility daily on barges, rail and trucks), an investment group is planning to build a $230 million paper recycling plant on the site.
Brownfields initiatives, if wedded to industrial ecology projects, could help promote environmental and economic health. As scrap-based manufacturers locate in specific areas, brownfields site restoration projects can provide them with feedstock.
In turn, the increasing number and availability of cleaned-up brownfields can attract other businesses to locate in the area, creating more jobs and tax revenues.
On-Site Reuse In some cases, the use of waste material can be built into the redevelopment design process of a brownfields restoration and reuse project.
For example, a former Massachusetts resort that was restored to create open space and conservation land contained approximately 40 structures, two landfills (one containing PCB wastes), underground storage tanks, a skeet-shooting range, wastewater treatment lagoons and miscellaneous oil and hazardous material containers.
Prior to demolition, all regulated building materials were removed. The debris was segregated by type, and some of it was recycled or disposed of off-site. However, all asphalt, brick and concrete were reused on-site as backfill.
During the closure of the resort's golf course landfill, a cap was designed to incorporate the on-site use of additional contaminated soils.
Approximately 1,800 cubic yards of lead-impacted soil was excavated from the skeet range, stabilized using an on-site treatment process and then used as a landfill cap component.
Additionally, about 2,000 cubic yards of PCB-impacted soil excavated from the gun club landfill was placed within the golf course landfill prior to the construction of the landfill cap.
Because of past successes and an increasing governmental awareness of their potential, brownfields projects may become more common. And while these projects' primary goal is the economic redevelopment of currently useless, and possibly dangerous property, the only way to move the site from contamination to productivity is through the basic waste industry system.
Preparing for Armageddon: Are You Ready for a Disaster?
"Earthquake Flattens Oakland Freeway," "Mudslides Destroy Malibu Homes," "Floodwaters Continue to Rise in Midwest," "Hurricane Batters Florida." Long after these dramatic headlines recede into the distant memories of the newspaper recycling bin, solid waste managers are left with the lingering problem of how to deal with the resulting disaster debris.
Seeking to avoid the traditional approach of burning or landfilling this material, some communities have attempted to divert it through recycling or composting.
The important lesson learned from these efforts is that pre-disaster planning would have assisted the communities in identifying cost-effective debris management options, avoiding mistakes and speeding recovery.
All communities that could be subject to a large disaster should make plans now for how they will manage the resulting debris.
The elements that should be included in a disaster debris management plan include:
* the types of disasters likely to occur;
* the types and amounts of disaster debris likely to be generated;
* the resources available to manage disaster debris;
* the preferred debris management strategy;
* a public information strategy; and
* the funding issues.
Each type of disaster will produce different types of debris. For example, a flood typically would generate a large amount of sandbags, while an earthquake would not.
Different communities are susceptible to different types of disasters. Southern Californians are no strangers to the perils of fires, earthquakes, floods and mudslides, but it is unlikely that they would have to deal with the widespread destruction that can accompany a major hurricane.
Knowing your region's likely disasters will help you evaluate its impact to your solid waste management system. In many communities, the traditional emergency response system (police, fire, medical, emergency shelter, etc.) has projected the types of disasters likely to befall an area.
This existing database can be a good start to predicting the types and amounts of debris to be managed.
In many ways, disaster debris looks like construction and demolition (C&D) debris: wood, concrete, asphalt, yard waste, gypsum wallboard, glass, brick, rock and soil.
However, this debris is often mixed with other materials, including personal belongings, household hazardous wastes, white and brown goods and even disaster-response related materials such as plastic, including sheeting and water containers.
What are Your Resources? An important part of disaster debris planning is to assess the resources that are in place to respond after a disaster.
Checklists should be prepared before a disaster, advises the California Integrated Waste Management Board (Sacramento) in its disaster plan.
These checklists will need to be tailored for each jurisdiction and should be updated at least annually. They should include:
* Emergency personnel "alert lists," including a roster with telephone numbers of staff assigned to the "debris team."
* Descriptions and locations of available equipment and supplies to assist with debris removal and recovery.
* Descriptions of mutual aid agreements with other communities.
* Recycling, reuse and disposal facilities.
* Potential markets and end uses for recovered materials.
* Haulers and processors (and their capacity to handle material).
* C&D contractors and debris processors.
* Area household hazardous and small-quantity generator waste programs.
* Waste exchanges.
* Temporary storage or processing sites.
* Maps and diagrams showing existing waste facilities and storage or processing sites, along with transportation corridors.
* Non-profit and volunteer organizations.
* News media contacts.
Without diversion, disasters can have a major impact on disposal capacity. To minimize these impacts, it is important to establish in advance local policies (or ordinances/ resolutions) for diversion of disaster debris.
This pre-disaster planning effort could help obtain reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA). FEMA normally reimburses for "least cost" programs and for disaster diversion programs if they mesh with a jurisdiction's existing policy.
In order to receive reimbursement, FEMA must approve these policies before diversion programs are begun (see "The FEMA Factor" on page 48).
When Disaster Strikes The debris management strategy likely will be carried out in two major phases:
* Immediately after a disaster focusing on removing debris that could cause an immediate threat to public safety (such as highly unstable structures) or that impedes emergency response actions (such as debris from roadways). Because of the critical nature of this phase, diversion efforts are usually limited.
* Continuing for months or even years, focusing on removing debris to assist in a community's recovery. This second phase offers the most opportunity for diversion.
Primary diversion program alternatives include curbside collection or drop-off bins placed throughout the community, or a combination of the two. The pros and cons of the different programs are similar to traditional residential recycling programs: potentially more participation with curbside programs, fewer traffic/ access issues with drop-off programs.
The marketability of recovered materials could be enhanced in both types of programs if source separation is required. Diversion is enhanced if recycling programs already exist for similar materials (such as C&D debris or yard waste).
After a disaster, the focus will be on increasing the capacity of the existing programs to deal with the sudden influx of materials, rather than trying to develop, permit and establish new practices.
Coordination with existing local or nearby jurisdictions' programs is also important. In Alameda County, Calif., disaster debris programs are being designed to complement existing solid waste diversion programs.
For example, generic public information materials addressing disaster debris are being developed now that can be easily modified after a disaster for quick distribution through the county's existing public education program channels.
The county's "soft demolition" program is being expanded to train post-disaster volunteers to maximize the recovery of materials from buildings destroyed by earthquake. The 14 cities in the county are working together to ensure that their disaster debris programs are compatible and to take advantage of the economies of scale.
Steps can be taken to increase readiness once a program strategy is selected. For example, emergency or contingency contracts can be negotiated with haulers; storage, transfer, processing, or disposal facilities; end users or markets; or temporary storage sites to fulfill needs that cannot be met by the public sector.
A list of pre-qualified service providers also could be developed. In all cases, FEMA reimbursement policies should be considered to make sure contract costs can be recovered.
Because a disaster debris management program involves the public's cooperation, its success lies in providing timely, effective information about the program's details. Solid waste managers will need to provide information about when regular refuse collection will resume, as well as how to handle disaster debris.
Because normal communication avenues may be disrupted after a disaster and residents may be displaced from their homes, alternatives for spreading information should be developed.
Some communities are developing a suite of communication techniques including newspaper, television/radio announcements, door hangers, flyers for distribution at emergency shelters and Internet postings.
Getting Funded Costs for disaster response, including debris diversion, typically are not included in local governments' budgets. After a disaster, reserves or discretionary funds are depleted quickly, and these unbudgeted expenses are often accompanied by a decrease in the local tax base.
Therefore, most jurisdictions rely on receiving reimbursement from their state and federal governments following a declared disaster. Receiving timely reimbursement for all eligible costs is an important element of the recovery process.
To maximize the eligible reimbursement, local agencies must follow stringent procedural, recordkeeping and documentation requirements. These requirements affect all aspects of disaster recovery, not just disaster debris cleanup and diversion programs.
Each community is encouraged to pick and train staff members in the disaster assistance process so that they are familiar with the authorities, work eligibility, cost eligibility, application procedures, damage survey reports and other details.
While you can't lessen the amount of debris created by a disaster, you can lessen its affects on your solid waste system with a little preparation and cooperation from your community.
FEMA typically reimburses program costs but does not advance them. This means that local jurisdictions must identify other funds to begin programs until FEMA moneys are available. (Note: FEMA may advance funds for "small projects," which are less than $42,500. Larger project costs are reimbursed.)
Each jurisdiction should identify the funding sources for disaster debris management and compile its policies that support diversion programs over disposal.
FEMA's policy generally has been to reimburse for the "least cost" programs. If debris diversion costs more than landfilling, FEMA typically would reimburse only for disposal, unless a jurisdiction could show that diversion is consistent with an existing policy.
After the Northridge Earthquake in January 1994, the city of Los Angeles received FEMA reimbursement for debris diversion programs, even though it costs more than disposal, because the city's policy (complying with AB 939) emphasized diversion.
Debris clearance to be funded by FEMA must be completed within six months after the major disaster is declared, unless an extension is granted.
It is important to remember that reimbursable costs are allowed only to the date of the last time extension.
The Art of the Waste Deal
In December 1995, the city of Signal Hill, Calif., was in a difficult spot: Its long-standing contract with Signal Hill Disposal, an exclusive franchised hauler, was expiring in 12 months, and state mandates were causing the city to consider switching haulers.
Since 1986, the city had a good relationship with Signal Hill Disposal. Although the city wished to renew the contract, the state's mandated 50 percent diversion goal (AB 939) made a careful analysis of the solid waste contract a necessity.
Signal Hill Disposal had an exclusive 60-day negotiation period at the end of its contract. The city council, however, directed staff to begin negotiations 12 months early because of the difficulty in resolving several issues. If the city didn't see progress toward an agreement, then it would request proposals from other haulers.
The city created a solid waste management contract subcommittee, hired a consultant and created a questionnaire to analyze the qualifications of potential franchised waste haulers. The questionnaire was reviewed by California Integrated Waste Management Board (Sacramento) staff, who requested permission to use the questionnaire for a similar waste hauler selection process that was underway in another county. Signal Hill Disposal completed the questionnaire first because it was in exclusive negotiations.
The questionnaire included:
Impact of switching to automated collection.
*Current experience. These answers helped define the haulers' experiences with automated collection and routing, including measurement of collection efficiency such as average households per route and pounds per household. Haulers were asked to determine which routes were the least and most efficient, and to analyze how automated collection could improve the efficiency of each route.
*Impacts on waste management costs and potential diversion rates. Haulers analyzed the impact of a 95-gallon container on residential diversion rates, the current average cost per household, the anticipated costs of automation and how they would amortize those costs over the contract term, and the anticipated change in the household collection costs.
Haulers also were asked to discuss the potential for using automated containers with a percentage of recycled plastic content. The city had expressed a strong concern for stimulating markets for all recycled materials, including plastics, and expressed a preference for using products made with post-consumer materials.
*Alternatives to the 95-gallon cart. This included the haulers' analysis of using smaller containers, offering more than one size of container and split containers for multi-stream collection. They also discussed automated refuse container sizes' impact on curbside recycling rates.
Review of source reduction and recycling element (SRRE) programs and projections. Here, haulers analyzed the city's SRRE (the plan for achieving AB 939 compliance). The hauler defined which programs had been implemented for residential, commercial and industrial customers, recommended changes in the SRRE and detailed why and how additional programs would affect their price projections.
Residential recycling rates/volumes analysis and recommendations for improvement. Residential participation in the city's recycling program was historically low. This section questioned the hauler on its recycling experience both within the city and in other jurisdictions.
Green waste collection and diversion. The city noted that most areas with high diversion rates (particularly residences) had large amounts of yard trimmings. The hauler estimated the potential volume of green waste that could be captured through diversion programs from several targeted sectors, including single-family and multi-family residential, commercial and industrial, and government facilities.
Reporting recommendations for hauler contract. Because the city wanted to start monthly, quarterly and annual reporting in the new contract, haulers recommended the type of reporting system that would be most effective. The hauler also recommended ways to verify tonnages delivered to the materials recovery facility (MRF) to determine the percentage that is recovered.
Commercial diversion opportunities. In its responses, Signal Hill Disposal asserted that post-collection processing of mixed, commercial waste for recycling is the most effective diversion method. In an effort to expand on this view, it discussed the effectiveness of MRF processing vs. source separation of commercial recyclables in terms of diversion volumes, diversion program costs and the avoided disposal costs to businesses.
The hauler described its experience in the separate collection of recyclables from commercial customers, including:
*commodities most often collected,
*impacts on disposal costs to commercial accounts,
*average market value of recyclables and
*cost ranges for collection and processing
Effective Troubleshooting The questionnaire forced the city to carefully consider its service package, while providing a baseline to compare all waste haulers that may be asked to submit proposals.
Signal Hill Disposal's responses were compared to services, prices and programs being offered in the industry and surrounding jurisdictions with comparable customer bases.
The responses were used to create a list of negotiation points:
*an "agreed" list of items requiring no further discussion,
*a "needs discussion" list where the concepts were acceptable to both sides but needed clarification on execution, and
*a "negotiation needed" list where the two parties were in complete disagreement.
As items were resolved, they were moved to the "agreed" list.
Some of the items on the "negotiation needed" list that caused the greatest disagreement included:
Automated carts' capacities. The city wanted to use 65-gallon carts to limit residential customers' refuse capacity, forcing increased recycling and limiting the amount of space required for the residences to store the carts. The hauler, on the other hand, wanted to use 95-gallon carts, because it already had experienced negative reactions to using smaller carts.
Resolution: The city insisted on using the 65-gallon carts, and the city council decided that the increased recycling potential outweighed the possible negative reactions. As a concession, the city agreed to actively help address residential customer complaints. After the carts were distributed, however, few citizens reacted negatively.
The curbside recycling program type. The hauler's primary objection to automated curbside recycling was that commingled recyclables had a decreased resale value.
Resolution: The city insisted on automated curbside recycling. To address the contamination concern, the city researched other collection methods, including a split cart pilot program operated by the city of Los Angeles.
Ultimately, the city decided that the added efficiency of automated commingled collection compensated for the possible increase in contamination. (For more information on Los Angeles' pilot project, see "L.A. Recycles: The Next Generation," World Wastes, July 1997, page 36.)
Since conversion, Signal Hill Disposal has found contamination to be only slightly higher, and decreasing with each week. Also, no noticeable increase of illegal dumping has been noted.Post-consumer recycled content percentage used in the automated carts. Although the city wanted to stimulate markets for recycled materials, the hauler was concerned about the effect of using recycled material on the cart's durability.
Resolution: The city assisted the hauler in researching companies that produce carts using 20 percent, post-consumer recycled material. City staff also helped the hauler prepare performance specifications. The city's cost of labor during negotiations and staff time when complying with AB 939 during the new agreement period. The city proposed two revenue sources: from sharing the sale of recyclable materials collected curbside and an AB 939 fee. This fee was based on Signal Hill Disposal's gross receipts, and the fee percentage based on the cost of anticipated staff time.
Resolution: The hauler agreed to a 50-50 split of all revenue from recyclable materials that exceed an annual base amount. The hauler also agreed to an AB 939 fee without raising residential monthly service fees. It actually reduced the monthly service fee for commercial/industrial customers for the first three years of a six-year agreement.
Establishing a green waste program. The hauler said that a curbside green waste collection program wasn't economically feasible considering the low volume being generated.
Resolution: The city recognized the hauler's concern, but did not want to completely abandon a green waste program. The hauler agreed to provide up to 600 backyard composting machines to residents at a subsidized cost of $15 each.
The hauler also agreed to host backyard composting workshops. The workshops have been well-received, and more than 150 composters have been distributed (and will continue to be until all 600 are placed with residents).
The negotiation extended past the original 60-day time limit, and the new agreement was approved by the city council 11 months from the date of the initial subcommittee meeting.
Reaping the Fruits of Cooperation While this process was developed as a negotiating tool, the cooperation it created between the hauler and the city has become valuable in the efforts to comply with required diversion rates. The exchange of ideas has helped the hauler maximize efficiency while increasing the city's recycling.
Some examples of this cooperation include:
1. The city discovered that a large portion of the city's self-haul tonnage delivered to the landfill were from the Street, Sewer and Water Division excavations, including large quantities of clean dirt, asphaltic cement pavement and concrete. The hauler developed a process to separate these materials, achieving an approximately 80 percent diversion rate.
2. During the conversion to automated curbside collections, the hauler collected old refuse containers from residential customers. Originally the containers were headed for the landfill, but at the city's direction, a recycler diverted about 75 percent of the material.
3. Each year, the city was landfilling up to 600 tons of street sweepings, composed mostly of organics and sands (and no appreciable amounts of contaminants).
Research showed that it could compost approximately 95 percent of the sweepings and divert almost 570 additional tons.
4. After a 4,000-square-foot building was demolished creating almost 100 tons of construction and demolition (C&D) debris, the city asked the Redevelopment Agency to require C&D debris recycling in all agency-financed demolition projects.
Within two months of adoption, the agency had bid contracts to demolish 36,000 square feet of commercial structures. Approximately 65 percent of this C&D was diverted. Using this as a model, the city drafted an ordinance requiring mandatory C&D recycling.
Signal Hill calculates that it already has diverted 39 percent of its waste stream. With the additional diversion expected from automated collection and increased use of the MRF, the projected 40 percent intermediate diversion rate required by December '98 should be exceeded.
Trucks. 3 trucks, 2 front loaders, White Volvo with Bowles bodies for commercial/ industrial and multi-family. 1 front-loader, White Volvo with Bowles body and Heil automated conversion for residential.
Containers. 64-Gallon, Rehrig-Pacific fully automated carts.
Customers. 1,700 residential, 450 commercial/industrial.
Employees. 4 dedicated to city operations.
Service area. Entire city limits.
Services. Recycling, construction and demolition debris removal and recycling, business and industry. All services - exclusive franchise.
Local tipping fees. $17.57/ton at landfill. $27.57 at waste-to-energy facility.
Automated Cruz Control
Eureka! - the phase used by thousands of Californians striking gold more than a century ago. Today, some California communities feel like they have struck gold, too, when they switched from manual to semi- or fully automated collection.
And why not? Routes are condensed and seemingly placed on fast-forward. On-the-job injuries and the resulting claims are down. Customers are praising the reliable service.
But automation is not a magic operational genie that grants every waste wish. It takes forethought and a thorough understanding of your unique operation and community to make this example of modernization pay off.
One California community, the city of Santa Cruz, understood the importance of this preparation prior to making a monumental change such as automating collections. Now, the city, which provides full refuse, recycling and landfill services to 11,000 households and 1,200 commercial customers, is reaping the benefits of its extensive efforts.
The first step was a semi-automated collection pilot project in March 1993, to determine the affect of eliminating lifting on workers' high injury rates. It also aimed to analyze the benefits, costs, risks and ultimately, the feasibility of a citywide expansion to semi-automated service.
Given the limited funding ($25,000), selecting the pilot project's neighborhoods was key, because only five percent of the households would receive the roll-out carts, which were purchased from Otto Industries, Charlotte, N.C.
The two areas selected were representative of the city's population patterns and urban layout, and spanned decades in age and infrastructure. One neighborhood was built early in the century with traditional narrow sidewalks and back alley refuse service. The other was a more modern track development, with well-defined cul-de-sacs, underground utilities and wide sidewalks.
Were the residents pleased with the new program? A survey of all participating households three months after the pilot began in September 1993, received an 87 percent response rate and showed a 94 percent approval rate of the new program.
The city seized this public and political support as an opportunity to improve the overall refuse collection system.
From Pilot to Permanent The city council approved a three-year, city-wide cart distribution plan, and charged the public works department to design a variable can rate, revise customer service policies and assess feasibility for automating refuse collection.
As cart distribution expanded throughout the city, workers' safety records began to improve. Only four years after completing the project in 1997, the safety record changed dramatically - from 626 lost workdays in 1993 to 29 in 1997.
Certainly, a safer work environment meant that employees could retire when they were ready to, rather than being forced by injuries into a transfer or retirement.
Faced with the likelihood of automation, management and the sanitation worker's union negotiated and reevaluated the incentive pay program, revised job descriptions and agreed on compensation - not an easy task.
Addressing workers' fears about lay-offs, job reassignments and training were a priority. After all, public demands for increased services cannot be provided without increasing the flexibility of the staff required to deliver those services.
As a result, reshaping drivers' job descriptions and reducing the number of job classifications ensured job security and mobility within the division, and permitted the drivers to gain the necessary training and experience in operating different vehicles and routes. Merging three job descriptions into a single, unified job category created organizational elasticity.
The negotiation not only compensated drivers for losing the incentive route system, but also increased the salary for many of them.
Allowing drivers to cross-train and learn the different aspects of the solid waste operation helped them deal with changes caused by the recycling laws, public demand for efficient municipal services and the mechanization of their work.
Several automated collection vehicles were street-tested, and the selection was made by considering managements', field supervisors' and operators' input. The city chose Heil's Rapid Rail automated system and Volvo/White GMC trucks.
The Division of Solid Waste analyzed its current routing systems and identified inefficiencies such as route overlaps.
As a result, refuse and recycling routes were revised, dividing the city into five sectors (refuse and recycling are both one day a week service) - a change that affected 8,087 customers out of 11,091 accounts.
The new system reduced the number of routes from seven rear-loader routes to three fully automated routes and three rear-loader routes.
Start Spreading the News Two weeks prior to service and route changes, customers were notified by mail. Then, a reminder sticker notice was placed on the refuse cart one week before the change. Finally, to ensure the highest level of compliance, a reminder postcard was mailed to reach customers on the day before their new collection day.
This notification paid off: approximately 98 percent complied and only 146 customers called to say that they had either forgotten or had not received information about the change.
The drivers and field supervisors were key to the program's success. Because they began operating the automated vehicles one month ahead of schedule, they were able to start both the automation and new routes simultaneously in February. This new collection system and routes - Santa Cruz's largest reorganization - also coincided with one of the worst local winter storms in 100 years.
Indeed, refuse and recycling collection continued uninterrupted during California's El Nino storm disaster. Undeterred, the drivers and supervisors worked around the flooded streets, downed trees and power lines, and emergency vehicles blocking the streets.
A New Road Lies Ahead Santa Cruz's fully operating collection system continuous to evolve. Some streets initially scheduled for automation have proven difficult to service because of traffic. But other streets scheduled with semi-automation service now have been identified for automation. Obviously, further fine-tuning is necessary.
The next operational challenge will be modernizing the recycling collection program. Currently, residents receive two recycling bags and are encouraged to use brown bags for newspaper recycling. This system makes collection a physically demanding task for workers and an inconvenience for customers.
To increase residential participation and improve recycling collection, a new program is being developed working with residents, city staff and two vendors, Otto and Heil.
A test conducted last year using a split, 68-gallon recycling cart revealed that the participants (30 households) liked the container's size and convenience. The city's field experience in servicing the 68-gallon recycling cart will result in a modification to the Heil truck.
As a result of the automation program's success, additional investments have been made to improve the recycling collection program, which goes into effect this September: Four new trucks (Heil recycling bodies mounted on low-entry Volvo/ White GMCs) will arrive early this summer to serve the 12,000 68-gallon split-compartment carts.
What did we learn? Small cities can provide solid waste services at reasonable costs. But as technology, new recycling regulations and markets continue to drive changes, small communities must develop partnerships with its residents and elected officials, as well as solid waste workers and administrators - from field supervisors and customer service representatives to mechanics and vendors.
Only through these partnerships can smaller communities succeed in meeting the challenges of change - head on.
Refuse trucks. 6 rear loaders, Heil 5000 on Volvo White; 4 side loaders, Rapid Rail on Volvo White; 4 roll-off trucks, Volvo White; 4 recycling trucks, ADR body on International; 1 recycling truck Heil 1000 on FE Volvo.
Containers. Otto (32-, 64- and 96-gallon); Bay-Con or Consolidated (1-, 2-, 4- and 6- yard); Bay-Con Consolidated roll-off boxes (10-, 15-, 20- and 40-cubic yards).
Customers. 11,150 residential accounts, 1,058 commercial, 150 industrial.
Employees. 31 solid waste collection and recycling; 4 street sweeping, container maintenance; 3 supervisors; 1 superintendent.
Service area. City of Santa Cruz municipality.
Services provided. Residential collection, recycling, demolition debris removal, business and industry waste collection, street sweeping.
Local tipping fees. $39.50 per ton.
Most interesting. Developing a partnership between sanitation and police department to create a "Neighborhood Watch on Wheels." The drivers report suspicious activity or situations to the police department.
business management: How to Reduce the Risk of Going High-Tech
As the waste industry grows more reliant on computer systems and electronic correspondence, its vulnerability to white-collar crime increases.
Corporations lose $40 billion annually due to crimes such as embezzlement, vendor fraud and stolen property, according to U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates. However, if you haven't updated your commercial fidelity coverage recently, you might be in for a nasty surprise when trying to file an employee dishonesty claim.
"The corporate definition of [what constitutes] an 'employee' has changed greatly over the years," says Eric Rivera, regional account director for Sedgwick Financial Risk Specialists, New York. "Companies outsource, lease employees and hire retired employees as consultants. These employment situations don't always fit into a standard surety association policy."
To ensure that all your current employees are covered, you should update your policy and create new manuscript language if necessary, Rivera says.
However, even if you keep close tabs on your policy, proving fidelity claims can be difficult and costly. "I've seen clients spend a quarter of a million dollars establishing their loss," notes Glen Bailey, a vice president at Johnson & Higgins South, Atlanta.
Some technology, such as wire transfers, make it a breeze for industrious employees to embezzle funds.
"As we become more of an electronic society, I'm starting to see more losses," Rivera says, noting that 60 to 70 percent of losses come under the "employee dishonesty" segment of the commercial fidelity policy.
The stakes grow higher if your system relies on software that was engineered by a less-then-scrupulous company employee or outside contractor.
The key to preventing such losses is security. The temptation for dishonesty is increased when employees are given carte blanche to peruse software systems' various levels and screens. On paper, this sounds risky, but some might view this accessibility as a practical business procedure.
For example, in the name of customer service, some companies allow "all their employees - from the customer service reps to the president - to access detailed customer information," reports Victoria Matthews of Mobile Computing, Mississauga, Ontario.
However, across-the-board access might not be the wisest move. "You should control not only access to the programs, but also access to different [screen] levels," says Wayne Zwolinski of SuperSource, Phoenix.
"White collar crime is severe and growing," notes Rivera, who suggests that companies with a loss history hire a consultant to review their internal controls and help them implement new procedures, if necessary.
"However," he stresses, "new procedures will not stop losses. Any system can be circumvented, especially by the employee who helped create it."
Awards Resource Management Companies, Naperville, Ill., was awarded the aluminum Company of America's Presidential Award for outstanding quality in recognition of the company's ability to provide contaminant-free aluminum can shipments.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Mass Mutual and Nation's Business magazine has honored Global Recycling Technologies Inc., Stoughton, Mass., as a 1998 "Blue Chip" company.
Call for Papers TAPPI, Atlanta, has issued a call for papers for the 1999 International Environmental Conference, April 18-21 in Nashville. For more information, contact Mark Johnson at (817) 732-8164. Fax: (817) 377-8615.