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Articles from 2019 In June


New Jersey Senate Passes Bill to Combat Food Waste

Purdue Agricultural Communication photo/Tom Campbell food waste

The New Jersey Senate has passed legislation sponsored by Sen. Kip Bateman (R-16) to combat food waste by amending the definition of Class I renewable energy and requiring certain solid waste generators to separate and recycle food waste.

Roughly 133 billion pounds, or approximately 31 percent of the overall food supply generated in the United States every year is wasted, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency.

“A number of towns in New Jersey, such as Princeton and Lawrence Township, have already taken action to encourage their residents to recycle food waste. New Jersey as a whole needs to do more to tackle this environmental crisis,” said Bateman in a statement. “By reducing food waste, we can combat climate change and address food insecurity at the same time.”

Senator Bateman’s bill, S-4039, would require every large food waste generator that is located within 25 road miles of an authorized food waste recycling facility and generates 52 or more tons per year of food waste to source separate that food waste and send it to an authorized food waste recycling facility that has available capacity and will accept it.

The bill requires these facilities to begin complying with these requirements by January 1, 2020.

The legislation defines a “large food waste generator” as any commercial food wholesaler, distributor, industrial food processor, supermarket, resort, conference center, banquet hall, restaurant, educational or religious institution, military installation, prison, hospital, medical facility or casino that produces at least 52 tons per year of food waste.

Food waste contributes to 18 percent of the total U.S. methane emissions that come from landfills. This crisis also impacts food insecurity, resource conservation and contributes to climate change.

As Bateman noted, several New Jersey towns, such as Princeton and Lawrence Township, currently offer residential food waste programs, including curbside pickup of food waste. The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection also offers “Food Waste, Tire & Public Spaces Bonus Recycling” grants to counties and municipalities. These grants were awarded on a competitive basis and enabled local governing bodies to establish food waste recycling operations and provide more recycling opportunities in public spaces. Bateman added that his legislation is the next logical step in the fight to combat food waste statewide.

“As the most densely populated state in the nation, we have an enormous responsibility to do everything we can to address climate change head on,” added Bateman. “This bill will create innovative opportunities for food recycling and could even encourage the construction of new food waste-to-energy facilities statewide. I hope it becomes law as swiftly as possible.”

Need to Know

Trash Makes its Way Back to Canada from the Philippines

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More than 100 containers of trash concealed as mixed plastic recyclables are officially on their way back to Canada from the Philippines. The ship transporting the containers is expected to dock at the Port of Vancouver on Saturday morning.

This is the latest in a years-long legal battle between the Philippines and Canada over which country was responsible for roughly 2,500 tons of trash that was shipped to Manila in 2013 and 2014 from Canada. A private business in Canada had shipped 103 containers of trash labeled as mixed plastic recyclables to Manila several years ago. But those containers actually concealed an unsorted mix of electronic and household waste, including adult diapers.

The Canadian government eventually announced it would take back the containers of trash and e-waste after the Philippines president threatened to “declare war” on Canada. But after Canada failed to meet a May 15 deadline to take back its trash, the Philippines retaliated by recalling its ambassador to Canada.

Then, at the end of May, Canada’s federal government hired a private company to transport the trash back to Vancouver.

CBC/The Canadian Press has more information:

Containers of Canadian trash that have festered in the Philippines for years are set to be returned to Canada by ship on the long weekend the country marks its 152nd birthday.

The Anna Maersk is scheduled to dock at the Port of Vancouver with the containers of rot on Saturday at 10 a.m. PT.

It's the next step in a garbage saga that has led to a diplomatic dispute with the Philippines and drawn attention to the growing global problem of plastic waste.

Read the full article here.

Use Facts Not Emotion When Debating Single-use Plastics

Early Saturday morning two weeks ago, I replaced my contact lenses with a new pair. Each new lens came in a small plastic container with a metallized cover that had to be pulled off. This package has a very simple purpose. When I take the new lens out of its container, it will be uncontaminated.

The fact that it is single-use and multi-material is irrelevant to that priority. Whether or not that package is reusable, recyclable or made with recycled content is also irrelevant. My eyes don’t know and don’t care. They only know that they can see safely with a new sterile lens. It is then my responsibility to clean and take care of each lens for the next four weeks.

Not long after putting on my new contacts, my wife and I went to our health management organization’s Urgent Care facility. I had a nasty case of cellulitis, a bacterial skin infection. As the nurse took blood samples and then inserted an intravenous therapy (IV) port for a dose of antibiotics, I couldn’t help but notice how most of the medical supplies—needles, ports, IV lines, etc.—came in single-use packages. Some were plastic, some were not. As with the contact lens container, these packages are designed to protect their product and keep it clean. All other considerations, including reusability, recyclability and recycled content, are secondary. As they should be.

Everybody hates plastics these days, or so it seems. You can’t turn around without reading another article denouncing plastic products and the harm they impose on the environment. Single-use plastic packages, in particular, are the target of this ire. However, I suspect that few, if any, of the people denouncing them want to eliminate their use for medical supplies and equipment. Our health is more important than environmental purity.

Ten days after my first visit to Urgent Care, I was speaking on recycling at the Summer Conference of the Maryland Municipal League. One of the exhibitors was a healthcare provider who was giving away long, narrow black cloth bags. Inside the bag was a sealed, transparent plastic sleeve containing two stainless steel metal straws, one straight and one with a bend near the top, and a metal cleaning brush with plastic bristles.

I wondered how the environmental impact of these reusable metal straws compared to their plastic cousins. How many times do they have to be used before their cradle-to-grave environmental impact is less than the single-use plastic straw? I searched the web and found many articles, virtually all of which were full of assertions and woefully short of scientific data.  One analysis of a research project, however, completed by Humboldt State University, was far more rigorous in its approach. It did not support replacing plastic straws with stainless steel or glass and was somewhat ambivalent in regard to bamboo straws. Read it and draw your own conclusions.

Of course, I shouldn’t have expected the marketing people who selected the giveaways to have thought at all about sustainable materials management. But I am disappointed that they gave no thought to sanitation and preventing the spread of germs. No instructions were included on how to ensure the reusable straws remain clean after use. The brush, however, implies the user must do something. After all, if the straw is put back in the cloth bag wet, who knows what could grow in that environment.

I’m not bringing this up because I want to make a statement about plastic straw bans. That’s a column for another day. But I am concerned that the wave of anti-plastic and anti-packaging agitation is driven by emotion, not facts. We should rely on scientific data and avoid sweeping statements condemning all plastics or all single-use packages of any material. We must rely on lifecycle data and ensure that we make the right decisions, not those that are politically expedient. 

As I said earlier, I don’t expect anyone to support bans on single-use packages for medical supplies, regardless of what they are made from. Let’s use the same rational judgment as we debate plastics and single-use packages. As for my cellulitis, it appears to be fully treated. Getting cellulitis wasn’t on my bucket list. Take it from me, don’t put it on yours.

Chaz Miller is a longtime veteran of the waste and recycling industry. He can be reached at [email protected].

Need to Know

BetterBin Finalists’ Redesigned Litter Baskets Set for Trial in NYC

NYC Sanitation Twitter BetterBin

The City of New York Department of Sanitation (DSNY), Van Alen Institute and the Industrial Designers Society of America / American Institute of Architects (AIA) New York have unveiled prototyped litter baskets produced as part of the BetterBin Competition.

The competition offered designers an opportunity to reimagine New York City’s iconic green, wire mesh litter basket. The redesigned litter and recycling basket prototypes will be placed in select areas on New York City streets for a minimum of 30 days before final judging takes place. Residents are encouraged to provide feedback on the design of the new bins at betterbin.nyc.

“We’ve been looking forward to seeing these newly redesigned litter baskets on city streets,” said DSNY Acting Commissioner Steven Costas in a statement. “City residents are our partners in keeping the city healthy, safe and clean, and one way they do that is by using litter baskets. We trust New Yorkers and our sanitation workers will put the new baskets through their paces and look forward to seeing the results over the next couple of months.”

The litter and recycling baskets will be on trial in three locations in the city—along 9th Avenue in Manhattan (between 43rd and 45th Streets), along Main Street in Queens (between Maple Avenue and Cherry Avenue) and on Castle Hill Avenue in the Bronx (around Newbold Avenue and Ellis Avenue)—and will replace the green, wire mesh baskets currently in those locations. After the prototype period, which may last up to 90 days, the judging panel will select a first-place winner based on prototype performance, public response and feedback from DSNY workers. The winner will be eligible to contract with the city for further design development to ensure the ability to mass-produce the basket at a reasonable cost, as well as refine technical issues.

The design team finalists include Group Project and Smart Design. A third company previously announced as a finalist, IONDESIGN GmbH Berlin, was not able to produce the necessary prototypes and is not moving forward in the competition.

“Given the rapid growth in NYC, addressing and improving the way residents and visitors handle their waste is critical to creating a clean, safe and sustainable city. Design is a powerful tool to help us rethink and engage with our environment in new ways. We are excited by the designs that rose out from the nearly 200 submissions,” said Van Alen Institute’s Director of Strategic Initiatives Jessica Lax in a statement. “This competition is an opportunity to be proactive in our response litter and recycling, and improve the quality of living of sanitation workers, residents and visitors. We anticipate these new bins to stay relevant in a modern city alongside other sidewalk innovations for the next 100 years.”

“From the street to the bench and even to the waste bin, AIA New York believes that innovative and excellent urban design at all scales can greatly improve the lives of people who live, work and visit in NYC,” said Benjamin Prosky, executive director for the AIA New York Chapter | Center for Architecture, in a statement. “We expect the winning design of the BetterBin Competition to contribute to the beauty of our city streets and to improve functionality by bringing greater ease to the maintenance work of those we rely on to keep our cities clean.”

June 2019: Products that Power the Waste and Recycling Industry

You asked, we listened. Waste360 has launched a new monthly newsletter called Waste360 Product News, which highlights new and exciting products designed to enhance the waste and recycling industry.

This month's edition features 10 products that were on display at WasteExpo 2019. The products, which include technology solutions, dumpsters, roll-off containers, smart refuse trucks and more, aim to improve operations, save on costs, improve the quality of materials for end markets and keep employees and customers safer.

Flip through this gallery to view this month's featured products, and subscribe to Waste360 Product News here.

Interested in being featured in Waste360 Product News? Please send your product descriptions and photos to Waste360 Editorial Director Mallory Szczepanski at [email protected].

Coalition Calls for Recycled Content Minimum in Plastic Bags

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Twenty-seven organizations have called for urgent government action to help deal with the global plastic problem. The industry-led Recycle More Bags coalition proposes using legislative action and procurement policy to drive demand for a minimum of 20 percent post-consumer recycled content in some types of plastic bags by 2025.

The United States and Canada have been largely dependent on foreign markets for recycling plastic bags and similar plastic grades, like plastic wrap. Foreign demand for these products has decreased markedly in recent years, primarily as a result of China's National Sword, which banned the import of many recyclables. The North American recycling industry is now more dependent than ever on the health of domestic plastic film recycling end markets. However, these domestic markets have long been impeded by the continued expansion of domestic oil and gas activity and the low-cost virgin plastic resins that are produced as co-products.

According to More Recycling, a company that tracks plastic recycling year-over-year in the United States and Canada, the amount of bags and wrap collected through at-store recycling programs has grown, but that growth is expected to slow or reverse if the dynamics in the marketplace continue. There is a need to recognize the value of using recycled resin in new products to mitigate plastic pollution and to encourage the expansion of the North American circular economy.

The Recycle More Bags coalition consists of stakeholders involved in the plastic recycling industry: industry associations, materials recovery facility operators, plastic reclaimers, municipalities, environmental nonprofits, recycling consultants and a film plastic stewardship organization. The coalition's signatories, who are situated at various steps along the circular economy supply chain, see a need for government to mandate an increased use of recycled resin in plastic bags.

"The Northeast Recycling Council is honored to support this important initiative,” said Lynn Rubinstein, executive director of the Northeast Recycling Council, in a statement. “We are particularly excited that it is industry led. Demand for recycled content is at the heart of successful recycling, as well as the thousands of jobs that are dependent upon it."

The call-to-action proposes a progressive timeline to increase the use of post-consumer recycled content in garbage bags and grocery bags. The vast majority of these two types of plastic bags are made from 100 percent virgin plastic resin.

"By creating incentives for minimum recycled content, we can both increase plastic recycling rates and help ensure plastic bags are managed in an environmentally responsible manner," said Robin Wiener, president of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries, in a statement.

Increased demand for recycled plastic resin would in turn create greater incentive for effective and efficient recycling of plastic products, expediting the shift to a circular economy and improved environmental outcomes. For example, if all plastic bags sold in the United States and Canada included 20 percent recycled content, carbon emissions savings of about 320,000 metric tonnes per year would result.

PepsiCo Advances Circular Economy for Plastics

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PepsiCo Inc. announced that LIFEWTR will be packaged in 100 percent rPET (recycled polyethylene terephthalate), and bubly will no longer be packaged in plastic. The company's AQUAFINA water brand also will offer aluminum can packaging in U.S. foodservice outlets, while the brand tests the move in retail. 

The changes, which all go into effect next year, are expected to eliminate more than 8,000 metric tons of virgin plastic and approximately 11,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions, representing the latest ambitious steps in the company's sustainability journey and pursuit of a circular economy for plastics. These efforts advance PepsiCo's goals to by 2025 make 100 percent of its packaging recyclable, compostable or biodegradable and use 25 percent recycled plastic content in all its plastic packaging.

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"Tackling plastic waste is one of my top priorities, and I take this challenge personally," said PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Ramon Laguarta in a statement. "As one of the world's leading food and beverage companies, we recognize the significant role PepsiCo can play in helping to change the way society makes, uses and disposes of plastics. We are doing our part to address the issue head on by reducing, recycling and reinventing our packaging to make it more sustainable, and we won't stop until we live in a world where plastics are renewed and reused."

Naked Juice has been working since 2009 to ensure its bottles are made of 100 percent rPET and can be turned into bottles again and again. By making its bottles with rPET, the brand also uses about 25 percent less energy than if it used virgin plastic.

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PepsiCo is one of the largest users of food-grade recycled PET in the world, and the company is also working to help increase the supply needed to meet its packaging goals. In tandem with current suppliers and partners like The Recycling Partnership, Loop Industries, Alliance to End Plastic Waste and World Economic Forum's Global Plastic Action Partnership, PepsiCo is aiming to both increase recycling rates and improve the plastic recycling infrastructure.

"We are really excited to evolve our packaging across PepsiCo's water portfolio to make a positive impact," said Stacy Taffet, vice president of water portfolio for PepsiCo, in a statement. "We created LIFEWTR to be an inspirational and purpose-driven brand, and we're expanding that vision by using recycled packaging to deliver our premium water. At the same time, bubly, our sparkling water brand that is full of flavor and personality, has already shaken up the sparkling water category and will continue to do so with this bold move."

Need to Know

SWANA Supports California Lithium-ion Battery Fire Prevention Act

lithium ion batter

The Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA) announced it “strongly supports” legislation to create a recycling program for lithium-ion batteries in California under AB 1509, the Lithium-Ion Battery Fire Prevention Act. SWANA submitted a letter explaining the need for action to the State Senate Environmental Quality Committee ahead of its hearing on the proposed legislation on July 3.

The increasing frequency of fires caused by lithium-ion batteries have caused catastrophic damage to facilities, endangered the lives of workers and first responders and are challenging the viability of waste and recycling operations due to financial pressures. 

Lithium-ion batteries are already banned from disposal in California, but California residents must also have the knowledge and opportunity to properly recycle these batteries. This bill will address that critical need.

“We are very pleased to support our California chapters’ efforts to get AB 1509 passed. SWANA has been raising concerns about the dangers posed by the improper disposal of lithium-ion batteries for several years and supports common sense legislation and regulation to reduce the risks to our workers and facilities,” said David Biderman, SWANA CEO and executive director, in a statement. “These batteries are causing fires at waste and recycling facilities that are disrupting operations and causing economic harm.”

The negative effects of lithium-ion batteries in the waste stream are already being felt throughout the state. Shoreway Recycling Center of San Mateo County suffered a massive fire in 2016, leading to millions of dollars in damage and a disruption to recycling in the community. But for every large fire that makes the news, there are many smaller fires occurring at these facilities. Even just the threat of fires has led to an unsustainable rise in insurance costs for recycling facilities in the state.

“Though the benefits of these batteries are extensive, the burden of safely managing them when their useful life is over has fallen disproportionately and unfairly on the solid waste industry,” according to SWANA. “The passage of AB 1509 will protect workers, support recycling infrastructure and ensure that manufacturers and retailers share responsibility for the safe handling and recycling of their products. As this continues to be a national and international problem, SWANA will continue to work toward sensible solutions.”

Need to Know

Boston Reaches New Recycling, Waste Contract Agreements

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The city of Boston has officially reached a new recycling contract with Casella Waste Systems (CWS), though under more complex market conditions than the last round of negotiations in 2014, Waste Dive reports.

In addition to CWS, Covanta and Wheelabrator will retain their residential waste contracts. The new deals are set to run July 2019 through June 2024.

According to the report, CWS will again be awarded the contract to process Boston's residential recyclables—an estimated 38,500 tons per year—at a processing cost of $125 per ton and a maximum "floor price" of $160 per ton.

Waste Dive has more details:

Boston's next set of residential waste and recycling contracts are being finalized this week. While the players have largely remained the same, the cost of doing business has jumped in multiple categories.

The new deals — set to run July 2019 through June 2024, with options for renewal — faced a more complex market landscape than the city's last round of negotiations in 2014. Disposal capacity has continued to shrink in the Northeast, the city has new "zero waste" goals and recycling markets have taken a dive.

Read the full article here.

Need to Know

Japan, Indonesia to Promote Waste-to-energy Endeavors

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Japan has plans to promote its own waste-to-power technology as the country hosts world leaders during this week’s G20 Summit.

In addition, the Indonesian government plans to auction three waste-to-energy (WTE) projects this year, The Jakarta Post reports. Indonesia’s WTE projects are part of the country’s shift from fossil fuels to other sources of energy.

According to a Bloomberg report, Japan has lagged other countries in cutting financing for coal-fired generation overseas amid concern about the dirtiest fossil fuel’s contribution to climate change. The nation also has been scrutinized for its plastic use.

However, environmentalists say that implementing this technology on a large scale could compromise national efforts to meet climate change emission targets.

Bloomberg has more details:

A Japanese plan to burn waste to generate electricity may help nations overflowing with garbage, but it would also likely complicate global efforts to cut emissions to avoid catastrophic climate change.

Japan is set to promote its homegrown waste-to-power technology when Prime Minister Shinzo Abe hosts world leaders at the Group of 20 summit this week. The nation burns more than half its plastic waste for power, and hopes regional neighbors such as Malaysia and Indonesia, which are struggling with swelling volumes of plastic, will buy its technology and know-how.

But plastic waste has a carbon content similar to oil and a bit lower than coal. So while the technology may help reduce the flow of plastics into waterways, implementing it on a large scale could compromise national efforts to meet climate change emission targets, according to Eunomia Research & Consulting Ltd., an environmental and waste management consultancy.

Read the full article here.