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Articles from 2015 In May


WasteExpo 2015

Stevens: Keeping Hazardous Materials on Safe Path Takes Diligence, Training

20 Scenes from the WSRA Recycled Fashion Show

The Washington State Recycling Association wants people to think creatively about how to recycle and reuse. At its recent annual conference, to make the point the association put on a fashion show, with all the participants wearing outfits made from 100-percent used, discarded and repurposed materials.

Need to Know

How The Unprofitability Of Recycling Affects Everyone

Benzinga chimes in with the latest report on how the high costs associated with recycling are making it difficult for waste and recycling firms to offer the service. The issue was the subject of a recent webinar and is something the National Waste & Recycling Association has been talking about extensively this year.

From Benzinga's report:

David Steiner, Waste Management, Inc. CEO, was on CNBC Thursday to explain the economics behind recycling and how recycling can make a comeback.

"We are not asking for a handout. We are not asking to subsidize recycling other than when you have situations like you have today, where it becomes unprofitable to recycle," Steiner said. "And we all know what happens when it becomes unprofitable: people don't invest, and we generally invest $100–$200 million a year in recycling assets. The last two years we haven't invested any. And so, we have got to get to a situation where anyone that recycles, not just Waste Management, that anyone can do it."

For the full report, go here.

Need to Know

EPA Working to Contain S.C. Landfill Fire

The EPA is continuing to work to contain the effects of a landfill fire in Chester County, S.C. that has been burning since last November. (See previous reports here, here and here.)

WMBF News has the latest:

The Environmental Protection Agency is now stepping in to help clean up a landfill fire that one upstate community says is making them sick.

The fire at Bennett's Landfill in Chester County has been burning since November and smoke from the blaze has been blowing into the neighboring Lockhart community in Union County.

Lockhart residents said they are sick of the smoke and fear it could be making them sick as well.

Need to Know

Pennsylvania Landfill Odor Contained

Pennsylvania's Valley News reports on the resolution of a landfill odor issue that had been affecting the town of West Lebanon.

The air is sweeter along the Route 12A corridor in West Lebanon now that the landfill has a fully functioning flare to burn off most of the foul smells previously found there.

The flare project also has enabled city officials to begin tracking the amount of natural gas the 30-acre landfill produces in hopes of converting it to energy in the future.

On a warm day this week, Jennifer Johnson, co-owner of Ice Cream Fore-U on Route 12A just north of the landfill, said the formerly familiar smell of rotten eggs associated with landfill gases has been much diminished this year.

Need to Know

Florida Falling Short Of Ambitious Recycling Goal

Florida's legislature passed a law in 2008 setting a lofty goal for the state to achieve a recycling rate of 75 percent. However, the latest data is that the state's rate sits a 49 percent with just five years left to meet the ambitious mark. 

WJCT News has more in its preview for an upcoming recycling conference:

But Armstrong says there's a solution: “It all goes back to educating, getting individuals that may not be participating in [recycling] to do so. We want to encourage those to reach out to the FDEP or reach out to their local municipalities to find out what they can do to increase their efforts.”

According to a 2013 FDEP report, Duval County has the highest recycling rate among First Coast counties: 49 percent. The county is also has the highest population of the five in the region. 

Despite the best intentions, the issue may not be implementation, but the goal itself. This is something NWRA's Chaz Miller has consistently argued in writings and presentations. For example, he wrote this for Waste360 in March:

Two states show the potential pitfalls of setting high goals. Florida, the first state to set a 75 percent goal, includes waste to energy in its definition of recycling. Waste to energy is a valuable technology for managing waste, but it is one and done. It is not recycling. In addition, the law originally allowed some odd accounting methods that lead to a few counties claiming a recycling rate higher than 100 percent. The lesson: Perhaps aggressive recycling rates lead to aggressive recycling reporting.

For the whole column, go here.

Need to Know

Leachate Issues Cost NY Landfill $1.4M

The Times Herald-Record reports on the steep bill an upstate New York town faces due to groundwater contamination from a local landfill.

Orange County officials expect to spend about $1.4 million pumping groundwater from beneath the county's closed landfill to address the state Department of Environmental Conservation's concerns about contaminated water seeping into the adjacent Wallkill River.
The Legislature's Physical Services Committee on Tuesday approved bonding $400,000 for the first phase of the project. Peter Hammond, a deputy public works commissioner who oversees the maintenance of the closed landfill, told lawmakers the work was required by a recent DEC consent order in response to elevated ammonia levels found in groundwater "seepage" on the banks of the Wallkill, known in that area as the Cheechunk Canal.

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Appeal on California Pharmaceutical EPR Law

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal of the producer-responsibility pharmaceutical waste law for California’s Alameda County.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and two other industry trade groups challenged the constitutionality of the law, which requires drug manufacturers to fund and manage the safe disposal of unwanted medications. The other groups challenging the law were the Generic Pharmaceutical Association and the Biotechnology Industry Organization, according to a news release from the Boston-based Product Stewardship Institute (PSI).

The Supreme Court ruling means that the Alameda County ordinance–the first of its kind–will stand, as well as similar laws passed in San Francisco; San Mateo, Calif.; and King County, Wash.

"This is good news for the residents of Alameda County, San Francisco, San Mateo County, King County and others, who will have a safe and convenient way to dispose of their unused and expired medications,” said Scott Cassel, CEO and founder of PSI. “Not only that, this decision paves the way for other municipalities and states around the nation to pursue similar legislation."

Added Heidi Sanborn, executive director for the Sacramento-based California Product Stewardship Council, “It is not fair to have 100% of the costs of disposal externalized on to government without any sharing of responsibility by the producers.”

In California, San Francisco adopted its ordinance in March, and San Mateo County passed its law in April. Santa Clara County voted to adopt an ordinance in May, and Santa Barbara is considering a similar move.

Last fall the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ordinance. The appealing groups argued that it violated the U.S. Constitution’s dormant Commerce Clause, as it interfered with interstate commerce. The court, in a 3-0 ruling, denied the appeal, saying the Alameda County ordinance “neither discriminates against nor directly regulates interstate commerce.”

San Francisco introduced its legislation shortly after the Circuit Court decision. It was the first local government to introduce a drug take-back ordinance, but it put the legislation on hold when a voluntary pilot program was funded by grants.

WasteExpo 2015

NWRA’s Kneiss Anticipating Productive WasteExpo

With WasteExpo set to kick off next week, National Waste & Recycling Association (NWRA) President and CEO Sharon Kneiss took a few minutes to update Waste360 on the association’s plans for the event.

The education track, as always, will be a major focus for NWRA. In addition, the annual awards breakfast, taking place Tuesday morning, will be one of the highlights of WasteExpo. Four new Hall of Famers will be inducted and nine drivers will receive accolades as part of the Driver of the Year awards.

Waste360: Walk us through some of the association’s plans for the show.

Sharon Kneiss: Our Board of Governors and Board of Trustees meeting are the first events out of the box for us. It will be an opportunity to check the progress and provide updates on our strategic plan.

A big component of that is we will be going through what kind of progress we’ve made in implementing our new communications strategy. We have two new staff members—Christopher Doherty and Jessica Mayorga—who have hit the ground running. We have been able to generate some targeted, focused and positive coverage for the industry already.

Of course we also have the President’s Reception on Monday night. That will be a very nice event at the Wynn Attending that will be our award winners, our Hall of Famers, our Board of Trustees and many others that have done tremendous work for our industry.

On Tuesday morning is the awards breakfast. It is always a great event. It is the highlight of what we do at WasteExpo. We have opportunity to induct four Hall of Famers this year. And we are honoring nine drivers for their safe driving. We have had over 1,000 applications for those nine awards this year. We really are very pleased to be honoring these drivers. When you look at their bios, you can see they are devoted to the industry and safety and delivering good customer service. One driver is even from Anchorage, Alaska. That’s something new for us.

In terms of education, we’ve really stepped up our game. Sheila Alkire has really taken our education even to new levels.  We have something like 40 sessions in our education event. I’m told that attendance is looking really good for it. And I’m really pleased to be partnering with Penton on all of it.

Some of the highlights include a session on handling organics and will look at it from all different aspects. We’re going to get an East Coast perspective, a West Coast perspective, a regulator and a private equity investor. We also have a panel on how to handle glass, which is a real issue for the industry.

We have a session on sustainability and what customers of this industry need to meet their goals. We have speakers from Caesars Entertainment Group, Zappos and MillerCoors.

Waste360: What about on the show floor itself?

Sharon Kneiss: We will have several events at the booth. I encourage everyone to stop by. We’re having an event to honor our Hall of Fame inductees. We’re having a Future Industry Leaders Association (FILA) event, a Women’s Council event and more. There’s a lot that will going on in the booth.

In addition, as we are preparing for the development of 2016-2018 strategic plan, we have a survey that we’re inviting any member to take. We have a facilitator working on the strategic plan there. That will be tremendously helpful as we develop our plan.

And we’re having a chapter event. All of the leaders of chapters will be there. They will be talking about what they do and how they operate

Waste360: We’re nearing the halfway point of 2015. What are some highlights so far for this year?

Sharon Kneiss: Our chapters are just ending a lot of state legislative sessions. And there has been a focus at the state level to pass “Slow Down to Get Around” legislation. We’ve been very successful. Going into this year we had five states that had passed legislation. This year we got four more passed—Indiana, North Carolina Georgia and Virginia. We’re wrapping that up. There will be some signing ceremonies on those bills. We salute the regional managers and the chapter members for all of their hard work on this. And something we’re looking at now is how do we benchmark what’s been passed and what’s working so other states can benefit.

The other broad area we’re stepping up on is the communications side. We have developed a new strategy. It’s a more focused strategy and it’s more disciplined. It really takes on the issues of greatest impact of our members. We took on “Slow Down to Get Around.” And we were able to really reinforce what the chapters were trying to communicate.

And the current initiative is talking about the costs of recycling and the importance of recycling correctly. We will be looking at that and we can learn from that experience. We’ve really been able to amplify our messages by being much more disciplined. We’ve also seen the benefits of having experienced professionals like Chris and Jessica on board.

Also important was our recent partnership with the Insurance Office of America. They are a broker of all kinds of insurance, including workman’s compensation. We signed that agreement in early April. And we will have Nathan Brainard (vice president of IOA’s Environmental Division) at our reception and will be encouraging members to talk to him.  

One thing we are energized about in regards to our agreement is that they will encourage their insurance carriers to consider some kind of incentive for companies that have certified drivers. There are no guarantees, but it’s something they will be encouraging carriers to consider. It ties back to safety. And it ties back with our certification programs.

We’re also very pleased with our change in our business plan for education generally and our partnership with Penton is really reaping fruit as we offer webinars. The last three we have gotten more than 300 live attendees, and the most recent got more than 400. I think we have found a business model that really works and we’re looking forward to continuing to develop Waste360 University.

Waste360: You’ve mentioned communications several times. How is the new strategy paying dividends?

Sharon Kneiss: We are increasing the visibility of the association. For example, we participated in a roundtable at the White House with the National Security Council. In terms of Ebola and other infectious incidences, we were vocal about what the government needs to do to and communicate about safety and handling processes and what it means for the employees of our industries. We have assets out there. The industry is not going to jeopardize its assets.

The government also has an important role in communicating what the requirements are. The process needs to be safe for handling, treatment, transporting and safe for employees doing the final disposal. We were quite candid and are looking forward to next steps.

In the broader media, we have participated in interview that will be on American Public Media’s Marketplace.org. That’s all about the cost of recycling. Overall, we think focusing on key messages and really leveraging those opportunities is really serving us well.

Waste360: We’re not that far removed from the rebranding of the association. How has that process gone?

Sharon Kneiss: We finished the rebranding at the end of 2013 and then we worked with the chapters especially to give them tools to let legislators know about the new name. That went smoothly.

What we’ve now learned is we need to make sure we keep the “formerly known as …” language active in some places. Some individual member systems have kept the old name going. So it’s a learning process, but by and large it’s gone very well. It’s mostly done and the new name has paid dividends for us. And we’re getting a lot more media calls than in the past. People are searching for and finding us and that’s because of the new name.

ElectraTherm Partners on Wood Waste Biomass Project

ElectraTherm Inc. has partnered with Air Burners Inc. to develop the first whole-log wood waste burner, with the first commission in Jacksonville, Fla.

The PGFireBox eliminates a large amount of wood waste without any pre-processing, converting wood biomass to electricity while eliminating the production of methane as wood decomposes in a landfill or forest, according to a news release.

Reno, Nev.-based ElectraTherm, which focuses on distributed waste heat to power generation, is using its Organice Rankine Cycle (ORC) power-generating technology.

Palm City, Fla.-based Air Burners, which makes air curtain burning systems, uses patented technology to dispose of vegetative waste without costly pre-processing requirements. The self-contained unit generates electricity from vegetative waste at six to eight tons per hour.

The PGFireBox is portable and can be deployed close to the location where the woody biomass is collected, such as landfills, forest maintenance, fire prevention and natural disaster cleanup.

ElectraTherm’s Power+ Generator feeds off the heat from the burner to generate up to 110 kilowatts of fossil-fuel free electricity. Through the ORC process, hot water heats a working fluid into pressurized vapor. As the vapor expands, it drives ElectraTherm’s patented twin-screw power block, which spins an electric generator and produces power.

Woody biomass and organics in general continue to garner more legislative activity as governments look to increase waste diversion. Congress has introduced a bill to establish a cost-share grant program to improve technologies for woody biomass. U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, introduced a bill that would promote using wood waste such as branches, roots and small-diameter trees as a source of energy for homes and businesses.

California also has proposed recently increasing funds for diverting organic waste from landfills, greater product manufacturing with recycled content and building healthy soils. The state governor’s office proposed the funding increase, aiming ultimately to reduce greenhouse gases, in its May revise budget proposal. Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposal calls for an increase to $60 million the funding in California’s Cap and Trade Expenditure Plan for waste diversion.