Sustainability Talks

Rubbermaid® Launches National Recycling Program to Strengthen Sustainability Efforts

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TRENTON, N.J., July 14, 2020 – Rubbermaid®, a leader in home organization and food storage solutions, announced today a partnership with international recycling leader, TerraCycle®, to make all brands of well-used food storage containers recyclable in the US and Canada. Through this new partnership, Rubbermaid helps ensure all glass and plastic food storage containers will have a sustainable end to their lifecycle. 

Rubbermaid has been pioneering high-quality, innovative products for over 80 years. This superior quality already makes the brand’s products a more a sustainable solution than many products out there today. The TerraCycle program is another step toward the brand’s existing sustainability efforts and making Rubbermaid products an even stronger choice for environmentally conscious consumers or for anyone looking to lead a more sustainable life.

“Our food storage products help keep food fresh to reduce waste and are made better to enable a long life of reusability. Partnering with TerraCycle allows us to create an even more sustainable product lifecycle, while giving consumers an easy way to recycle their well-used containers whenever they are ready to upgrade to our newest innovations. As an exclusive partner in our category, we are excited to be leading the way,” said Ryan Hall, Marketing Director, Food Storage at Newell Brands. 

Through the Rubbermaid Food Storage Recycling Program, consumers can now send in all brands of well-used glass and plastic food storage containers to be recycled for free. Participation is easy: sign up on the TerraCycle program pages for the United States or Canada and mail in well-used food storage containers using a prepaid shipping label. Once collected, the containers are cleaned and melted into hard plastic or glass that can be remolded to make new recycled products.

“Newell Brands and Rubbermaid are offering consumers a unique opportunity to divert waste from landfills and responsibly dispose of food storage containers that may initially seem unrecyclable,” said Tom Szaky, TerraCycle Founder and CEO. “By accepting and recycling any food storage product, regardless of brand through the recycling program, Rubbermaid is expanding their commitment to sustainability and helping to build awareness that a recycling solution exists for just about everything.”

The Rubbermaid Food Storage Recycling Program is open to any interested individual, school, office, or community organization. For more information on TerraCycle’s recycling programs, visit www.terracycle.com.

About Rubbermaid
Rubbermaid® is a leader in developing innovative, high-quality solutions that help consumers keep their homes in order. Widely recognized and trusted, Rubbermaid designs and markets a full range of organization, storage and cleaning products to keep the home – including closets, garages, kitchens and outdoor spaces – neat and functional, freeing consumers to enjoy life. Rubbermaid (www.rubbermaid.com) is part of Newell Brands' global portfolio of brands.

About Newell Brands

Newell Brands (NASDAQ: NWL) is a leading global consumer goods company with a strong portfolio of well-known brands, including Paper Mate®, Sharpie®, Dymo®, EXPO®, Parker®, Elmer’s®, Coleman®, Marmot®, Oster®, Sunbeam®, FoodSaver®, Mr. Coffee®, Rubbermaid Commercial Products®, Graco®, Baby Jogger®, NUK®, Calphalon®, Rubbermaid®, Contigo®, First Alert®, Mapa®, Spontex® and Yankee Candle®.  For hundreds of millions of consumers, Newell Brands makes life better every day, where they live, learn, work and play.

About TerraCycle

TerraCycle® is an innovative waste management company with a mission to eliminate the idea of waste. Operating nationally across 21 countries, TerraCycle partners with leading consumer product companies, retailers and cities to recycle products and packages, from dirty diapers to cigarette butts, that would otherwise end up being landfilled or incinerated. In addition, TerraCycle works with leading consumer product companies to integrate hard to recycle waste streams, such as ocean plastic, into their products and packaging. Its new division, Loop, is the first shopping system that gives consumers a way to shop for their favorite brands in durable, reusable packaging. TerraCycle has won over 200 awards for sustainability and has donated over $44 million to schools and charities since its founding more than 15 years ago and was named #10 in Fortune magazine’s list of 52 companies Changing the World. To learn more about TerraCycle or get involved in its recycling programs, please visit www.terracycle.com.

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Meet the Technology that Makes Chemical Recycling Work

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There are a number of chemical recyclers pitching proprietary technologies whereby wasted plastics can be converted to one of several categories. One involves converting plastic to the same or similar plastics; one involves making chemical raw material to refine into other plastics; another entails making fuel from plastics.

Companies commonly focus on one of these three product categories. But Agilyx CEO Joe Vaillancourt says his company can make multiple products in each of those categories, enabling the capture of more material to create more products.

Agilyx uses the same core platform for each application, involving pyrolysis, whereby heat is applied with no oxygen to break down the chemical bonds of plastic to reform it. But figuring out how to make specific products from each material can be complex.

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“Plastics have discreet chemical profiles that can be used in different percentages in different products,” says Vaillancourt. “Our platform identifies the chemical profile so we can source to convert the material to a product for its desired application.”

Mitsubishi and Lucite will soon be using Agilyx’s depolymerization technology to process acrylic. And the tech developer is building a fuel plant with Delta Air Lines among ventures with multiple stakeholders,  each with their own application in mind.

A major focus has been around capturing and processing polystyrene to address a huge environmental problem. A 2016 study found that 1.3% of 2,350 tons of polystyrene was recycled; the rest ended up primarily in landfills and waterways.

“We source 10 tons a day of waste polystyrene at our plant in Tigard, Ore., which comes from 500 different customers,” says Vaillancourt. “And of those 500 sources, 400 have different qualities of feedstock that are not interchangeable. So we chemically characterized all 500.”

This characterization process provides information to help ascertain how to formulate what Vaillancourt calls “plastic recipes” of mixed ingredients to make a consistent styrene monomer to put back into polystyrene products.

“So we have both the technology and a feedstock management system, and the feedstock management system is as important as the technology,” he says.

This two-pronged approach is applied not only to polystyrene but to other plastic types.

The polystyrene program is Agilyx’s fastest-growing operation. A key to the expansion has been partnerships with plastics manufacturers and suppliers such as Americas Styrenics and INEOS Styrolution.

INEOS Styrolution is building a 100-ton-per-day plant in Chicago using Agilyx’s technology to convert post-use polystyrene into pellets. In Europe, INEOS Styrolution and manufacturer Trinsio plan to build a 50-ton-per-day facility that will leverage the technology. And Agilyx just licensed its system to a company in Japan.

“We are taking polystyrene waste from yogurt cups to seedling trays,” says Vaillancourt. “We can take the material with dirt and fertilizer and make it into a monomer to create food-grade material that can go back into a product like the original one.”

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Now the company is working with waste service provider Oregon Metro to be able to create food-grade material through a polystyrene drop-off program for residents.

“We are not just collecting expanded polystyrene, but extruded polystyrene as well, so we can take in more products, from contaminated food packaging to appliance packaging,” says Vaillancourt. “This includes materials that were not historically collected before. And because we are breaking the polystyrene into styrene monomer, we are making more products with more uses.”

Penny Erickson, Metro South site superintendent for Oregon Metro South, a company that provides waste services in Portland, says she has noticed that many of her customers have been cleaning out garages or have been getting a lot of boxes from Amazon and similar companies that contain polystyrene.

“Many people routinely ask for recycling of polystyrene, and we reached out to Agilyx about partnering to make that happen,” she says.

Erickson was initially concerned about transporting polystyrene in roll-off boxes to Agilyx’s plant because the material is bulky yet lightweight, so only so much by weight could be transported at a time.

“We were looking to minimize truck trips while getting as much of it recycled as possible,” says Erickson.

To sweeten the deal, Agilyx offered a densifier, a machine that condenses polystyrene, as well as labor to run the equipment, reducing the costs and emissions generated from transporting the material.

“We’ve been doing this for over a month,” says Erickson. “The volumes are increasing, and we are excited about it. We’ve gotten positive comments from local jurisdictions, policymakers and citizens.”

Metro South trained the community on what could go in the bags for polystyrene. They trained scale house workers to be able to answer residents’ questions. And they established a small fee for loads of only polystyrene.

“From my agency’s perspective, we like to say this is a pilot to ensure there is acceptance and that there will be no unanticipated problems,” says Erickson. “We will keep accepting material and working with Agilyx, and if there are kinks to work out, we will. My hope is that it can be replicated at other facilities in the region.”

Vaillancourt is optimistic about the potential of the Agilyx technology, but beyond that he sees benefits in focusing on the process of collecting hard-to-recycle materials and figuring out viable uses along the supply chain.

“When you think about how to increase recycling rates, the struggle is more around the supply chain than the technology,” says Vaillancourt. “We are providing the technology andcreating a supply chain that allows chemical recycling to work. We supply the feedstock for a specific application, and then our customers in the petrochemical industry make the products and sell them downstream.”

Need to Know

Ocean Heroes Bootcamp Fights Plastic Pollution

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The Ocean Heroes Bootcamp, which will take place virtually for the first-time, will gather hundreds of youth from around the world to fight plastic pollution. Eighty-nine percent of young people believe they can make a difference when it comes to climate change and its consequential societal injustices (UNEP, GlobeScan Survey).

The Bootcamp is the third annual youth program designed to empower existing and emerging youth leaders, ages 11 to 18, to create their own campaigns to take action against ocean plastic pollution. 

The event includes daily livestream programs, self-service learning modules, contests, challenges and office hours with peer mentors who have already implemented successful campaigns in their communities.

Learn more about the Ocean Heroes Bootcamp here.

Need to Know

AI-enabled Robotics are Helping to Strengthen Recycling Processing Capabilities

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The COVID-19 crisis has “heightened the economic imperative to improve recycling,” particularly as countries seek to bring more parts of their supply chains closer to home. Yet, the sorting and disassembly required in order to recycle effectively and safely is not unlike “unscrambling an egg”—in other words, challenging.

Roboticists think that, “computer vision, neural networks and modular robotics can enable a more intelligent, flexible approach to recycling.” For instance, AI-enabled robotics can identify items based on visual cues such as logos or color, and sort or take them apart accordingly. 

“Such systems excel at identifying small items, such as the coffee pods used in Nespresso machines, which, while technically recyclable, are not always recycled. “You can categorize and subcategorize, and the robotics are getting smarter as a result of artificial intelligence,” notes Chris Wirth, vice-president of marketing and business development for AMP Robotics.

And, taking products apart will become “increasingly important” as more waste is electronic, which often contains valuable materials such as gold, silver, platinum and cobalt.

Shahin Rahimifard, professor of sustainable engineering at the UK’s Loughborough University observes that, “In electric cars, most of the value will be the precious metals which, by weight, could be only four or five percent.” His team is developing a robotic dissembler.

“This technology is creating a sustainable workforce for jobs that aren’t being filled,” notes Wirth. “These are the dull, dirty, dangerous kind of jobs which robotics and AI is perfect for.”

View the original article here.

Need to Know

Brownsville City Council Approves Two Multi-year Contracts with SCS Engineers

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City of Brownsville, TX – On July 7, 2020, the City of Brownsville Commission approved a recommendation by the Engineering and Public Works Department to continue an existing multi-year partnership with SCS Engineers. SCS is an environmental consulting and contracting firm that will serve the City for an additional five years. The environmental contracts support the Landfill Gas Collection and Control System (GCCS) expansion and provide landfill engineering, compliance, monitoring and operations assistance.

Project Director, J. Roy Murray, an SCS vice president, and the team’s principal consulting engineer will continue to serve the City’s citizens and staff. Mr. Murray has decades of experience in civil and environmental permitting, design, and construction at municipal solid waste landfills (MSW), including 20 years serving the Brownsville Landfill. Mr. Murray states:

The City staff and Commission continues to entrust SCS Engineers to help the landfill staff with the safe, efficient, and compliant operation of the landfill. We are honored by their trust. The City of Brownsville MSW Landfill Operations team serves the City well. The facility is the primary solid waste disposal site for surrounding communities, carefully engineered and maintained regularly even during severe weather and now a pandemic. The forethought of the Landfill Division, their leadership, and innovative practices provide the citizens with stellar services while protecting the environment. 

The initial installation of the City Landfill’s Gas Collection and Control System (GCCS) completed in 2011, was part of an Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant the City received from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. SCS Engineers assisted with the application process, and as a result of the collaboration, the City received a $1.7 million grant to install a landfill gas collection system at the landfill. With GCCS operation, the City has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions. The landfill infrastructure and emission reductions were voluntary at the time, but the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Air Quality rules and regulations, and EPA’s New Source Performance Standards, now require them.

The Gas Collection and Control System consists of 16 landfill gas extraction wells and currently provides coverage of 32 acres of the City Landfill’s disposal footprint. The City plans to expand the GCCS during 2021, to support landfill’s growth and stricter air permit regulations. The expansion includes 38 additional wells covering 120 acres of the landfill footprint. The new wells will integrate with the collection system and integrate with liquids management, leachate control, and stormwater systems, among others.

About SCS Engineers

SCS Engineers’ environmental solutions and technology are a direct result of our experience and dedication to solid waste management and other industries responsible for safeguarding the environment. For more information about SCS, please follow us on your preferred social media channel, or watch our 50th Anniversary video.

Commercial Sector Bears Covid’s Brunt: Q&A with RoadRunner CEO Graham Rihn

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The pandemic-driven shutdown of a large chunk of the U.S economy has caused big shifts in waste volumes. Temporary closings of restaurants, hotels, schools, and office buildings and the workforce’s transition to working from home have brought increases in residential waste and decreases in commercial waste. This shift has been a tough pill for companies focused on commercial waste and recycling to swallow.

On the other hand, waste volumes in the health care and residential real estate sectors have significantly increased, making that pill go down a little easier.

The waste and recycling industry’s role in the economy is essential, so these services will continue. But the fluctuations in waste patterns and the public health hazards posed by COVID-19 have industry stakeholders keeping a wary eye on ensuring the safety of their workers and customers.

Waste360 recently spoke with RoadRunner Recycling CEO Graham Rihn about the impact this pandemic has had on the commercial waste sector; methods his company has used to manage volume fluctuations while keeping workers and customers safe during the crisis; and steps that will need to be taken as states and cities allow businesses to reopen.

Waste360: At a high level, how has the COVID-19 crisis most deeply affected your business?

Graham Rihn: It was pretty much an overnight switch for us as a business. It took a couple weeks to get used to the new normal. But now we're certainly used to it, and we’re starting to see signs of coming out of it. So yeah, I would say we got through it, but I wouldn't say it was easy.

Waste360: The pandemic has obviously forced big shifts in people's lives, and that in turn has effected changes in the volumes and types of waste being generated. With many businesses temporarily shut down, and people sheltering in place and working from home, we've been seeing more residential waste being generated, and less commercial waste. Your company, RoadRunner, is focused on commercial recycling. Have you seen decreased overall volumes?

Graham Rihn: We have, yes. We target 11 industries, four of which were hit pretty hard: hospitality, retail, schools and universities, and restaurants. Those four industries — and we’re in 10 markets — were either totally shut down or operating at much lower volumes. So we did see a reduction. But we also work with a lot of multifamily, and health services. So at the same time we've seen an influx of waste generation in multifamily households, and health services has been churning through a lot of materials. So it has been a seesaw, but I would say that the low volumes have outweighed the uptick.

Waste360: What about supermarkets? How have the volumes been trending for you in that sector?

Graham Rihn: What we've seen is at the large end, the supermarkets are exploding. The very large chains, they're higher than they’ve ever been. But as you get down to the medium-sized supermarkets and small grocers, it's slightly less than it was pre-COVID.

Waste360: Among the other industry sectors you serve, are there any that have had increasing waste volumes, or at least volumes staying steady?

Graham Rihn: The only other one that has been steady, and this varies by region, is manufacturing. We’re pretty heavy into manufacturing. That's our largest industry. They’ve sustained volumes pretty well. Especially in the Texas region. We're in three cities in Texas. We haven't seen quite the dip down there that we saw in other regions.

Waste360: How do you manage these fluctuations in volumes so that they'll have the least negative impact on your business overall?

Graham Rihn: The good thing that we did years back was we built technology to manage fluctuating volumes in real time. So we receive data daily on routes from customer locations just to get a feel for what their generation rates are at. And we're able to re-optimize the route if we can fit more volume on it. So that's a positive thing. It saves on trucking costs per ton. We travel less miles and get more material. So we've adjusted there. The other positive thing that's taken place was that as the contraction happened, the commodity rates for most of the materials have increased dramatically over the last 60 to 90 days. So although the drop in volume would have been a considerable hit to the business, the equal and opposite positive was that on a per unit basis, rates have gone up, in some cases 50% to 75%. So it hasn't been the major hit that we would've expected due to that. I think there's been such a drop in supply in the marketplace that for a lot of these sources, the people who need the material in the country domestically are paying much more for it.

Waste360: Which commodities have gone up the most?

Graham Rihn: We've seen cardboard rise. We've seen an unlocking of mixed paper, which had really been in a trough for two or three years. So that's come out, and there's some value there. So I would say the strongest is cardboard and clean paper. And then mixed paper went from nobody wanting it to being a sought-after material.

Waste360: What safety measures have you instituted to protect your workers, and how has that affected your business?

Graham Rihn: As a corporation, we went work-from-home companywide in early March. And then as it relates to our haulers, we reached out to get a pulse for what type of PPE equipment they had. And for the haulers that we felt didn't have the correct PPE, we created care packages and sent each of them some masks, gloves, and gift cards, just to say, "We understand this is a crazy time and there's added risk, so we want to help you as you get through this time as well." So we've continued to prioritize safety. We're sourcing more masks as we speak, just to make sure that all of our hauler partners have protection. I do continue to see examples where, particularly on the residential side, some solid waste companies’ workers still don't have PPE, which is a shame given the risk that these people, their frontline workers, are taking on. So we hope to continue to do more in that light when we see it and have an ability to do so in the future.

Waste360: Is there much cost involved with instituting these safety measures? I'm curious how it’s affecting your business from that standpoint.

Graham Rihn: No, it's more a process than it is a dollar cost. It's not an easy thing to source right now. It's a little bit easier now than it was a month ago. But I wouldn't look at it as a constraint or bottleneck, to get the materials, or the dollars. It's more, what do we have to do to get these to the right people, get it for a cost that's reasonable, that type of thing.

Waste360: As we're seeing many states and cities starting to gradually allow businesses to reopen, one would expect that this process would gradually return waste volumes back to normal pre-COVID-19 proportions. Is that how you expect this to play out, and how do you plan to manage this reopening process?

Graham Rihn: This is something we’ve thought a lot about. Being in 10 markets spread throughout the country, one thing we realized was that they started shutting down in different time frames and at different paces, and we also expect that to happen — it's actually already started happening — on the reopening side. So I think it'll be a more drawn-out reopening. It won't be as quick as the reductions that took place with the service-level decreases. But Texas has already started opening up considerably, and we’re starting to see some of our markets in the Northeast come back with calls regarding increases. So what we we’re doing is we're using automated communications to get out ahead of the requests to say, "Here's what's going on in your neck of the woods. Have you considered restarting or increasing your service back to pre-COVID levels?" We're trying to make the customer experience of getting back up to speed not a worry, while they worry about a lot of other things.

Waste360: You mentioned Texas and the Northeast as areas where you're starting to see some noticeable activity and some increases. Are there any other areas where you’re seeing that, or expect to be seeing that, soon? And conversely, are there certain geographic areas where you think it's going to be a slow, gradual, drawn-out process?

Graham Rihn: Pennsylvania and Ohio have cities that are starting to open up, and we're starting to see even the restaurant and retail businesses increase. I do expect the Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. metros to be a little bit further down the road. We're hearing that in parts of Maryland and in Washington, D.C., it could be well into August. And there's really no time frame yet put out there for many areas, so we expect those to lag in reopening a little bit. The same would be true with parts of Chicago.

Waste360: How do you expect the next few months of the reopening process to play out for the industry as a whole?

Graham Rihn: I think it's a good time for people to realize that the waste and recycling industry is absolutely an essential service. A lot of the industry went through quite a bit of risk to make sure that everybody is safe and healthy, and that their well-being is good. I think we could use this as a platform to say don't forget about this industry.

Need to Know

AMP Robotics Named to Forbes AI 50

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DENVER, July 10, 2020—Forbes has named AMP Robotics Corp. (“AMP”), a pioneer and leader in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics for the recycling industry, one of America’s most promising AI companies. The publication’s annual “AI 50” list distinguishes private, U.S.-based companies that are wielding some subset of artificial intelligence in a meaningful way and demonstrating real business potential from doing so. To be included on the list, companies needed to show that techniques like machine learning, natural language processing, or computer vision are a core part of their business model and future success.

“Earlier this year, we notched a milestone of ‘one billion picks’ over 12 months that demonstrates the productivity, precision, and reliability of our AI application for the recycling industry. It’s an honor to be deemed one of the country’s most promising AI companies, and we’re just getting started,” said Matanya Horowitz, AMP founder and chief executive officer. “There’s growing appreciation for the role of recycling in the domestic supply chain, in terms of keeping resources flowing and products on shelves, and resultant momentum around supportive policy initiatives that are putting some real wind in the sail for the industry. We’re pleased to play a role in enabling better efficiency, safety, and transparency to help transform recycling.” 

AMP’s technology recovers plastics, cardboard, paper, metals, cartons, cups, and many other recyclables that are reclaimed for raw material processing. AMP’s AI platform uses computer vision to visually identify different types of materials with high accuracy, then guides high-speed robots to pick out and recover recyclables at superhuman speeds for extended periods of time. The AI platform transforms images into data to recognize patterns, using machine learning to train itself by processing millions of material images within an ever-expanding neural network of robotic installations.

“We consider AMP a category-defining business and believe its artificial intelligence and robotics technology are poised to solve many of the central challenges of recycling,” said Shaun Maguire, partner at Sequoia Capital and AMP board member. “The opportunity for modernization in the industry is robust as the demand for recycled materials continues to swell, from consumers and the growing circular economy.”

AMP’s “AI 50” recognition comes on the heels of receiving a 2020 RBR50 Innovation Award from Robotics Business Review for the company’s Cortex Dual-Robot System. Earlier this year, Fast Company named AMP to its “World’s Most Innovative Companies” list for 2020, and the company captured a “Rising Star” Company of the Year Award in the 2020 Global Cleantech 100. 

Since its Series A fundraising in November, AMP has been on a major growth trajectory as it scales its business to meet demand. The company announced a 50% increase in revenue in the first quarter of 2020, a rapidly growing project pipeline, a facility expansion in its Colorado headquarters, and a new lease program that makes its AI and robotics technology even more attainable for recycling businesses. 

About AMP Robotics Corp.

AMP Robotics is applying AI and robotics to help modernize recycling, enabling a world without waste. The AMP Cortex™ high-speed robotics system automates the identification and sorting of recyclables from mixed material streams. The AMP Neuron™ AI platform continuously trains itself by recognizing different colors, textures, shapes, sizes, patterns, and even brand labels to identify materials and their recyclability. Neuron then guides robots to pick and place the material to be recycled. Designed to run 24/7, all of this happens at superhuman speed with extremely high accuracy. With deployments across the United States, Canada, Japan, and now expanding into Europe, AMP’s technology recycles municipal waste, e-waste, and construction and demolition debris. Headquartered and with manufacturing operations in Colorado, AMP is backed by Sequoia Capital, Closed Loop Partners, Congruent Ventures, and Sidewalk Infrastructure Partners (“SIP”), an Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ: GOOGL) company. 

Media Contact

Carling Spelhaug
carling@amprobotics.com

Need to Know

Adidas to End Plastic Waste and Support a Circular Future

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Sports company Adidas is taking real action to reduce plastic waste. The company is working on creating innovative sustainable materials and processes to create the circular future of sports.

Adidas has created the ‘Three Loop’ Strategy. The first loop is recycling, which is building products made out of all recycled materials. The second loop is circular, where they create a product and completely recycle all of the materials and put them back into the supply chain. And the third loop is regenerative, where the materials are all natural and can be returned to nature.

“So, we’re one of the few companies that have set big ambitions for the next few years. By 2024, we intend to eliminate virgin plastic and go 100 percent recycled,” said James Carnes, VP of Brand Strategy, Adidas.

In addition, the company’s goal is to reduce carbon by 30 percent by 2030 and be carbon neutral by 2050.

Read the original story here. 

Need to Know

The U.S. is Too Slow in Adopting Plastic Alternatives

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The Plastic Free Foundation has created Plastic-Free July to reduce the use of single-use plastic and encourage the use of more responsible alternatives.

As You Sow, a nonprofit focused on corporate social responsibility, recently released the report Waste & Opportunity 2020, which grades 50 large-scale U.S. consumer companies in the beverage, quick-service restaurant, consumer packaged goods and retail sectors. 

“The report concludes that companies are far too slow in adopting responsive actions and promoting reusability, recyclability, or compostability, and failing to shift away from wasteful packaging toward circular models that prioritize absolute reduction,” said Conrad MacKerron, As You Sow’s Senior Vice President and lead author of the report.

Read the original story here.

 

How to Prevent Landfill Final Covers From Failing

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It’s not often that final covers on landfills completely fail, but it can happen. When a final cover does fail, the problems that led up to it have typically been festering for some time.

There are potential red flags and interventions to be aware of to circumvent the potential for failure. And there are other points to know to help develop proactive plans, such as that droughts can be a final soil-based cover’s biggest enemy. For geosynthetic final covers, perhaps the most potentially damaging offender is uncontrolled landfill gas.

Waste360 talked to environmental engineers about what to watch for, and what to do when a potential problem rears its head. These experts explained the importance of a robust maintenance system and gave smart design tips to avoid early glitches.

Among the main warning signs of a final cover problem are abnormal increases in leachate levels that create seeps up the side slopes and increase landfill gas generation. Operators may see small cracks in the cover, washed away soil, or exposed pipes.

With a final soil-based cover, cracks are among the most common telltale signs of a potential issue. Sometimes simply sealing cracks will suffice to mitigate problems, assuming the regulatory agency accepts such a solution, says Chris Richgels, business development manager at APTIM Environmental & Infrastructure in Baton Rouge, La.

Soil covers are especially impacted by weather, and environmental engineers advise that inspecting them after rainfalls, especially after extreme events or a series of events, is important to determine whether the cover needs work to prevent slope failure.

Richgels illustrates the potential for problems through a scenario at a site he’s working on in the Southwestern U.S. The final cover failed due to several years of drought followed by heavy rainfall, resulting in elevated leachate levels, because the cover had cracked during the drought.

“Rainfall flowed into the cracks, penetrated the landfill, and raised leachate levels, leading to the formation of seeps,” Richgels says. “Now the operator will have to replace the cover, which means digging up four feet of soil, conditioning it, and putting it back.”

The site is actively producing landfill gas, which complicates the problem. The cover is acting like a confining layer, providing pressure that holds the gas within the landfill.

“During the replacement project, we will assess how to control landfill gas once the cover is removed, which may require putting in more extraction wells or doing phased replacement of the final cover to only have to deal with smaller areas,” says Richgels.

Failures can also happen if soil slides down the slope as the landfill continues to settle. A 100-foot slope can become an 80-foot slope. With nowhere else to go, the soil starts to slough down the side slope. Sections of final cover can move. In this scenario, settlement may cause a divot, forcing the cover to take a different shape, which may require the damaged section to be cut out. If it’s not potentially detrimental, a solution could be to add soil and continue to monitor.

As precipitation increases in many U.S. regions, some landfill operators are being more proactive.

If the thunderstorm of the century hits, it can generate stormwater runoff that can erode and ultimately destroy final covers, says Richgels. California actually requires landfills to be prepared for thousand-year storms (which have a 0.1% chance of happening in any year), such that their drainage ditches and channels are capable of handling the runoff and protecting final cover systems from erosion damage.

Some precipitation-related problems can be circumvented by designing covers for adequate drainage. Think of structures like swales and letdowns, says Steve Batiste, senior principal at Brown and Caldwell.

“They must be sized adequately to handle drainage,” Batiste says. “If they are undersized or the downdrain is just gravel or small stones, the force of heavy rains will dislodge that stone or rip-rap [large rocks], and the whole drainage structure can get washed down the hill.”

When rain hits the final cover, if the water that percolates into it exceeds the amount that the drainage net can carry, there will be sloughing of soil above it. This problem may be avoided either by tack-on swales or by building benches into the landfill, Batiste advises.

Another solution is to install intermediate horizontal subdrain pipes that pick up water in the drainage net when drainage exceeds the net’s capacity.

With regard specifically to the health of geosynthetic final covers, landfill gas is a big consideration.

It’s critical to have sufficient measures to control gas on an active landfill so that gas does not collect under the geomembrane liner in the final cover system and render it unstable.

“There have been several documented instances where a geosynthetic cover system has slid down the side slope, caused by gas pressure trying to lift it up from the soil layer,” says Richgels. “Now the geomembrane will float up, and gravity could pull it down the hill. So make sure you have really good landfill gas control to protect your cover.”

Insufficient friction between interfacing materials in final cover systems can also cause problems, advises Ali Khatami, vice president at SCS Engineers.

In a geocomposite, there are two interfaces. One is between the geonet and the top geotextile. The other is between the geonet and the bottom geotextile.

“They need friction, and heat bonding increases the friction between the two interfaces,” says Khatami.

Otherwise there could be slippage, he says, pointing out scenarios where problems could occur.

“Problems can happen when there is a smooth geomembrane against the geonet,” Khatami says. “They can happen when there is a textured geomembrane against the geonet. Textured geomembrane against the geocomposite is the only interface that is dependable.”

A key to preventing these problems is to do lab testing of synthetics to measure the sheer strength of the interfaces between adjacent materials, he says.

Final covers must function for as long as a landfill exists. That could be centuries, so they must be properly designed to perform well for a long time after the post-closure period ends, and the most crucial component is the drainage layer, Khatami says.